The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." "...it is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

YES, IT'S ALL FOR THE BIRDS: We all have our pet peeves, of course; we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have something that annoyed the hell out of us for one reason or another; but one of my pet peeves has never been birds. I don’t dislike birds; I think the bald eagle is a great national symbol and that chicken and turkey taste pretty good on Sunday and on Thanksgiving; but I don’t actually spend a lot of time thinking about birds. I give them some thought in the late summer or the early autumn or whenever it’s time to pick the loganberries; there’s a tree near where I park and every year at berry eating the birds gorge themselves silly and then sit up on the phone lines and crap purple poop all over my car, but that’s just a temporary thing. I usually just wash the crap off and park on the other side of the street for the duration of the season and that usually solves the problem. So I don’t have a problem with birds. I know that some folks do; there’s even a bird phobia, orinthophobia, but there’s a phobia for everything these days. There’s even a fear of bullets, ballistophobia, which seems to me a much more reasonable fear than being afraid of birds, Alfred Hitchcock notwithstanding.

Having established that I have no problem with birds in much the same way that anti-Semites will tell you that they have no problem with individual Jews, just Jews as a whole, I should point out that the egregious mold pit in which I labor for a pittance now has birds living in its façade. Specifically, there are pigeons living in our façade. The constant reader will remember that our happy little burg’s public library once occupied a building that is now on the National Register of Historic Places, as it is part of the early work of a prominent 19th century American architect, who designed the building as a favor for his brother-in-law, who provided the land and the financial wherewithal to build this historic site. If you ever wander through our happy little burg you must remember to go and see the old library. You can’t really miss it, as the architect was very fond of Norwegian chalets and therefore his design for the building was therefore that of a Norwegian chalet, making it the only Norwegian chalet on Main Street. In fact, I think it is fairly safe to say that this Norwegian chalet is definitely the only Norwegian chalet in our happy little burg and probably the only Norwegian chalet in a fifty-mile radius of our fair metropolis. For all I know, it may be the only Norwegian in a fifty-mile radius; we don’t get a lot of Scandinavians around here, as a rule. The building is now a concert hall for those people in our happy little burg who enjoy a rousing Chopin nocturne every now and again. I am not sure how they stay in business with this repertoire; I am pretty sure for a good-sized chunk of the population here classical music is Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5.

The library, having outgrown these architecturally prominent but otherwise almost hellish premises in the mid-1970’s, is now at an old five and ten cent store some three or four blocks up Main Street. The management of this mycological swamp routinely refers to the previous occupant of this site as a department store, but this description comes under what a psychologist might call delusions of grandeur. There was a department store in town and our mildewed abode was not it. The department store was down the street where the Mexican pizzeria with the best slices in town is now. A five and ten cent store, popularly known as a five and dime, for those of you too young to remember such an institution, was the early to mid-20th century’s version of the dollar store. Dollar bills being short supply in those years, what with the Great Depression and the rush on Prozac, and then the war and Senator McCarthy chasing Commies with lead-filled subpoenas every which way after the war, the people of this our Great Republic had to get by on pocket change, an economic fact of life that eventually gave rise to the five and dime. Dollar bills were in such short supply in those years that some people, unused to the very concept of the dollar bill and deeply suspicious of the idea that green paper could actually be money, pawned them for about twenty-five cents on the dollar; life was hard in those days and people wanted money they could put in a sock and save for a rainy day or smash someone’s teeth in with if they got into a fight. Trying defending yourself with a wad of twenties and you’ll see what I mean.

So here we are and, it would seem, here we are going to stay. After moving all of the books up to this place, the board of trustees decided that they should do something about the front of the building, since people were still coming in and wondering what happened to all the stuff they used to buy here. That wasn’t so bad, but when people started stealing the books the same way I used to boost comic books and gum out of the old five and dime, the board said that it was high time that we started to look like an actual library. And so the façade we have now came to be, with our name in very big letters over the front door so people would know that we didn’t have anything for sale anymore and that we were now officially our happy little burg’s temple of knowledge.

This is all very well and good, of course, but this all happened thirty or so years ago. I didn’t work here then, which seems to shock some people in this neck of the woods no end. Contrary to what they may believe or what you may have heard, I am not part of this place’s original equipment. The façade, however, is not holding up as well as I am. It has rotted away in some places, leaving a space between it and the building itself, where the local pigeon population has taken up residence. It was only a matter of time, you know; rents here have gone through the roof these past few years; and now the only place the pigeons can afford is the library façade. What makes the arrangement particularly good for the pigeons is that there are some three levels of woodwork on the inside of the façade, all of which are now open to the elements, and so the casual visitor walking past the library can see a three story avian tenement above their heads, complete with the nosy neighbor looking out at the passing scene and the young mother watching the kids play near the fire hydrants and yelling at them to be careful, there’s a car coming. Worse yet, they pay no rent and if the board of trustees tried to collect from them, the pigeons would have Geraldo Rivera up to take a look at the way they live in this crappy little façade and accuse us of being the worst sort of slumlord.

On the whole, the pigeons try to be good neighbors, although I would just as soon not have to listen to them squabble about money all the time, and when the father blows his paycheck on Irish whiskey and beer down at O’Reilly’s Bar & Grill the fights get good and mean; I’ve had to call the cops in a couple of times because it sounded like they were killing each other up there. It’s just the principle of the thing that annoys me, I guess. This is supposed to be a public library, not a slum for the avian disadvantaged; they shouldn’t be here at all, but it would appear that there’s nothing we can do about them in the short run as our budget did not pass this year, just as it did not pass last year.

So we are stuck, unless we can think of a way of getting funding that does not involve allowing people to download pornography on our computers or taking a cut of the online betting action; the local senior citizenry is devoted to blowing their Social Security checks here but they don’t want to actually fund the place and if they thought for a minute that we were getting some of their money they’d have a screaming fit that would last from opening time to whenever it’s time for their first meds of the day. There’s a way around this conundrum, there has to be; I just haven’t thought of it yet.
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