Pigeon Trouble – Conclusion

Bob:  “Ray, what do you mean, the pigeons betrayed you?”

Ray:  “Oh Bob, I used to be so much more like you – enjoying the time I spent with my wife Sophia just sitting, relaxing, tossing bread crumbs … I started to take them into my confidence.”

“You trusted the pigeons.”

“Very much!  They were like family to me.”

“But then the car, and the money …”

“… but my Sophie!  My beautiful wife Sophie!!”

“What happened to Sophie?”

“They committed the most terrible, awful, unspeakable things against her!”

“You mean … ?”

Now sobbing uncontrollably, Ray exclaims, “They raped her!  Again and again and again!!”

“Pigeons.  A flock of pigeons raped your wife.”

“They played us both for fools!  Why did I trust them?  Why would they hurt her so?”

Just then a woman in her mid-forties came up to Ray and said, “Dad, are you all right?  What’s wrong??”

“I’m sorry, Judy, sweetheart, I’m sorry I couldn’t protect her.”

“I’m afraid this is my fault,” Bob says, “ – we just got to chatting about the pigeons …”

Judy rolls her eyes and laughs a bit, “Oh Dad, not again with the pigeons!”  She then turned to Bob and said, “Don’t worry, it’s okay.  It seems lately that my mother has become a little more withdrawn, a little less responsive.  We don’t really know why – and my dad seems to think the pigeons had something to do with it.”

“The pigeons DID do it, Judy!  It was the goddamn pigeons!”

“Yes Dad, it was the pigeons … Don’t worry, Bob, he’ll be fine …”

“Bob, don’t trust them!  Kill them while you still can!”

Judy helps Ray get up slowly from the park bench; then they leave together.  Bob shrugged his shoulders and went back to feeding the pigeons.

“Huh,” Bob thought to himself, “Money stealing rapist pigeons!  I guess that is pretty ridiculous …”

One of the pigeons, though, caught Bob’s eye.  “That’s strange,” Bob thought.  He squinted back at the bird, frowned, and said, “hey, what are you lookin’ at??”

Pigeon Trouble – Part One

Bob and Ray sat on a park bench, talking to each other and casually tossing bread crumbs to the flock of pigeons in front of them.

Bob:  “Sure are a lot of pigeons, huh?”

Ray:  “I’ll say – filthy beasts.”

“I like feedin’ ‘em – makes me feel useful, y’know?”

“Yeah, that’s good – get ‘em to let their guard down …”

“Excuse me?”

“With bread in their bellies, they won’t know what hit ‘em.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talkin’ revenge, my friend, pure and simple.”

“Revenge?”

“You know – for what they did …”

“What did they do??”

“Buncha hoods … ruined my DeSoto …”

“Oh – you mean they pooped all over it …”

“Of course they pooped all over it!  How else are they gonna ruin a DeSoto?”

“Well, they are pigeons …”

“Hey, these are some downright despicable pigeons.  The DeSoto was just the beginning.”

“The pigeons have it in for you …”

“Now you’re gettin’ it.  Know what else they did?”

“Poop on another car?”

“Go ahead – you won’t be laughing when they rob you blind.”

“They robbed you.”

“Took every last dime:  savings, investments, 401-K, pension plan – all gone!”

“So they cleaned out all your bank accounts …”

“Clean as a whistle.  Hedging, derivatives, credit default swaps – those dirty birds knew exactly what they were doing …”

“Um … have you talked to your daughter about this?”

“She doesn’t listen to me – says I’m just too old to know what’s going on.  But I know – I know plenty …”

“Same here – can’t get anyone under 65 to take me seriously.”

“My prized DeSoto is ruined, and I’m living off my daughter without a penny to my name.  Those birds are pure evil.”

“Well, I guess all you can do is put it behind you.”

“I can forgive the car, I can even forgive the money … but …”

Ray seems to be on the verge of tears.  Bob, trying to be sympathetic, asks, “… but?”

“The betrayal, the violence …”

“The pigeons?”

“Yes, the pigeons!  Goddamn it, haven’t you heard anything I’ve told you?”

“Calm down!  How did they betray you?”

To be continued …

Fall ’71 – Conclusion

That fall, Father, oh, let’s call him W, and Father Bob were the high school sub-directors.  They oversaw the daily operations of the place, organized and assigned the students’ work schedules, and generally managed to keep chaos in check.  Father W was originally from Holy Redeemer.  Most of the students admired and respected him.  He tended to favor jocks; I don’t think he was all that fond of me.

Both he and Father Bob coached the school’s soccer teams:  Father W was the varsity coach; Father Bob, the JV.  I’ve always kind of thought that Bob was the antithesis of W.  W was, not guarded, but chose his words carefully, nuanced so that you couldn’t really be sure what it was he had in mind.  By contrast, Bob was very direct, very forthright, and never shy about letting you know exactly where you stood.  He ruffled feathers (definitely not W’s style) and didn’t care – especially if he thought things needed to change.  At least one of his sayings (“Rompin’ Robert” comes back to mind – Bob was a combination of Gene Autry, Gary Cooper and John Wayne) was:  “Don’t want it.  Don’t need it.  Get rid of it.”

Father Bob is one of the finest people I’ve ever known.  He’s shown me great kindness over many years, from the time I cried in front of him and a couple of my classmates when the rector’s brother scolded me over the phone in Bob’s office that I was telling Edgerton prospects not to go to the seminary – a misunderstanding ultimately, but still hurt like hell – and other high school traumas, to his time stationed in Chicago at St. Michael’s (circa 2007) as part of the Redemptorist Mission Team, where we’d talk about philosophy, theology, social justice, and just life at large.  Good times …

A Bit of Human Kindness

My experience with online dating over the years has been just awful.  This e-mail (posted as received) from one potential connection is an exception among those experiences:

[from her to me]  hey, i just have to say your photos are really impressive…i have found on this site that most guys (probably women too), post older photos of themselves where they look younger and more attractive. for some reason i came across your profile and your pics are amazing 🙂 you seem to just get better looking and in better shape as you age, and i am impressed that you included all the older photos as well., you seem like a real genuine guy..wow, seriously not sure what you’ve been doing, but keep it up….i hope in 5 years i can look that much better than i do today. i don’t really see us as a match, but just wanted to reach out to you and tell you i thought it was really cool and i hope one day you meet a great lady

[from me to her]  Hi _______, thank you for your kind and generous remarks.

I had something of an epiphany a few years back … overweight, out of shape, no love life – not a pretty picture.  I decided to do something about it, dropped some weight, joined a few clubs (books, art, writing) …  I posted the older photos because I wanted to show folks that I’m still a “work in progress.”  I’m still working on losing weight, stretching resistance bands to build a little muscle and tone up.

You’re a terrific looking, awesome woman yourself – I have no doubt that you’re living a healthy lifestyle and you’ll look at least as good as you do right now (heck, better – I honestly believe there’s some truth to the claim that we don’t get older, we get better) with every passing year.

My only regret is that you don’t see us as a match.  Such kind and generous support is a rare thing in this world – you’ve really given my ego a boost!  If you ever have a change of heart, I’d love to spend some time with you – nothing better than having a mutual admiration society!

Thank you again for reaching out – you’ve renewed my hope in human nature.  If I meet someone half as kind and thoughtful as you, I’ll consider myself a very lucky fella.  I hope you meet that terrific guy who gives you the care, affection and love you so clearly deserve.  My best to you, always …

I’ve traded online dating for more face to face group activities, enjoying the activities for their own sake.  If I meet someone during these events, terrific – and if I don’t, that’s fine too.

Try a Little Tenderness

We had known each other for a long time.  I’m not sure we were ever friends – certainly not very good ones.  If I was feeling sad or lonely or depressed and needed a little compassion, she usually refused to give any.

The final straw came when I expressed my dissatisfaction with our situation, that I was looking forward to spending some quality time with a friend over dinner, and that an unwanted third wheel kind of soured the occasion.  I was disappointed, sure – but she was immediately on the defensive, first by saying it wasn’t her fault (I never said it was), and then by asking me if I was depressed.

That question was unnecessary.  Whenever she asked me this question, it was her way of saying, “hey, I don’t really want to talk to you when you’re like this.”  This time, though, it sounded more like, “hey, I don’t really want to talk to you at all – this kind of thing upsets me and I don’t want or need to be upset.”

Was it so much to ask for a bit of kindness?  Maybe she could have pretended to care about me at that moment, and maybe be uncomfortable for all of what, ten seconds?

Too many people in my life seem to like me only if I keep to myself – as long as I don’t ask anything of them, they’re more than happy to know me.  I’m not doing that anymore.  I’m done being invisible.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable for friends, at least once in a while, to put their friend’s needs before their own, especially when that friend is hurting.

Whenever I wrote her anything like this, she was dismissive – a wave of the hand, as if she couldn’t care less.  Friends don’t act like that.

I sent flowers to acknowledge the good times we had had.  I was struck by the florist’s recommended note:  “The more I know the people I love, the more I love the people I know.”

She didn’t really want me to know her, so … I’ll accept her as she is, not as I want her to be.