From Sara A. Lissabet of Centreville comes a question for our time: "Just what, may I ask, is wrong with being a Yuppie?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Sara writes, "but doesn't it stand for Young Upwardly Mobile Professional? It does. Isn't that what this country is all about? Is it considered an insult these days to want to move toward a better position in life, for you or your family? Why is it these days that being called a Yuppie is an insult? . . . .

"Please clarify this for me so (at 25) I don't go around hopeful of being eternally young and continually upwardly mobile if it is not considered desirable."

If you can remain forever young and forever upwardly mobile, Sara, you don't need any comics-page wisdom from a typist who's much your senior. But I think you've missed the essential question about Yuppies.

My objection to them (and I'm about to generalize dangerously here, I realize) is that the worst of the breed are self-centered and skin-deep.

The Yuppie Manifesto would have you believe that image is the same as essential truth. Yuppies honestly think you can tell all you need to know about The Inner Man or Woman by the brands he or she chooses.

To drive a BMW is not just a symbol, but somehow a revealing portrait. To vacation in Portugal says, "The rest of the world can go to Ocean City, or Cape Cod, or hell. I'm more exotic than that." To wear a windbreaker that says MEMBERS ONLY on the front pocket is to say that you belong to a club that wouldn't admit anyone who wasn't as wonderful as you.

Of course, there's great irony in this attitude. The slavish devotion to brand names that supposedly makes Yuppies different actually makes them the same.

Have you ever heard two Yups reassuring each other that Folonari is the only white wine to drink with scallops? Or that September is the only month in Aspen? Conformity has never been more suffocating, not even in the days of bobby sox.

Nor do Yuppies easily see past their own pleasure and comfort. They are incessantly preoccupied with their beautiful bodies and their bountiful bank accounts. But do you ever see a Yuppie making sandwiches in a shelter for the homeless? Or serving on a volunteer committee? Or giving anything to anyone that won't produce a tax deduction?

What you see is a bunch of people who are better off than almost everyone else on earth, but who draw little true satisfaction from that, because some other Yup is richer or slimmer.

So it becomes a never-ending competition. Acquisition becomes religion. Surpassing the Joneses becomes an end in itself. One's rung in life is measured by one's tonic and the resale value of one's condo, not by one's attitudes or principles.

I have nothing against becoming as successful as you can become, Sara. But Yuppies deceive themselves into thinking that nothing but consumption really matters. On the contrary, there's a lot more to life than whether you choose Dewar's or Cutty Sark to sip in front of a roaring fire.

Barnaby Woods is an aptly named part of town. This Upper Northwest neighborhood just west of Rock Creek Park possesses some of the oldest and tallest trees in Washington. Old and tall trees have large branches, of course, and therein hangs a tale -- of a hanging bird.

On Friday night, May 16, Sylvan and Soo-Z Stein looked out the back windows of their Barnaby Woods home and spotted a bird caught in the branch of a nearby tree. It was a mourning dove, and it was hanging upside down by a string, about 35 feet off the ground.

Who knew how it had gotten there? And who knew how to free it? The Steins called D.C. Animal Control, which dispatched an agent to the scene. He took a look, but deemed the situation too tough. So he called the D.C. Fire Department.

An engine company soon arrived, and spent several minutes studying the problem. Finally, a firefighter lodged a ladder against the trunk of the tree, climbed up and sawed off the branch on which the bird was caught. As the branch fell to the ground, the string became untangled. Free as a bird once again, the dove flew away.

The Steins would like me to thank the firefighters who solved the upside-down bird problem so neatly -- and I'm happy to do so. I didn't think firefighters made runs for treed cats or upside-down birds any more. Nice to hear that they do -- and that they do so well once they're on the scene.

And Shelby Friedman says old wolves never die. They just get leer-sighted.