A MONTH LATER I hear from Mike French. So, he asks, what did you think?
Can't say I'll be buying birds, I tell him, but I no longer find it all that strange. No stranger, after all, than many American pastimes. Why do people like NASCAR? Why do they collect stamps? At least pigeon racing is rooted in the natural world.
The racers will tell you it's about loving the birds, but I don't think that's quite right. Rather, I think, it's about narrowing the world down to others who speak a common language. It's about bragging rights and money, or at least what the money symbolizes (namely legitimacy). And it's about a childlike fascination with flight—an earthbound sack of blood and water and adipose tissue wanting to become one with the lithe, hollow-boned form of a bird.
Then again, perhaps it is too much to expect everyone to understand all this. Late in the afternoon on race day, I sat at a folding table next to Elvis. His black pompadour was deflating, and he had a coating of dusty sweat on his neck from belting out songs in the parking lot. He looked out at the gathered racers and chuckled. "Man," Elvis said. "The things that some people do."