UPFRONT: The Crazy Pigeon Catch and Consume People
Upfront received some fan mail about 'crazy pigeon catch and consume people.' This is what ensued...
Even since I wrote that story, "The C. Montgomery Burns Environmental Center," people have been asking me, "What's up with the pigeons, man?"
Oh, thanks for noticing the two brief references to the "crazy people who catch and eat pigeons" in there; it was only a carefully worded story asking sensitive-yet-important questions about of one of Erie's most-admired personalities and the fate of our planet – and indeed, the fate of humankind itself. But thanks for reading.
Anyhow, people seem to think I have some explaining to do, so now I have to use up precious space on the Internet elaborating on the emergence of the "crazy pigeon catch and consume people." This column was supposed to be about the latest thang – you know, that thang everyone's talking about right now – but now, sadly, that thang must now go unmocked for a few more weeks.
Instead of mockery, I embarked on a journey, a strange and terrible voyage, wherein my own personal Charon ferried me across a metaphorical river Styx to an even stranger, more terrible destination – the realization that I now have a strong desire to catch, gut, prepare, and eat a State Street Pigeon in the most legal, ethical, effective, delicious way possible. Unsurprisingly, this peculiar and insightful saga began as the result of a single email.
Ben to Cory
not sure if michael haas told you or if facebook told you, but erie reader received a direct message 16 hours ago from karen [REDACTED]. haas answered her, suggesting she should send any questions regarding pigeon eating directly to you. I'm confident in your ability to answer any further questions she may have.
Karen to Cory
I'm curious about the crazy pigeon catch and consume people. Is that true? I have never heard of them but many years ago I saw some people on 10th and State taking pigeons and carrying them away. Have these people been doing this for many years?
Cory to Karen:
I'm glad I labored over that story for six months and all you came away with was the 'crazy pigeon catch and consume people,' as you call them.
But hey that's cool. Thanks for reading, and writing. I'd be glad to answer your question, but in a lame attempt to trick you into writing half of my next column for me, I'd like to write about the ensuing conversation we are about to engage in for my next column. If you're okay with that, I will tell you stories of 'crazy pigeon catch and consume people' that will amaze and astound you. You want to be okay with that, don't you, Karen? And, I must admit, I have a story that is verrrrrry relevant to something you happened to mention.
I await your response.
Karen to Cory
I meant absolutely no offense Mr. Vaillancourt. It was an excellent column. As are all your columns. I have actually been wondering why the downtown pigeons are declining over the years. I thought perhaps one reason was the neighborhood Cooper's hawk. Mr. Cooper routinely attempts to make a lunch out of my chickens but I have frequently seen him downtown carrying pigeons.
Also these people (if they exist) might want to be very careful. Not long ago I was on State Street pretending to ignore a very obnoxious acquaintance of mine. To avoid this person I had to switch directions and take an alternate route. Taking this alternate route led me straight to a very sick pigeon flopping around on the sidewalk in front of me. I picked it up, carried it to City Hall (where my mom worked at the time) and somehow got her to take a break and drive me to the bird rehabilitator. The pigeon had been poisoned! She survived but would have died if not for me doubling back to avoid the obligation to converse with my irritating friend. I have never heard of these legendary people. Are they rogue Audoboners?
Cory to Karen
No offense taken.
While I haven't been monitoring the downtown pigeon populations like a true crazy person would, all I can say is that i have witnessed the pigeon poaching phenomenon in person. Twice. Pigeon poisoning? That's truly deranged. Disgusting. Dangerous. Serial killers start on animals, you know, then one day, BAM! They move on to people. It's true. Look it up.
I'm going to make an effort (meaning I will cast a glance on my way in and out of the crooked i) to find a pigeonpoacher. I may even lie in wait, in that super-slim empty lot right there on State. In fact, I'm going to go do that right now. I'll let you know how it goes. Wait here.
PS- do you want to hear my pigeon poacher story?
Karen to Cory
I think I may have found the culprits. Are these the people you saw?
Della Reese and Roma Downey?! Or maybe...
How do you know these poachers EAT them? I had another theory when I saw those people carrying pigeons away all those years ago. That's crazy. Almost as crazy as someone (who likes birds) just happening to notice that she is seeing far less pigeons than she did in years past. Just saying. Did you talk to these dovenappers?
I am often downtown and have never seen this. And yet you have seen it twice! Yes. yes, I want to hear the pigeon poacher story!
Just thought of a way you can find poached pigeons downtown. Pigeons are often in the company of a fellow avian species known as the snipe. I can tell you a super effective way of locating snipes. It involves two sticks, a can, and a paper bag.
Cory to Karen
Well I don't KNOW that they eat them, Karen. I'm only speculating. But what the hell else would you do with them (Rule 34 aside) ?! And no, I did not talk to the dovenapping pigeonpoachers.
Before I share my dovenappin' pigeonpoachin' rootn' tootin' high- falootin' story about the State Street pigeonsnatchers, tell me how I, too, can attract snipe (snipes?) – and therefore pigeon (pigeons?) – using naught but a lunch-sack, an empty tin, and two former tree branches.
Karen to Cory
Never been on a snipe hunt? Firstly, and most importantly is to get a friend to videotape you so the big moment of catching this most elusive bird is recorded for posterity. Let's forget about the can. Snipes can be flushed out quite easily when the hunter makes constant smooching birdcall sounds while simultaneously banging two sticks together. Wear the bag around your neck so it's easily accessible to bag the bird when it appears. And send me the video.
Now do I get to hear the stories? Please?
Tell you what. I am thinking that I have solved your mystery and know exactly what these people are doing with the pigeons. My initial theory is probably true. And it does not involve consumption nor Rule 34. It's not pleasant but come to find out what they're doing is perfectly legal here in PA. Perfect legality aside , these folks do like to keep a low profile so it's surprising that we have both seen them. So if you tell me the story I will tell you with almost 100% certainty what they are doing with these poor birds. Please tell me the stories?
Although...Apparently they are quite tasty.
In culinary terminology, squab is a young domestic pigeon or its meat. The meat is widely described as tasting like dark chicken. The term is probably of Scandinavian origin; the Swedish word skvabb means "loose, fat flesh". It formerly applied to all dove and pigeon species, such as the Wood Pig...
Cory to Karen
I still really can't speculate on what the pidgeonpoachers do with the pigeons they poach, although they do look tasty. Turns out, all this talk of pidgeonpoachery is making me hungry, and you don't bring me sandwiches anymore, ever. Does anyone serve pigeon here in Erie? Is it safe to eat wild pigeon?
Here, look, I found a few delicious recipes.
Roast Pigeon with Green Sauce:
Boiled Pigeons with Fricassy Sauce
I recently learned that pigeon is consumed across the world. Does anyone in Erie serve it? More importantly, does anyone in Erie serve it for free to the Erie Reader Editorial staff? Preferably with a Shiraz?
I want to gut, cook, and eat a pigeon. Know anyone who could make that happen?
PS – I will tell you my pigeonpoacher story. Are you ready?
Karen to Cory
You want to gut and cook a pigeon? Well, my mom tells me she still remembers how to dress birds (and that includes killing and plucking as well) so maybe she could help you. But you missed your opportunity by not confronting the people you saw downtown. Maybe they could have spared you one.
I believe it would probably be safe to eat a wild pigeon. I don't think they are a germy as people think. After all, I carried one through City Hall with no ill effects. Wild pigeons, racing pigeons, and exhibition pigeons are slightly different from meat pigeons though, so a wild pigeon would not even yield much decent meat.
I have heard that Bertrands occasionally serves squab when they can obtain it....hey...do you suppose those pigeon poachers are supplying Bertrands?!
Actually I truly do believe that I know what they are doing with the birds. Which I could tell you after I hear the pigeon poacher story. Or stories since you claim to have seen them twice.
I am ready.
Cory to Karen
Alright. I sense that you are ready. Look for my column on Wednesday; you will find my story there.
Karen to Cory
I have been sooo patient. Sigh.
So, dear Reader readers, that is how I arrived at the place I am today – hungry and pigeonless. Today being Wednesday, it is finally time for me to fulfill my promise to Karen – and countless others. Thanks for reading; I leave you with my story:
The Pigeon Lady: or, A Short Narrative Relating an Unexpected and Interesting Scene Witnessed by Myself Mr. Cory Vaillancourt of Erie Pennsylvania and a Female Companion also of Erie Pennsylvania in Erie Pennsylvania and our Impression of that Unexpected and Interesting Scene Witnessed by Myself Mr. Cory Vaillancourt of Erie Pennsylvania and a Female Companion also of Erie Pennsylvania in Erie Pennsylvania.
I remember it quite clearly; only the date is hazy.
It was fall, perhaps November, 2010.
It was just her and I. We were in my car, pointed north on State. Warm, overcast, and blustery. Intermittent showers. Big, heavy drops. I can only remember it in black and white, except for 10th Street's red light.
While idling there, I glanced to my right. My eyes focused far beyond my passenger. Out her window.
What caught my eye was an old woman. Long, grey, bushy hair. Long, grey, bushy coat. Overdressed for the impossibly warm afternoon. The old woman was on the east side of State, at the entrance to the Renaissance Building, slowly herding a loft of grey pigeons into a corner of the entrance by means of some manner of hypnotic pigeon-mesmerizing two-legged crab-walk.
When she got close enough, she bent over in a creaky sort of way and grabbed a pigeon and shoved it under the breast of her long grey bushy coat. Then, another.
Just then, in the seat of the car, my car, my passenger lost all faculties for rational thought. Turns out, she had a preternatural fear of birds, and, unbeknownst to me, had also been watching the 'crazy pigeon catch and consume person' in action. It was not a pleasant drive, those four blocks to coffee. Not pleasant at all.
Hot, black, and tall – just what I want from a coffee. Not a bad place, that Starbucks on State, despite the constant presence of Mr. Nosmo King. We sat on the south side of the store, gazing eastward, out the window-wall overlooking black and white State, trying to comprehend the significance of what we had just witnessed.
Who was that woman? What was she doing with those pigeons? Was it illegal? Immoral? Fattening? Was she training them? Selling them? Eating them? Had she fallen on hard times, or was she carrying on a time-honored tradition carried over from the old country with the steamer trunks full of chipped china and tales of Caorthannach?
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a bushy grey apparition appeared outside that shiny Starbucks window-wall overlooking black-and-white state. Herding a kit of pigeon against the glass, amidst a fury of flying feathers, she took another. Then, another. Standing up creakily, she looked at me and we made eye contact. I swear her eyes looked straight into my soul. That moment lasted nearly forever. I was only vaguely aware of my catatonic companion, scarred for life twice in an hour during but the 27th year of her life. She may never be the same. I know I'm not.
Now, you're not.
Cory Vaillancourt is a brilliant writer/complete hack and can be complimented/heckled at cVaillancourt@ErieReader.com. Karen [REDACTED] is a complete hack/brilliant writer and deserves half the credit for this column. But not half the pay.