Tag Archives: Upper West Side

Lame Adventure 384: For the Love of Cats

Even though I am a committed dog person who is deathly allergic to cats, I now have two critters of the feline persuasion prominently in my life over here on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Pictured below is the sister act, Primo on the right, and her sibling, Segundo, on the left. It is evident that they both share my zest for sleeping.

Do not disturb.

Do not disturb.

Their slave had committed the unthinkable: she had taken a two-day getaway to the Newport Folk Festival.

Beth Orton playing at Newport.

Beth Orton playing at Newport.

As someone well versed in giving the illusion of being a few I.Q. points higher than a Bonsai tree, that attribute convinced their serf to appoint me designated cat-sitter. I was paid handsomely with air conditioning and permission to eat all the fake-ice-cream-chocolate-almond-bon-bons from Whole Foods sitting in the freezer. There were two pints in there along with a neatly folded frozen bib inscribed with my favorite philosophical quotation, “Batteries included.” In response, I took my Cat Patrol duties seriously and ensured that the kitties were fed, watered, and only partially neglected. I even coaxed Segundo, who briefly threatened suicide, off a ledge.

"Goodbye cruel world!"

“Goodbye cruel world!”

Me: Hey! You! Get down from there! You’re gonna scratch the thing up!

At last, those seven years I spent minoring in Animal Whispering at NYU(seless) had paid a dividend. Call me an egotist, but whenever possible, I seize the opportunity to flaunt my vocabulary of 309 words starting with “a” and ending, obviously, with “zither”.

I was spared the responsibility of performing litter box janitorial service, but I was in the know about where to find the cleaning supplies should someone dribble fluids or leave a deposit in the middle of the living room floor. Those accidents did not happen.

Primo-approved reading material (not pushed out).

Primo-approved reading material (a partial accident).

By the second day of their servant’s respite I sensed that both varmints were feeling bereft. I, too, was suffering a degree of heaviness triggered by either their enabler’s absence, or more likely, having consumed both pints of fake-ice-cream-chocolate-almond-bon-bons that had settled like an immovable lump the size of Rhode Island in the ever expanding pit of my being.

Overseeing two melancholy cats did posit an emotional challenge. I took it upon myself to orchestrate some spirit lifting in the guise of exercise, so I threw a tennis ball around the living room expecting them to watch me chase it. But, the game they excelled at had a cerebral slant: Watch Me Ignore You.

"Yes, I am ignoring you and I win!"

“Yes, I am ignoring you. I’m also winning.”

It dawned on me that what they craved most was simple contact: a belly rub and being petted on that sweet spot around the ears — coincidentally my favorite acts of foreplay especially when slathered in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! As mentioned earlier, I am deathly allergic to the kitties so this presented a conflict. They were in dire need of being stroked as I was in dire need of being able to breath — preferably through the nose without the assistance of an oxygen mask to alleviate my wall-rattling wheezing. This wheezing always happens whenever I pet cats for inevitably I will touch my face prompting a transformation that rivals that of the Wolfman but with “why-me?” whining replacing full moon howling.

Both Primo and Segundo took turns nudging my elbows with their heads, their way of urging me to take action. As someone who does not have an iota of Cirque du Soleil flexibility, there was no way I would ever be able to rub my eyes with my elbows so this seemed like a compromise solution bordering on genius.

"Something that works for all of us? That's an eye opener!"

“I’ll always be smarter than you.”

Unfortunately, elbows lack the dexterity of digits. The best belly rubs are not done with hinge joints, even hinge joints that strike a delicate balance between rubbery smooth and switchblade sharp. So, I threw caution to the air conditioning and substantially petted everyone everywhere. All three of us purred contentedly. Then, I hacked a hairball and washed my hands up to my elbows so vigorously, I left two layers of skin and what was once my watch floating in the sink … But I was still able to breath freely.

"Glad you survived us. Now we've got sleep to do."

“Glad you survived us. Now back to regularly scheduled sleeping.”

Advertisements

Lame Adventure 377: Freedom from Oppression

Possibly the title of this Lame Adventure is a tad dramatic, but I am a fan of three day holiday weekends. This Memorial Day respite from The Grind was productive. I volunteer ushered two plays and purchased three rolls of paper towels. Obviously, I have living the high life in this jeweled metropolis down to a science. The weather on Memorial Day itself was gorgeous and exactly the way I like it — warm with a vibrant clear blue sky. A sunny tribute to the people that got screwed for freedom.

The Upper West Side's sky is so blue the soot is undetectable.

The Upper West Side’s sky so deep blue the soot is barely undetectable.

It was the comfortable kind of warmth I love replete with low humidity. Good air quality, or as good as air quality gets in the dense urban jungle, is something that is very welcome. It allows me to walk down the street and reach the curb without my back dripping so much sweat I give the impression of having trudged in the Bataan Death March or my personal equivalent, climbing the five flights of stairs up to my office at The Grind.

Bosco the dog keeping cool in his fur coat.

Bosco the aloof keeping cool in his fur coat.

In the not too distant future, once the calendar inches towards late June or by early July, the downside of summer will kick in with full force. That’s when the stifling heat and humidity return: puddles of garbage soup will fill subway train tracks while the platform transforms into the seventh circle of hell. My air condition-less garret will double for a sweat lodge, but minus the benefit of a purification ceremony. I will also suffer the indignity of not having another good hair day again until mid-September. On the upside, this year I’ll have a four day holiday weekend in July and another one on Labor Day that coincides with U.S. Open tennis.

Good time to invest in a new cap.

Time to invest in a new cap.

Bad hair under here.

Bad hair under here.

But, until I am once again reduced to wearing a storm cloud of frizz on my head and stewing in my own juices, this weekend that launched summer was indeed lovely.

Nice day to bring out the '64 Buick Lesabre.

Nice day to bring out the ’64 Buick Lesabre.

Too bad these user-friendly temperatures will not continue through August. Meanwhile, I rather enjoyed hearing a free jazz version of Misty while walking up Columbus Avenue feeling as free as a pigeon.

Photographing Museum of Natural History turret while hearing music.

Photographing pigeon-less perch, a Museum of Natural History turret.

In fact I appreciated it even more when I realized that I was not suffering a Johnny Mathis-themed aural hallucination while running that simple errand for paper towels.

Unexpected source of Misty-playing free jazz.

Surprise source of Misty-playing free jazz.

Lame Adventure 375: Sappy Encounter with a Sapling

The other night I was walking north on Columbus Avenue. A handsome young hustler dressed 127 times better than me — my rumpled tee shirt with a dried Liquid Nails stain on the sleeve magnified that factoid, approached. He declared:

Handsome Young Hustler: You look like a nice person.

Me (thinking): Don’t hit me for money, Sonny.

Me (saying): Looks are deceiving. If you want me to give you the time, it’s 8:02. If you want me to open my wallet, fat chance.

Handsome Young Hustler: But I just got out of the hospital!

Me: Keep that in mind the next time you go hipster hat shopping.

Earlier that same evening I had an infinitely more pleasant encounter with another sapling on West End Avenue. This one was not of the panhandling variety. It was a freshly planted Hackberry tree that I considered worthy of photographing.

A tree grows in Manhattan.

A tree grows in Manhattan.

I restrained myself from snapping any images of the French bulldog evacuating its supper at the tree’s base. Whenever I stop to photograph something, even something as seemingly mundane as this young tree, that’s when people walking along the sidewalk take notice, and punt pups are inspired to heed the call of nature. The dog’s owner did pick up after his relieved beast.

Tree pride!

A tree name so lovely it inspires fruit craving and loud throat clearing.

Right now, New York City is in the midst of a project called Million Trees NYC. As the tag declares, this tree is one in a million. Specifically, 220,000 street trees are being planted along with 780,000 others destined for parks and private partners. I think the latter refers to private homeowners who would like to adopt a tree. I would do that myself, but growing a tree in one’s apartment is not an option that this program condones because the people that run it are not mentally defective.

Tree care tips.

Tree care tips tag — can’t wait to see how that’s hanging in March.

The tree that previously stood where this sapling now stands was knocked down when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Tri-state area last October. Looking at that tree gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I thought:

Me (thinking): Ah, how wonderful, new life!

I returned home compelled to research the Hackberry. My curiosity quickly entered freefall and I landed with a rude thud. Apparently the tree I found so charming is one that’s considered good for almost nothing. An article published on Reporter Herald implies that the Hackberry is about a half step above a Chia pet and its wood is of very low value:

“No one uses hackberry wood to make wine barrels, whiskey casks or fine hardwood furniture. Mostly, people cut down hackberries just to get rid of them. Occasionally, the wood is claimed for crates or pallets; sometimes it gets burned as firewood.”

Apparently, the Hackberry, which is planted all over this fine metropolis, is the tree equivalent to the ubiquitous pigeon — my choice for state bird, should anyone ask. I admit that my areas of expertise, tile labeling and sleeping, often done simultaneously, are a bit of distance from having a clue about botany. In fact, I can barely tell the difference between a redwood and a Douglas Fir even if both uprooted and fell on me simultaneously. I do know that were that to occur, it would hurt significantly.

This sap still likes that sapling very much. If Barbara Walters, who this week gave her year-long notice that she is retiring from network TV in 2014, so she’ll surely be conducting a final few fat fish interviews, decided to ditch her credibility and engage in this exchange with a smelt:

Barbara Walters: If you were a tree, what would you be?

I would proudly declare:

Me: What else but a Hackberry!

We even resemble each other a bit around the leaves.

We even resemble each other a bit around the rumpled leaves.

Lame Adventure 356: For the Love of a Nickel

It was shortly after seven on a recent chilly weeknight on the Upper West Side.

Freezing cold night.

More like a freezing cold night.

I was doing some after work multitasking – laundry and food shopping at my market on Upper Broadway, Fairway.  I had just tossed my clothes in a drier and then made a beeline to purchase foodstuffs.  As I was exiting Fairway in my usual irrational hurry, as if walking faster would somehow make my chores finish sooner,  I noticed an elderly man with a cane walking stiffly.  The expression on his face looked disoriented.  I wondered:

Me:  Is he okay?  Am I supposed to do something here?

He had a thick thatch of snow-white hair and was wearing crisply pressed casual clothes and immaculate white sneakers.  His cane looked like it was made from some fancy wood, not a piece of crap you can buy at The Piece of Crap store.  I figured that he was a long time Upper West Side resident, probably a lifelong liberal that made good money, has had at least one wife and a few kids and grandkids.  It’s possible that his family loves him very much.  He probably is respected amongst his peers, however many of them are still kicking.  He didn’t look like a bastard and might have even had dogs and cats in his life.  Possibly he might even have or had a crazy bird bursting with personality like my longtime bud,  BatPat, and her feathered friend, Buttafuoco.

"I am always ready for my close-up!"

“I’m always ready for my close-up!”

For all I know he might even have a lovely aquarium in his home right now.  This old guy was very likely a good guy, someone who will be sorely missed by many when he buys his rainbow.

As I walked on, I was haunted by the likelihood that this fellow was in the throes of some sort of health emergency.  Since I did notice him, I was his human Life Alert.  How could I walk on?  What if this man was my own Dear Old Dad, there was a woman like me that noticed that he might be in trouble, but she ignored the signs and walked away?  I thought:

Me: You cold-hearted bitch.  I hate you!

Instantly, I suffered Grade A level guilt.  I turned back to look at the man on the bustling avenue, narrowly avoiding getting run over by two completely oblivious teenage girls that had just blown past him.  They momentarily obscured my view of what was going on with this fine fellow.  This prompted me to think:

Me (thinking): Just the type of brats that would suck the marrow out of their grandfathers’ bones!  Ingrates!

Quickly, my senior citizen was back in view.  He was now looking quite contorted — bent at the waist, knees starting to buckle, awkwardly holding his cane with his left hand while reaching down towards the sidewalk with his right.  I reasoned that he was desperately trying to break the hard fall that was surely coming.  I gasped.  I shifted the gears in my feet to turbo-charge.  Arthritic knee be damned!  With puffs of exhaust jetting out of my butt-ugly hybrid winter boot-sneakers courtesy of the Land’s End Women of a Certain Age Exchange Style for Price collection, I motored to his rescue.  I could hear him groaning.  I screamed inside my head:

Me:  Hang on, Mister!  A lot of people love you!

As I was almost upon him, I realized that he wasn’t suffering a stroke or a heart attack.  He was reaching down to pick up a nickel off the sidewalk.

Crisis averted.

For this.

Coveted coinage.

Lame Adventure 348: Before and After

Last month, I either entertained or bored (depending on who you are) my dedicated readership of seven, when I took you on a virtual tour of the outdoor Saint Clair Cemin sculpture exhibit currently on display near seven subway stops on upper Broadway here in Manhattan.  For those of you that would like to take that tour click here.

“In the Center” in the center of the exhibit map.

Since I am a tactile type I have been known to run my hand over a surface, but I recall keeping my grubby mitts to myself when I photographed each work of art.   The sculpture called In the Center struck me as rather intimidating.  It’s an imposing fourteen and a half foot tall plaster of Paris, wood and metal figure in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.  It’s so big it’s easy to feel like a dwarf when in its presence.

Before: “In the Center” under cloud cover giving me the divining rod.

A week ago, as I was approaching it, I was distracted from my regular go-to thoughts about sex and death while narrowly sidestepping a slow moving pigeon, when I did a double take.

After: “In the Center” under wraps under blue skies.

I thought:

Me (thinking):  Why is it in that huge plastic baggie?

Then, I looked closer and saw the answer.

Memo that arrived too late

Arm before.

Arm after.

I suppose the downside to a public art exhibit is some members of the audience, in particular those with the intellectual acuity of a small soap dish coupled with a lack of impulse control.   I don’t know who was compelled to climb it; possibly it was some dunderhead inspired to do chin-ups using the arms.  Or, it might have been a child that garnered parental approval when he or she needed to scratch the jungle gym itch.  Whoever it was I imagine that they had an audience and laughter filled the air until someone asked:

Someone:  Hey, is it me or do you hear something cracking?

Whoever was the culprit, it was not raining geniuses that day.  As for the progress of the restoration, In the Center remains under wraps.  In this state of disrepair, a more accurate name for it might be In the Bodybag.

It seems to be a very slow moving restoration.

Lame Adventure 346: The Old Bag is Dying

This is the right place for that idea.

Even though late at night and early in the morning, I have a cough that sounds like a death rattle and it currently feels like a colony of squirrels are performing the Gangnam Style dance inside my left knee, I am sticking around.  Now that it is October, and the weather in Gotham City is transitioning into real deal fall feel, I am savoring the final moments of tee shirt season as well as the magic hour clouds that almost appear to glow.

Magic hour cloud.

After I photographed this cloud above my Upper West Side neighborhood block, I turned my attention to the tree with the two bags tangled in its branches.

Tree with distinction of bagging today.

Same tree with hanging bags in March.

Last spring – halcyon days of tree bagging.

I can report with authority that one of the bags, the one in white plastic declaring, “thank you” — with an original purpose that was probably used in transporting a dinner delivery, entered the ether in September.  Together, lets pause and remember our departed tree bag-friend.

On that same September day in early fall, the Fairway grocery bag was continuing to hold its own.

Drunk with tree bagging power. “This tree is all mine!”

Therefore, it won Survivor: Tree Bagging.

Now, that it is October, it appears that after seven months of hang-time in that tree, nature is finally taking its toll on the surviving bag.

How the situation looked in September.

How things look in October.

It seems very possible that a drenching rainstorm coupled with the power of wicked wind, and this once hardy plastic bag that has been nestled in those branches since spring will be making its final exit.  Seasons change, leaves fall, and bags eventually disintegrate.  There you have it, the circle of tree-bag-life Lame Adventures-style.  This actually saddens me.

I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for this grocery store bag’s achievement.  The average bag likely ends up in a landfill within a week.  This bag not only survived its initial purpose, when it was used to carry groceries, but it survived the trash collector and made its escape into a tree, where it has resided since March.  It’s tackled seven months of outdoor elements.  That’s so remarkable.  What tenacity!  In bag-years, this bag is probably 90-years-old.  If a plastic bag could run for public office, this one would have made a formidable candidate.  Considering all that this heroic bag has seen from its perch, it might have been the one plastic grocery bag that could have served on the Supreme Court.  Alas, we’ll never know.  One can only wonder what this bag might say if it could talk, much less think.

“I will outlive you, bitch.”

Lame Adventure 330: From Barnyard Puppets to Neighborhood Pooches

Twenty-nine years ago when I was a freshly minted NYU(seless) grad, I found my no fee, rent-stabilized, gas and electrical inclusion (i.e., no charge for gas and electric), Upper West Side hovel in The New York Times.  After making the mistake of agreeing to take me on as a tenant, my Irish-Catholic landlady, Catherine McCrank (name changed to protect the demented), ordered me to sit at her kitchen table to write a list of house rules that she dictated. I made the Faustian deal to follow her rules for the life of my tenancy in her building.

Deal with the devil circa 1983.

Since Manhattan usually has less than a one percent vacancy rate and I had been looking for a garret for three months, I would have willingly signed a confession that I was San Francisco’s Zodiac serial killer between the ages of four and twelve just to land this affordable 312 square foot crash pad.

The first rule was No petsNo air conditioner which has haunted me brutally this summer appears further down the list.  Back to Mrs. McCrank’s No pets rule, she loathes animals, particularly dogs.  Some tenants have snuck in cats, and occasionally there have been dog visitors, but this has been a dog-free house as long as I’ve resided here and at this stage, I’m almost the oldest tenant in the joint.  The length of my tenancy shocks the younger residents when they ask that irritating question:

Younger resident:  How long have you lived here?

I used to give an honest answer but after a while I grew tired of hearing:

Younger resident:  No way! You’ve lived here that long?

Now when someone asks I handle it as follows:

Me: I can’t remember.  Forever!

Then, I laugh, and they laugh and what we’re laughing at neither one of us knows other than they’re probably paying a good fifty percent more than me in rent, so I suppose the joke’s on them.

Unlike Mrs. McCrank, I love dogs.  I grew up with a mutt I adored that hated my guts, Mean Streak.

Meanie on the lookout.

In the above photo, Mean Streak’s paw was bandaged from excessive nail biting; he was a worrier as well as a canine warrior.  He was also an excellent watchdog and I assumed that he barked and snarled at me to maintain his skill set. I never held his ferocious temper against him.

I always figured I’d eventually live in a place where I could finally have a dog, but after twenty-nine years living in this sweltering, albeit affordable, rat hole – where I’ve just renewed the lease to start year thirty, I’m resigned to the reality that this is never going to happen.  Therefore, the closest thing I have to a pet is Bill E., my newly acquired puppet barnyard goat.

Low maintenance puppet pet. Just dust off on weekends.

I also like to come and go as I please.  Dogs need a lot of time and attention.  I oversleep nearly every morning of my life.  If I had to add “walk Fido” to my to do list I’d never make it out the door in time to squeeze onto the jam-packed subway train for my commute downtown, sandwiched between satchels with enough space to fit a week’s provisions for a family of four.

What is in here, fifty copies of “Fifty Shades of Gray”?

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to my tale of no-pooch-for-me woe.

There’s Blanca.

“That be me!”

This adorable 9-year-old Westminster Terrier lives across the street from my brownstone with her always pleasant owner, A.  They’re quite a team and it’s probably a reflection that A, who is so cheerful, would have a mellow dog.  Possibly a telling factor in Mean Streak’s sour demeanor was that my childhood phone number was 1-800-LUNATIC.  Was that a coincidence?  Probably not.

Back to Blanca, seeing her and A on my walk to the subway station to head down to The Grind is a welcome start to my day.  Lucky for me, Mrs. McCrank did not have one more rule on her list, “No socializing with neighborhood dogs.”

“Arf you, Mrs. McCrank!”