Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pigeon Trick

Like you could put parentheses on either side of the block, the one between Mellon Center and Macy's was set apart from the others by pigeons. They had chosen all skyscrapers, a lot of them on the stately city block, to rest upon. Wise birds. That block provides sills, ledges shoulders, roofs, alcoves, lattice work, and gargoyle installations all for the pigeons to snuggle up together on. It was like the tall buildings had fur on a sunny, perfect fall day.

The sidewalks were packed, miday aftenoon crush, lunch time. As I crossed Smithfield Street to the pigeon coated block, I happened to notice a tall thin man, holding a long white bag in one hand, smiling, beautifully, beside a fountain at the far end of the spiring city block. No sooner had I come parallel to the first of so many pigeons bobbing on the busy sidewalk, the young man reached into his long white bag, and drew from it the remains of his lunch.

Through my stuffy bifocals I could discern that it was the last third of a foot long hoagie. He broke a piece off of it, and like the maestro of a symphony waving his baton, he threw it underhanded, up, up, up and gracefully down, down, down to no place in particular on the sidewalk. The pgeons closest to it were first responders, hopping and flapping towards the breezing bits of bread. Their work was rewarded for taking initiative, munching away, but not for long. More birds on the side walk moved in for the free lunch. Then some of the birds on the sills and gargoyles flew down, and a small scale riot began, perhaps a few hundred birds fighting over food. The gent in the distance looked much too happy to be working for the cause of world peace, if this was any indication.

On his first toss I realized that my clothes were in danger of being soiled. Pigeons relieve themselves without care or shame, and I fear being under the process. I was advancing, on foot towards the epicenter of what was about to happen, feeling trepidtion. But the man with the hoagie was smiling so warmly that good cheer had to be factored in. This was looking like a funny situation. People being crapped on by thousands of pigeons is probably funny.

His second and third tossing of the hoagie did it. Thousands upon thousands of pigeons came pouring down from the minion of skyscrapers, all focused on the food and fearless to go for it. The riot that ensued had the force of a tornado, an amicable one, one that has the decency to let you step past it. It was a huge battle among pigeons, and they only beat and pecked at one another, leaving pedestians to find their way through the chaos.

My fear of being crapped on escalated, of course, but again, that young man's smile in the distance was more compelling than some petty concern for the threads I had on. It was obvious the gent knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that the power and the glory could tipped if he provided the proper impetus. A billion pigeons, some greasy pinched bread, and a symphony composer's vision. The solid crush of birds coming down from high above could have been the forces of fate. The riot in the street, his prank, was magnificent. All that movement brought my senses to life. It was a thrill to walk through birds.

Well, that's all I saw of the young man with the bag of tricks and the mischievous smile. Upon passing the spectacle, I took visual inventory of my hat, jacket, trousers and shoes, and felt gifted to have not a single dropping on my clothes. That, in spirit, is a sign that this happened for all good purposes. It is possible to make things happen.

Hog Maw and Chitlins

One of the advantages of being hyperactive is that I can eat four pounds of fried chicken a day and remain thin as a rail. I can perform the same trick with bacon. If it sounds like I'm bragging, I am, but only about the good parts. Along with all the fidgeting and rapid digestion, the condition can leave a man prone to flights of free associations. It can, to some people, be annoying.
I haven't been driving for the past few years, and after giving up my last car, bird-like images have been flapping around in my head when I ride the bus across town.

The autumn dusk sky was full of crows when I got to the Herron Station platform. The kohl black birds flew neatly spaced for miles distant down the busway and over the Golden Triangle. There were a few bats flying in between the myriad crows, like flying punctuation marks inside a statement made of crows.

Pittsburgh is a place of sylvan beauty. Where the birds rested on clusters of trees the hills looked like a forsythia bush with lampblack flowers. it was an enchanting late afternoon across slummy and elegant districts.

One of the older men at the bus stop was dressed like, and vaguely resembled, one of the most popular pop singers of all time. The soon-to-be passenger is a meticulous dresser, and everything matched and fit, even the wide fedora, tilted, and ideally matched to the collar of his knee length top coat. He was way too thin and seemed to have some exotic health problems.

His space dancer outfit was an almost tasteful dazzle effect. He has a face like a pommeranian and crinkles his eyes a lot. There was years of booze and psyche meds on his face, but he was personable. I've been seeing him at bus stops between downtown and Perrysville for years now, and tonight he spoke at some length about his culinary talents.

The bus came sooner than I would have liked, which is almost never the case, but the bats and crows were turning in such a narcotising performance. Once inside and seated on the EBA (all stops) I had occaission to overhear some challenging words about food by the man in the black fedora.

The young woman sitting nearest him asked if chitlins didn't smell nasty.
"Ya put in a whole lot of onions to cover up the smell. But you make chitlins right you got some good eating. Gotta cook it with hog maw. That's how I serve it. Chitlins with greens and hog maw."

It brought to mind the song 'Back Door' man. "Some men likes to eat pork and beans....I eats more chicken than any man ever seen." It's me. I swear. I eat huge amounts of chicken.

Hold your water if it sounds racist, all some people do is observe and make note. I'm a little more convoluted than just that, but what happened happened totally absent of malice. Along with fond remembrance of the Mississippi blues song, I got a passing mental picture of a pig's face wrapped in butcher paper and carried under the arm of a short, scrawny, aging soul brother just a few feet away. Go figure this flight of imagnation was happening in Pittsburgh.

His words. He said to his listeners, "I'm an old soul brother and I love chitlins and greens. With hog maw." I wasn't sticking my hand up his back and making his lips move. "I make my own salad dressing, too," he added.

Unless the man is younger than he looks, he's done better for himself than his famous alter ego. The glammor puss with all the dance moves kicked off at 51, and I'd put my chitlin chef at at least 59. I know for a fact that, so far, I outlived the same singer by over two years, and my face isn't falling off from having a lot of cosmetic surgery. But then I was always content to be a yutz. It's an awful trade off, in life.

The southern gourmet also reminded me that rabbits are copraphagic. It's another real long stretch at amateur science, but people have natural tendencies, served on the same plate with the collards, head meat and chicken shoe strings. The tendencies are garnished with what has been learned, such as the recipe, but I have been, for some time now, leaning to the view that food is hereditary more so than aculturated.

Not certain, but I'm probably the only person on the bus who has a bachelor's degree. Okay, it's bunk. He'd probably like steak if he grew up eating alot of it. I like a good steak. Fried chicken, too. And I went to college.

Are thoughts a manifestation of bigotry? Is it wrong to share the same said thoughts as simply as possible, allowing for having become a bit of a twisted bus rider? Have I become a bad passenger, or is it in the greater interest of man to let a few stray cats out of the erudite burlap bag? I don't think so, and if I live in this neighborhood long enough, I may get a chance to get the campy looking chef's opinion on all this and more. He's at the bus stop every day. I could learn to like chitlins. I know I'll be coming back for seconds on the hog maw. In any case, I won't be buying a car any time soon, so best to be get used to the cuisine.