New York, NY: It’s a beautiful day on Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, where Anna Dove gathers the faithful to celebrate National Pigeon Day. Miss Dove, who legally changed her name from Kugelmas in honor of her feathered friends, held the inaugural meeting here on June 13th, 2008. This year the city hosted the Puerto Rican Day parade on the 13th, forcing Ms. Dove to reschedule the festivities to today, June 19th, 2010. She remains hopeful that her petition to have the 13th recognized as National Pigeon Day will be ratified by the U.S. government.
One group stands apart from the others and doesn’t seem to be enjoying the day’s program. Wading into their midst, one gets the feeling these pigeons are no fans of this day dedicated to them.
A cocky male is the first to speak up. “First of all—no disrespect—it’s illegal to feed us here. So is this really the appropriate venue? Isn’t this supposed to be for us? Or is it just for some wacky bird people to get together and feel important? Maybe the cops look the other way today, but what about the rest of the year?”
There’s a decided anxiety among the pigeons. “You know, after that rally to stop the ban on feeding us, I thought we had some momentum,” remarks a disheveled youth, shuffling his feet. “People were taking action. But it all just faded away. I look at these people today with their pigeon cookies and fancy strollers, and I think, what happened, you know? We were counting on you guys.”
A dappled female chimes in. “What kind of world are we bringing our squabs into when we have to pick through garbage just to survive? It’s the 21st century and I can’t even get a handful of clean popcorn. Thank you, Mr. Bloomberg!”
One of the event’s speakers is talking about the loss of habitats for pigeons due to rampant human overdevelopment.
This causes a new round of complaints from the pigeons.
“Don’t you see the disconnect here? This city is our habitat! We love overdevelopment! Build more! More cities, more buildings, more people to feed us! These people are pinheads!”
“Yeah, are they gonna sterilize themselves to stop human overdevelopment? Fine with me, since City Hall wants to put birth control in birdseed. I’m a good Catholic, man. Don’t put your Nazi tactics on me!”
Whoops of agreement.
Misinterpreting the ruckus, a young girl giggles and rains breadcrumbs down on the group, which pecks at them madly. As the crumbs are consumed and the frenzy subsides, one peers up and snarls, “Don’t you judge me! You think I want to take handouts from you people? Did you ever try to make a sack of breadcrumbs with these things?” flapping his wings.
His burly neighbor agrees. “You know what would make me happy? Thumbs.”
He cocks his head to one side and casts an appraising eye on the gathering of urban avians. “But that ain’t gonna happen too soon, right? In the meantime, you know, we do rely on the kindness of strangers. And I say there’s no shame in that.”
In the milling and agitated crowd, one voice rises above the rest: “Hey! Tell her about the bag snatcher!”
This beefy bird, who won’t give his name but reveals that he usually “works the waterfront,” claims to have been at the scene of the crime. “It’s like this,” he says.”Last winter, a few of my buddies and I were visiting a sick cousin up on East 93rd. Miss Dove was out feeding a bunch of us when outta nowhere, this old guy grabs her bag of birdseed and throws it over a fence, on account of he says she’s feeding the rats, too. The cops came and it was this huge deal. We made it into the New York Post!
I look very handsome in that picture, which was taken before we hopped the fence and ate that whole bag of birdseed. The rats didn’t get one bit of that, I can tell you.”
Someone is holding a sign depicting a pigeon. The image is of Cher Ami, a pigeon owned by the U.S. Army and used in World War I in France. On his final mission, he delivered a message despite being shot, blinded in one eye and having a leg hanging by a tendon. He was awarded a medal, the Croix de Guerre, but later died of his injuries. June 13th is the anniversary of his death. The speaker calls for National Pigeon Day to be recognized so that pigeons can be properly hailed as heroes.
The birds cry foul.
“The French eat pigeons! They’re probably sucking the bones of one of our relatives right now.”
“What did that bird care about a medal? He was a carrier pigeon. They’re extinct! Not even our species, lady! What the hell is wrong with you? You say you love us, but you don’t even know us!”
“Oo la la,” says another. “All this talk of heroes! What choice did he have? What they call bravery, I call slavery.”
Murmurs of agreement. “That was not our war.”
A crusty old bird hobbles up. “Why isn’t she talking about the spikes put up everywhere so I have to sleep with them up my ass? I lost a toe last winter when it froze to a ledge and broke off. Where are my veteran’s benefits?
“We’ve been invisible long enough! You know I don’t want to say anything about those poor birds down in the Gulf, but my brother Bob flew down there on vacation a few years back and he got swallowed whole by a brown pelican! I’m just saying, they’re not so innocent.”
The old bird, clearly a rabble-rouser, shouts to his brethren, “I see a lot of gums flapping but what are they doing for us, really? Hippie losers giving us a day? Every day is pigeon day!”
“Let’s fly down to City Hall and crap these breadcrumbs all over their heads!”
In a symphony of beating wings, they’re gone.
Mayor Bloomberg had better duck.