The Bird-Whistle Vendor

November 14, 2015 - 9:15am -- Jennifer Arin

Last summer, in front of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, assorted street performers and vendors were hoping to make a living from their various acts and talents. One Bohemian-looking fellow used colored chalk to draw a sidewalk mural of a South American girl; another man, in eye-catching red and pink garb, stretched out on a mat, an activity he apparently considered tip-worthy; a woman who sported a Civil War-style general's outfit, and who had covered herself from tip to toe in gold paint, hovered motionless until money was dropped into a gold-painted vase before her; and an Englishman selling bird whistles – or, as his sign announced, sifflet-rossignol ("nightingale whistle") – looked rather avian himself, in brightly checkered clothing and a matching red-, blue-, green- and yellow-squared beanie.


The sifflet-vendor kept one of his bird whistles in his mouth. Blowing breath through it, he produced lovely and complex trills that proved his sign’s premise and promise: “sing like a bird.”


A challenger soon approached the bird-whistle man:

"I don't need a special whistle to do bird calls," he said, pursing his lips and emitting complex trills of his own.                    


“Yes,” the whistle-vendor said, “but you sound like a sick bird, and I sound like a healthy one."

Bird-Whistle Vendor

Gold Paint Woman


Yoga Man


Centre Pompidou