Pigeons: It’s Us And Them.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 1
Me, just hangin' by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. Photo: Claus
Me, just hangin’ by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. I have a picture of pigeons from the same day this picture was taken but I can’t bear to use it. Pigeons are just gross-looking Photo: Claus

I was on the No. 3 bus that runs on Michigan Ave., heading south. The bus was full, so I had moved to the front; my stop was coming up and I didn’t want to have to throw elbows to get out.. In close proximity to me was the silver-haired bus driver, this really tall black dude with a pick in his afro, a tiny Asian woman of about sixty, and another white chick like me, who never looked up from her phone a single time and she got on when I did, way up at Chicago Ave.

Our bus got stopped in traffic. There was construction and a couple busses ahead of us, so we had a long wait at the curb at Lake Street. This brief party found ourselves looking out of the bus onto the sidewalk at our right. There were people walking along on the sidewalk, as usual; we hardly saw the scaffolding criss-crossing our view of the sidewalk because that scaffolding has been on that block for nine thousand years. (Maybe they’re just building scaffolding.) And then we all saw a couple boys of about thirteen or so running around chasing a big group of pigeons. The boys were clearly brothers; you could tell by their likeness and how a woman nearby was yelling, “John! Jake! Get back here! Where’s your father?”

The boys were tossing parts of their sandwich bread to the birds and some of the bread landed right outside the bus door. The bus driver shook his head. I jumped back, even though the door was closed, and went, “Eee!” The Asian lady clicked her tongue and gave the boys a fabulously disapproving look, which they will unfortunately never see. Longtime city dwellers know that pigeons are dirty and annoying, that they spread disease and are capable of pooping on your head.  My bus friends and I — being the wizened, hard Chicagoans we are — knew this and watched from our place of wisdom.

“Pigeons,” said the bus driver. “Just rats with wings. Those kids are in from out of town.”

The boys were running directly into the swarm of pigeons that had heard Subway sandwiches were being served at Michigan and Lake. One of the boys tried to pick up one of the birds.

“That ain’t even right,” said the guy with the pick.

We all looked at the sidewalk scene, at the people, the birds, the metal, the concrete, and I felt for the 20 millionth time in my life a comforting certainty: I belong in a city.


Summer Challenge: Watch Citizen Kane

posted in: Art, Story 0
Little known fact: Orson Welles came thisclose to calling it "Citizen Kale." Last minute change.
Little known fact: Orson Welles came thisclose to calling it “Citizen Kale.” Last minute change.

On my honor, I woke myself up the other morning saying, “dogwood.”

I’m not kidding. It’s super weird. I woke up as I said, “dogwood” — and I was whispering it.  I guess I was dreaming about a flowering dogwood tree and needed to tell someone? There are worse things to say out loud in one’s sleep. And dreaming about a dogwood tree is sorta sweet, I guess. I take a medication that from time to time gives me horrific, paralyzing nightmares (panic, gas chambers, blood, fury, etc., etc.) so even though I spooked myself, conditions were fair.

Whispering a two-syllable word that makes zero sense reminded me of Citizen Kane, of course, with the whole “Rosebud” thing. Citizen Kane is the movie that is perfect because it is on every Major List of Important Films as being always, always No. 1. Which makes it all the harder to say what I’m about to say:

I’ve never seen Citizen Kane.

It’s horrible. It’s so horrible I’d like to change the subject but it’s too late. There’s no excuse for this non-seeing of Citizen Kane. The “Rosebud” thing is all I know about Citizen Kane. The world’s most perfect film and I reduce it to a word and a reference so embedded in culture it’s not even a spoiler alert to tell you it’s the name of the guy’s sled! Right? Am I right? Rosebud? The sled? All right, I guess I know two things about Citizen Kane. If you didn’t know Rosebud was the name of his sled, I have zero remorse about spoiling that for you. You haven’t seen it either! What’s wrong with you?

My summer challenge, therefore, is to watch Citizen Kane. That’s it. That’s the whole challenge. Before the summer is out. My D.C. friends — I’m looking at you, modern quilt guild — there may be a Citizen Kane viewing party in my apartment. If I can get dogwood flowers, they will be in a vase on the table.

I’ll find out what cocktail was most popular in 1941 and make those for us, as well.