SIGNS OF THE TIMES

 

So far as I know, urban pigeons are not migratory; they are always with us. But the ones hanging out on the window ledges across the street have been gone for quite some time, and this morning they’re back. I doubt they spent the winter in Florida, but they went somewhere. There is little to like about pigeons – I can’t think of anything right off. Most birds sing songs; pigeons make a burbling sound. I don’t like it. I developed a distaste for it almost seventy years ago while lying in a hospital bed by an open window. A couple of days of jousting with pain was accompanied by uninterrupted burbling. But I hold no grudge. The reappearance of those guys across the street when I look out first thing most mornings, is rather welcome. It’s a reminder of change.

In this long winter of Covid restrictions, when every day has been much the same – from ordinary routines to the overhanging threat of death by smothering – change was devoutly to be hoped for. It didn’t have to be a total cure like those for smallpox and polio; almost any kind of change would have been welcome, at least in the short run. Like those pigeons.

In this city that’s famous for outrageously expensive, la-di-dah restaurants, the big news lately is that Eleven Madison Avenue, where, before the pandemic, tasting plates cost over $300, has gone vegan. The one exception is milk and honey for coffee. Now that’s change. I’m thinking I’ll suggest to them that to keep their carnivorous customers coming, they could serve roast pigeon and subway rat etouffee. These would be locally-sourced offerings and, unlike most meat, this would not harm the environment. Fewer rats would actually be a benefit, and fewer pigeons would not do much harm.

Then there is the return of progressivism to government. Ronald Reagan’s idea that government is “the problem” is finally being effectively challenged. I hope the progressive vision prevails, of course, but that’s not my point here. I’m just glad that liberal views have become viable enough to be taken seriously. When the right wing gets its intellectual mojo back, we can move on to a contest between two ideas of what constitutes the best kind of America. That would be a welcome change.

Enough of this even-handed cheerfulness. I shake my head in angry frustration about some changes that have not occurred. Corporations have begun to make noise about social issues, but their actions range from paltry to nonexistent. When are the owners of sports teams going to require Covid vaccinations to see ball games? And when did it come to pass that GI Joe gets to say what shots he will take? Private Hernandez-Gilligan has to get out of bed at a certain time, wear her uniform just so, salute officers. New York City is starting to use electric buses. That’s bust-out-cheering welcome. But why aren’t the roofs of apartment buildings covered with solar panels?

Ann and I are entering some personal change also. We’ve been trying to update the creaky kitchen and bath in our apartment since we moved into it in June of last year. Covid restrictions have now let up enough that the work has finally started, and we’re going to absent ourselves by driving to Texas, among other places. We’ve made that trip so many times, the most efficient route has no need of the Rand McNally. I can recite it as easily as my social security number; Lincoln Tunnel, I-95, I-78, I-81, I-40, I-30, US 59, and state highways I know but can’t name through east-central Texas. This is not a fun drive; it’s just 450 miles a day of mind-numbing freeway driving. Nevertheless, it will be a change. We’ll be out of the apartment (which will be transformed as we drive) and off the island.

A follow-up on my last post. Thinking about Rand McNally led me to recall that big wall map that hung in the fifth-grade classroom at Fletcher Elementary. Also, those children’s jigsaw puzzles that had a big, thick piece for each state. Globes, too. I liked all those things. If I had the wall space, I’d hang a big map in the apartment. And given a little more floor space, I’d have a great big globe. I do have room for one of those jigsaw puzzles. I may get one.