I am not a big wussy pants. I want to make that absolutely clear before we go any further. Being paralyzed by fear is not a common occurrence for me, nor is running away from things. I was a white nerdy kid growing up in late '80s early '90s Harlem. It usually takes quite a bit to phase me. But there is a short list of things that I am just flat out not okay with. For example, I am deeply uncomfortable around viscous liquids of any kind, though I have no explanation to how or why that started. It's not like I was kidnapped as a kid by a roving mob of glass blowers. But if there is one thing that will instantly turn me into a four year old scared of his closet again, it's birds.
Yuuuuup. I've set my sights on you. And I've got lots of stones.
For this one, there is definitely an origin story. Back in middle school, I had a friend. To understand our friendship, you have to understand that we were both huge dicks. Still are, in fact, and we both love every minute of it. But his family owned two small birds. Apparently, he thought it would be funny to not warn me about his birds, and then make sure they flew at me as I walked in. I screamed. He laughed. I laughed too, eventually, but I never quite got over it.
Point is, I hung out at his place a lot, and the birds were always there. Flying around. Startling me. Watching me pee. It was horrible. I loved hanging out at his place because of his amazing living room setup and DVD collection (also, he was a good guy; I'm not completely shallow), but I could never totally get comfortable with the birds.
Which brings us to moving to California. I moved here a little over two years ago, and have been in the same apartment the whole time. It's a second floor apartment that looks out onto the roof of the house next door. The roof of a house that has a pigeon feeder. So outside my window, all day every day, is a flock of pigeons.
I am not kidding about this. It's a f@#&ing problem.
On hot days, which in Los Angeles are pretty much every day but Valentines, it's nice to have the windows open to get some circulation going in my AC-less apartment. Exposing myself to potential intruders. Watching them watch me. Ready to strike at any moment. So what's a guy to do? Do I suffer the heat and die on the floor in a pool of my own sweat and tears? Or do I risk it?
As I'm sure you can guess, I risked it. A lot. And it was never a problem. It had gotten to the point of complacency on my part. I wasn't watching. I wasn't prepared. And then the worst happened.
I was making a healthy snack of two hot pockets and a cup of Earl Grey tea, blissful at the crossbreeze that provided me the ability to eat such a warm lunch on such a hot day. I set the meal down on the table, and went to the kitchen grab a napkin. As I headed back in, I heard a sound. Oftentimes, something will startle the pigeons and they will all fly away at once. But this time, it sounded closer, and trapped.
I looked into the other room and I saw it. A pigeon, perched on my windowsill. But not the lower one, where I could just throw something at it or make a loud sound. The upper one, where he's confused and scared and can't get out and full of diseases. I didn't know what to do. I just stood there for fifteen minutes, staring at it. Then I made a sound, to try and get it to move, and boy did it move. Suddenly it was flying all over the living room, and I thought 'oh, this would be a good time to hide in the kitchen with my fingers in my ears for another few minutes.
Finally, I built up the courage to slowly walk through the living room. I grabbed my phone and my computer, left the lunch, ran outside and smoked about ten cigarettes. Let the record show that it was at this point, and not a second earlier, that I called my mother. And it wasn't even because I was crying (although hyperventilation and smoking make for very quick cigarettes), it was because I was looking for a rational way to solve the problem. Apparently, despite my panicked insistence, Animal Control does not do pigeons. So I needed an alternative. And it seemed like my only choice was to get back up there and kick its ass.
My arsenal: a 6 foot cardboard tube I was keeping in my closet for no particular reason, my thickest coat (which happened to be a beautiful brown suede number), a scarf, a hat, sunglasses (so he couldn't claw my eyes out), and a 3' x 2' framed Lichtenstein print that wasn't hung up. I was geared up and ready to fly.
I am American Pop Art Man, Protector of Freedom, Justice, and the American Way. From Pigeons.
At this point, he's stuck behind a lighting fixture on the wall with one wing sticking out like it was Sephiroth the Lamp. So I run in with the crying girl over my face and the pole out like I'm jousting, and I just stop. Just for a second. And I think about how ridiculous I'm being. But a second was all it needed.
Taking the opportunity, the pigeon emerged from the lamp in slow motion, possibly with the lamp exploding behind him (I may be exaggerating, but it was pretty intense). He flew directly at me, and BAM, blocked him with my art-shield. He flew around a bit, came towards me again, backed off and landed on the windowsill. I shouted "You may have won the battle, but you won't win the war!" and ran to the bedroom. Then I lied on the bed and closed my eyes and just wished for it to go away.
Funny thing about Pigeons. They always head toward the light in a dark space. The moment the sun stopped shining directly through my windows, the pigeon knew exactly where to go and flew out, and all I had to do was clean up the poop. Once I did that, I threw out lunch, and have since switched to English Breakfast and microwave burritos.
Finally, I get to sit down at my computer and check my e-mail, and eventually, Facebook. Much to my surprise, my profile picture had changed.
Either I'm going insane, or I angered the Pigeon Gods.
Turns out my best friend, the moment he heard, photoshopped that picture, hacked into my facebook and changed it to that. The subtitle was "Zidgeon". In fact, the story had spread to my entire circle of friends. Plastered on my facebook were pictures of pigeons, comments about pigeons, and that scene in Modern Family where Mitchell goes through the same experience I went through. It was funny, and I laughed. Eventually.
For a week I avoided the living room. But, considering I'm typing this in the living room, you can assume I got over it. You would be wrong. I am still shaken by that experience, and every time I see or hear a bird fly, I duck for cover. I try to hide it, but it's still pretty obvious. And that sucks, because I feel like a wuss. So please, if you have it in your hearts, help me out. Let's just kill every single pigeon on the planet. I don't mind being the orchestrator if you guys will back me up. It's not really a one man job. But this will be my cause. This will be my charity when I go on celebrity game shows. Pigeon Annihilation for the Betterment of Zack's Ego. And this will be our theme:
This article is dedicated to Gabe and Brendan, two of the most brilliant jackasses I know.