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.

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