Like many children growing up in the 1960s, Ben learned his life skills by watching Sesame Street. By kindergarten, Ben could recite the alphabet and count to ten. Â The moral philosophy of the PBS became Ben’s guiding principle of life — he believed that people of all races and backgrounds could live together in harmony, even if his own family couldn’t do the same.
In later life, Sesame Street never prepared Ben for unemployment at age 50, or for his divorce with Angela, his wife of 20 years. But through a set of circumstances that could only be described as ironic, Ben fell into a part-time job playing Big Bird in Central Park, hawking photos from tourists visiting the city.
Big Bird was never Ben’s favorite from the show. Â He acted like a pussy. Â He preferred Oscar the Grouch, who reminded him of his father, a gruff man who used to drink his beer from a can while watching his cop shows.
But needing the money, Ben faked a good Big Bird, nailing the speech and mannerisms, and the kids of Central Park — youth of all colors and creeds — loved him, tugging his feathers as if he was their long lost friend. He made a few good tips too; frantic parents shoved shriveled five dollar bills into his big bird hands. Ben hated his new job. Â He felt deep deep shame. Â But gradually, Ben learned to control his tears by reciting the alphabet and counting to ten.