551. Time walks a pigeon-toed waddle

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Why start here?  I don’t know. Sometimes I just start a post in hopes of finding a destination, a bread crumb trail to gobble up, like pigeons out for a stroll. What do they find? Whatever they look for. And if they look for nothing, they may still find a crust of bread or a sunflower seed, maybe an ibuprofen. In the Google age it’s simple to find their diet,

Pigeons are natural seed eaters and only eat insects in small numbers. Normal pigeon diet is made of corn, wheat, cereals and other seed. Pigeons will add fruit and greens like lettuce, spinach, sprouted seeds, grapes  and apple in their diet. Or Skittles…

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Simple enough. They have adapted to humans all around the globe, showing up in all cities, famously flocking at the Vatican and Red Square. Yep. Funny how words like birds alight on the clotheslines of language. A pigeon is also a young attractive woman, though I’m not sure why you’d call a pretty girl a “pigeon”. Then again, why call girls “chicks”?Image result for pigeon flocks in flight gif

They are beautiful in flight, right? Almost majestic.

I read once that Ernest Hemingway trapped pigeons in Paris for dinner. He was hungry and poor. I have never forgiven him.

A dupe, sucker or someone easily cheated is also called a pigeon, I guess because pigeons aren’t so smart? I suppose they are easily caught and used up, both the birds and thusly marked victims. Image result for dupe or sucker pictures

Perhaps the extinct carrier pigeon was a duped victim of fowl play. Stories abound of the heroic sacrifices carrier pigeons made in war time, delivering mail, bullets, tanks, and a submarine in the Battle of Midway.Related image

The first message-bearing pigeon was loosed by Noah. The ancient Romans used pigeons for chariot races, to tell owners how their entries had placed. Genghis Khan established pigeon relay posts across Asia and much of Eastern Europe. Charlemagne made pigeon-raising the exclusive privilege of nobility. The Rothschild fortune is said to have been seriously augmented by a pigeon bearing news of the British victory at Waterloo. But it was in the Siege of Paris in 1870 that the carrier pigeon won its wings. (Please hold your applause until the end of the post. It’s hard, I know, when the grandeur of pigeon awe sweeps over one like a phantom wind fills the sails of a clipper ship. But try. Cross your legs if you must.)

My favorite pigeon has to be the stool pigeon, I think. It’s a term for criminals who act as decoys to lure other criminals into a legal dragnet. I imagine stool pigeons were once like decoy ducks that lure real ducks into target range. Stool pigeons must sit on stools in police interrogation rooms and coo, coo, coo away their accomplices. It is also suggested that stool pigeons were low life informants who sat on bar stools to gather nefarious information.

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Yes, there are pigeon associations. And you’ll never guess who is the president of the British Pigeon Racing Association. The very Queen herself, Elizabeth II.  Here she is as a young pigeonphile. Lovely, really, and don’t you dare call her a pigeon.

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Those Brits!!  Crazy, right? And you thought this was just an aimless tangent. Actually, so did I, but we are gaining traction now, Bob. Racing fowlers will immediately recognize the following grand champions from the middle of the twentieth century.  Who could forget Ginger Feathers and her epic flight of 1944? She practically won the war on P Day.Image result for marx brothers movies pigeon feathers

Now in a related but faraway galaxy comes Pidgin English, which is a form of broken English that is spoken in over two dozen lands that were once ruled by the Brits. (Note the British pigeon theme here.)

Pidgin English is a non-specific name used to refer to any of the many pidgin languages derived from English. Here’s a Nigerian example… or more.

7. Wetin dey happen? – What’s going on? (Marvin Gaye, where are you, man?) What’s happening?

11. Dem send you? – Have you been sent to torment me? (Republicans said this about Hillary.)

13. K-leg – Questionable.  Example – Your story get k-leg! Which means your story or gist sounds suspect or exaggerated. (POTUS Twitter feed)

23. Butta my bread – Answered prayers. Example – “God don butta my bread” which means God has answered my prayers (Note to gluten intolerant:  God don butta my gluten free bread. Dairy intolerant version, God don no butta my bread.)

25. I go land you slap – I will slap you! ( Again, POTUS Twitter feed)

One more jump, my friends, to gems. The pigeon blood ruby is a rare and precious stone.Image result for pigeon blood rubyJust look at that drop of crystallized blood. How valuable, you ask?  How about $30 million for this Sunshine Ruby? 36 carats strong.

Extremely rare: The 'Sunrise Ruby' sold for £19.3million at auction

But we are wandering aimlessly, having lost the narrative equivalent of the thread of Ariadne, and are doomed to be devoured by the mythical Minotaur. Yes, yes. No worries. I will simply launch my homing pigeon to find my way out of this Cretan labyrinth. Yes, even in myths pigeons can alight on another clothesline of meaning and provide rescue and comfort. When Daedalus made his famous wings to escape his prison, I like to think he used pigeon feathers for his apparatus. 

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A pigeon taught that falcon how to light a lady’s pipe, and yet not even a footnote of recognition. Shame! After the Great War, when carrier pigeons were replaced by reliable modern technology, a lot of them found work in Hollywood as stunt birds. Tragically, some unfortunates went into the adult bird film industry, where they were exploited for crowd scenes in Rome and Venice, working literally for peanuts.

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It breaks my heart to think of how far this once noble bird has fallen. However, I find comfort and promise in the adaptability of the pigeon. And so, I’ll leave you with fond memories of Bert telling his unfunny pigeon jokes to Ernie, which left Ernie nonplussed but Bert laughing like a bleating goat.   “Agh agh agh agh agh.” That’s all folks.Image result for bert pigeon laugh gif


330. Tightly letting go

The ghost grip rises northward out of my upper spine and starches all those supple muscles in my neck that had found warm relaxation at the beach last week. It’s just a single stressful day of the routine, and already the coffee, tension, and focus are pulling together like rusty marionette strings to make my head nod, smile, turn, and tilt. EEk!! It’s a bad trade, but the ratio seems to be 1:8, one day of work cancels out 8 days of relaxation. I’m trading dollars for pesos. Why?  Why do we do this to ourselves? For achievement of one sort or another, so I am told. We build resumes of rigidity.  And when we’ve had enough, we brittley retire from the brutality. Once we are fully, hopelessly  wooden boys, we finally soften up in preparation for the end– the letting go of doing and the embracing of being.  My retirement song will be “I’ve got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret or make me frown. I had strings but now I’m free, there are no strings on me.”  Pinnochio, where are you, man? I went to school. I worked like a donkey. And I behaved badly here and there. Now I want to be a no strings, fleshy, real boy again. If you can’t make it, Pin, at least sent Jimney Cricket to talk me down. I don’t want to live in a whale’s belly any more.

My peer group met at my house this morning for French toast and bacon, grits and coffee. (Grits come with or without you asking. It’s passive-aggressive Southern Food Fascism, an informal way of taxing and testing your guests. How will they deal with the grits? Like John Wayne or Lil’ Wayne? It’s a Rohrschach Test with boiled ground corn.) Whipped cream and blackberry pie filling were available along with organic maple syrup. Our topic for discussion?  The end of life, the inevitable decline of aging. For a field trip Dave 2 suggested that we visit his retirement community, which he just loves. A breathless lack of enthusiasm met his suggestion. No one wants to plan his own slow, fragile demise. So we don’t. We read about it in our book– Atwul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Lots of good stuff in there for other people to use. But Lordy, not me. I just hope to die in my sleep… long before I lose control of my bodily functions and mental capacities. I want autonomy, firm flesh and freedom till the end. Problem is, we don’t get much of a choice in the matter.I think it was Woody Allen who said he wasn’t afraid of death, he just didn’t want to be there when it happened. Me too, Woody.

According to Gawande, your best insurance policy against winding up in a nursing home is having a daughter.  Fortunately I have three. I hope at least one of them will keep me out of the nightmare of institutional living if that’s where I appear to be headed. Like most American men, I don’t want to become dependent, or more dependent than I already am. It’s a strange dynamic, this aging process. In a way it’s like playing poker with Death. You win almost every hand when you are young and can’t even imagine losing one day. As you get past 50, though, you notice the face cards aren’t coming your way very often. Forget about aces. You’re pulling a lot of 5’s and 8’s. No straights or flushes either. You fold more often and win seldom. Some folks call for a new deck at midlife. They quit their job or marriage, their church or their kids. Wanting a new purpose, passion or cause, and facing a barren horizon that is too much to bear…  they demand, “Dealer, new cards!!” The Dealer chuckles at these naïve players, neck deep in mortality.

“SNot that easy, Boys. Mortal means ‘ssssubject to death’… not if but when. SSSSoo, how about another hand, eh?” Eventually everyone learns that the Dealer always wins. Since this is the inescapable end of the material world story, what are you doing with the time we think is still available? Are you making a tighter, tougher resume? Are you tightening your abs and working a veggie diet?  Lots of antioxidants?  Good, good. But are you adding value to the time you are reupholstering?

Back to Pinnochio. He lost his strings when he explored his freedom. He blew it. He skipped school and fell for Stromboli, the bad dude with the traveling carnival. Every time he lied, his nose grew, which is not a bad adaptation. [Imagine if our politicians had this adaptation. They would be upright swordfish. Reporters would be skewered nasally in press conferences. Congressmen would skewer one another at hearings as they lied back and forth. In presidential debates, the guy with the longest nose would be declared the winner. Chris Christie wouldn’t have to lie about Bridgegate any longer because New Jerseyites could just drive back and forth to Jersey City over his nose.]

Anyway, Pinnochio found his soft flesh after saving his woodcarver father Geppetto’s life. Just when you think old Pinoak had drowned after the awful whale Monstro chased him, he is transformed into a real boy by the blue fairy. Boom! Why? What’s the Pinnochio secret?  Sacrificial love, my little wood shavings. He gave his life for his father, his wooden life, that is. Old Pinoak stopped lying and started using his noggin to rescue Geppetto and the cat. Image result for pinocchio and geppetto in the whale pictures As a result the Blue Fairy returned to change his splintered wooden heart into one of flesh. It almost sounds like a religious parable, eh? Sacrificial love actually transforms the giver and receiver. Like Shakespeare said about Mercy…

“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown”

Sacrificial love may be mightiest in the weakest and most vulnerable, folks who have nothing to spare but find this gift in the empty cupboards of their lives. So, I’ll play another hand with Death. He can have my sawdust. I’m taking my fleshy heart with me.