November 1, 2010

Let's Get It (Pige)On

When the pigeons start turning on you, it's a sign that things are taking a turn for the worse.

This past January, Girlfriend (pre-move to NYC) was in town for the first time for a visit over New Year's.  I threw a great party at my old apartment, and in the following days, I took her around the city and showed her the usual awesome New-York-in-winter sights like the big tree at Rockefeller Center and Central Park covered in snow and the like.

One afternoon, we took a walk to one of my favorite wintertime places, Bryant Park, where they have shops, a bar/restaurant, and an ice rink set up for the pleasure of everyone who likes to get drunk and fall down on ice and break a tibia or two.  It's actually a really cool sight, as evidenced by the pictures below.

Despite the frigid temperatures, Girlfriend and I grabbed lunch from a nearby cafe and sat down to eat and bask in the warm glow of our endearing love for each other.  Quick tip, if you ever want a constantly entertaining dining experience, sit down for a meal in close proximity to an ice rink.  There's really no such thing as seeing "too many" fat people fall down.

It was shaping up to be a great day.  The sun was shining, fat people were falling, I was with my lady, and all was right in the world.  Just us and our food.  And, of course, the pigeons...

Before I go on with my riveting story, a few words about New York's pigeons.

Generally, I have zero problem with them.  They've adapted to NYC life very well, I think.  They do their thing, we do ours, and aside from the occasional, "Hey, I'm gonna poop on your shoulder, guy," incident, there are no issues.  At least they're not seagulls.  Good god, how I hate seagulls.  I'd gladly eat around dozens of pigeons over one seagull any day of the week.  Too often have I been on a beach with my family down in Florida, holding some delicious food item in one hand and chatting with someone on the other hand's side, and some asshole seagull decides that it's earned the right to flap down and steal my delicious treat right out of my fingers.  No one freeloads on a grander scale.  The Tea Partiers should stop focusing on getting Mexicans out of America and start pushing to remove all of the seagulls.  Then those worthless idiots might get my vote.  But I digress.

Back to Bryant Park.  A couple of the pigeons around us were obviously a bit spoiled by the riches of crumbs raining down upon their area like so much manna from heaven.  They would scamper to and fro between our table and a few others, expecting what they'd come to believe to be rightfully theirs.  I felt like the old shopkeep in some 50s movie about a biker gang, just waiting for the hoodlum pigeons to come in and start rabble rousin' or slackin' or whatever the hell old shopkeeps were afraid of kids doing in those days.

I paid them little attention, though, because like I said, pigeons normally know their boundaries when it comes to being around people, and just hang in the shadows until the coast is clear and they're free to flash-gobble up every edible bit of food left on the ground like a swarm of waddling piranha.  And for the most part, these pigeons kept up their end of the bargain and didn't really come too close.

Except for one fat little bastard.

For whatever reason, this one particular pigeon felt like he had dibs on a significant portion of our food.  This pigeon clearly had Socialist ideals.  One second we're sitting there, enjoying our meal, and the next, he's flapping his way over to our table and trying to land on Girlfriend's chair.

Girlfriend was not pleased.  She freaked out a little bit. It was a lot like what happens when confronted with her true arch-nemesis, the spider.  The only thing I could think of being worse at that moment was if somehow the pigeons and the spiders started cross-breeding and produced some kind of mutant Spiderpigeon:

Which is, of course, not to be confused with Spider-pigeon:

Since our fat little friend didn't seem to have a solid grasp on the rules, I shooed him away and we carried on.  But he wasn't through yet.  I had a bad feeling about him, and kept seeing him pop up at the fringes of the group of tables.  Watching.  Studying.  It was like that scene in Jurassic Park when the surly Australian hunter guy realizes that he's being skillfully tracked by the group of raptors just before they attack him and bite him on and around the face.  Except pigeons don't attack.


After a while, I'd forgotten about the pigeon and gone back to focusing on my delectable sandwich.

But soon, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.

A stare-off ensued.

And then, it attacked.

My first instinct was to hide behind Girlfriend and protect the few precious remaining strands of hair I had left on my head.  But partly out of a sense of duty to keep my love safe from any dastardly threat, and partly out of a desire to not look like a 5-year-old girl, I steeled myself for what I knew I had to do, put down my sandwich, and made my decision.

I struck back.

I literally punched a pigeon in the mouth.

Maybe the bird wasn't used to someone standing up to its bullying tactics, but it was stunned.

My karate chop had landed a devastating blow, and the pigeon, knowing it could never survive such a powerful shot to the face again, tucked tail and waddled away.

Girlfriend and I went back to our food.  I tried to think of an awesome, Schwarzenegger-esque line to cap the action, but alas, none came to me.  (In hindsight, I should've gone with, "You made a beak mistake," or, "That was egg-cellent.")  Still, I did my duty, and proved to Girlfriend that she can always feel safe in the presence of birds, as long as I'm around.

Did the experience change me?  Maybe.  Much like those surfers who get attacked by sharks out on the open water, I eventually went back out there, but I always keep my guard up.  I know I shouldn't unfairly stereotype an entire race because of the actions of one rogue terrorist, but I no longer have such a carefree, mutually respectful relationship with the pigeons of New York City.  The world is an unfair place sometimes.

These days, I'll still toss the occasional bit of hot dog bun on the ground to feed a pigeon in need, but knowing that one could strike at any time has left me a little colder, a little less trusting of my winged brethren.  I may never see him again, but if that pigeon ever shows his beak around me or my loved ones again, I'll face him once more.

And this time, it's bird-sonal.

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