The Pigeon Bagel

by

07/17/2002

Irving Place ny ny 10003

Neighborhood: Gramercy Park

I was sitting on a green bench outside of a cafe on Irving Place, on a hot day with a blaring sun. I was in one of those moods where I was thinking of everything bad that had ever happened to me.

I noticed a huge bagel on the edge of the sidewalk. It was one of those modern bagels that the purists complain about: “Bagels today are not what they used to be–these aren’t even bagels anymore–I don’t know what they are, but they’re not even bagels!” It was just sitting there, all puffy, pristine and full of itself. A couple of pigeons were circling it investigatively.

Finally, one brave fellow jumped on top of it and tried to peck away at the crust’s exterior, but the pigeon’s skinny legs ended up inside the hole of the bagel’s center. He disentangled himself, and stood on the side of the bagel eyeing it suspiciously. Then he jumped on top once more and walked around the edges of the bagel’s circumference. Again he tried to peck away at the bagel’s crust, get some leverage to attack it, but found himself slipping off, his weight causing the bagel to capsize repeatedly. One of those dreaded green pellets dropped from the pigeon as he impotently perched on his potential next meal.

I sat there laughing like I was at a Charlie Chaplin movie, amazed that in the doldrums of my self-pity I had room inside of me to be amused by anything. The pigeon stared at the bagel longingly. All that good food; so close and yet so far.

A young man with a shopping cart, with the keen look about him of someone who lives on the street, appeared on the scene. He stopped, bent down and picked up the bagel and tore it into pieces. He saw me staring at him, and said shyly, “It’s easier for them this way. If you break it into pieces. Otherwise they can’t really eat it.” He scattered the chunks of bagel and walked on, his worldly goods in the cart rolling before him.

It was as if the dinner bell had just rung. Half a dozen pigeons and assorted other grey and black birds quickly assembled for the feast. I stayed and watched the bagel disappear and felt strangely moved to have witnessed the innate kindness of one homeless man. Saint Francis of Gramercy Park. My life hadn’t changed but suddenly I didn’t feel so unlucky anymore.

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