Bothersome Beauty of Pegions According to Me

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  • Topic: Bird, Columbidae, Rock Pigeon
  • Pages : 6 (3243 words )
  • Download(s) : 174
  • Published : May 3, 2013
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The cardboard display tables of the mostly African vendors in Florence �s largest piazzas are marvels of engineering. They are designed to be light and portable, and to fold in an instant without disrupting the orderly display of fashionable sunglasses, silver cigarette lighters, or art posters. I watch these street entrepreneurs from the steps of the city�s great cathedral, Santa Maria della Fiore, as they work the roving bands of Italian schoolchildren on school holiday. It is a hard sell. The vendors line up side by side and though many sell exactly the same kinds of sunglasses or lighters or posters, they don�t seem to aggressively compete with each other; in fact, they borrow money from each other to make change, and laugh together at quiet comments I can�t hear. For a few moments my attention to the scene strays, and when I look back the vendors and their cardboard displays have simply vanished. At first, I can�t figure out a reason for the disappearing act. Nor can I explain the street vendors� sudden return minutes later, sweeping in like the flocks of pigeons that are everywhere in these squares. Then I see the small Renault of the Florence polizia driving slowly down an adjacent street, where two officers sit stiffly in their crisp blue uniforms and white leather belts; the police seem bored, indifferent, not even remotely interested in the sudden flight their slow passage through the square inspires. The vendors are apparently unlicensed and the police routinely attempt to flush them out, but this is clearly a half-hearted campaign. Who can blame them? The vendors are everywhere, lingering at the edge of crowds, a fraternity of friendly bandits clutching their neatly folded cardboard tables, each equipped with a convenient handle of rope and duct tape. Within seconds of the officers� departure, the vendors descend on the square again, once again unfolding their tables to which the merchandise magically adhered. I watch this flight and return again and again, and along with it I notice the pigeons, who participate in a similar performance of their own in these same squares. The birds are also everywhere, in bold flocks that peck at the heels of the sloppy eaters, each bird turn�ing a greedy red eye up at the diner, the other eye fixed on the ground before it. It is impossible to ignore the pigeons, and tourists delight in tossing food and witnessing the free-for-all at their feet. I find myself looking for crumbs from the pannini I have just finished for lunch, wondering at my own impulse to feed a bird against which I had recently waged war. Pigeons seem to inspire such paradoxical feelings. Pigeon rac�ers in the Bronx tenderly kiss the beaks of their birds, finally home after flying 500 miles to their lofts after a remarkable feat of solar navigation (Blechman). Meanwhile, pigeon haters host Web sites like Pigeonsmakemesick.com and propose plans for ridding cities of the ��vermin,�� including the tactical use of tennis rackets and loaves of bread (Thorne). Most of us, I think, can swing both ways in our feel�ings towards pigeons, an ambivalence that doesn�t seem to apply to other �pests� because pigeons occupy an odd category of creatures that we can both love and hate, animals that are untidy and irritat�ing yet, at times, utterly enchanting.                                                 ____________________________________ Florence does not feed a pigeon lover�s longings nearly as well as Venice . In Florence �s Piazza San Giovanni, where I sat, there were no seed sales, a business that thrives in Venice �s St. Mark�s square. For one euro, tourists there can buy a small bag of seeds to feed the pigeons, who respond to the encouragement by gathering in great flocks around the seed thrower. The birds lose their grace and shamelessly stumble over each other with eagerness, pecking wildly at the stone street and even eating out of the tourist�s hand or perching on his head. This becomes a photographic occasion...
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