Tag Archives: urban jungle

Lame Adventure 473: It’s Raining Rats!

On evenings when I return home to my sacred space straight from The Grind, my creature of habit routine is comprised of preparing dinner and eating it at my dining table while watching the nightly news on TV. After finishing my entrée, I transfer to the couch for dessert. By the time Phil Mickelson shows up to shill Enbrel, whatever the hell that is, the dynamic-less duo of food coma and sheer boredom have cast their spell and I’ve nodded out. Falling asleep at this point in the broadcast is convenient timing because it allows me to miss the sap-filled human-interest story at the end that always triggers my gag reflex.

On this particular summer evening I woke with a start remembering that I had to run a very important errand at my neighborhood Papyrus, the card shop. Next week is my colleague Godsend’s birthday. I reminded Stu, The Grind’s owner, that our graphics designer is turning 28. Stu reflected philosophically:

Stu: I have socks older than her.

Godsend is not only my colleague, but she is a valued friend, a close confidant and often, my collaborator.

Godsend and me looking film noir-ish at The Grind. Photo by The Boss.

Godsend and me looking very film noir-ish at The Grind. Photo by The Boss.

I had to find the perfect card for someone so dear, a card that combines the key ingredients of sophistication, wit, and good design. But, by the time I arrived, the store was about to close in nineteen seconds so I snagged one at half price from the What Were We Thinking bin.

As I walked south on Broadway, I noticed a small crowd gathered outside the Chase bank at the corner of West 73rd Street. They were gazing upward; many were smiling that goofy, mush-headed smile usually reserved for puppies, kittens, babies — anyone freshly hatched. Several were taking pictures with their smart phones. At first, I could not figure out what they were looking at, but I reasoned it probably was not someone attempting suicide. Then I saw it: a fluffy bird perched on the bank’s clock. It was my turn to flash a mush-headed smile.

Clock percher.

Clock percher.

As much as I love birds, if it’s not a pigeon, mourning dove or Thanksgiving dinner, I’m lost when it comes to identifying our flying friends. This critter was no exception so I bellowed:

Me: What kind of bird is that?

That opened the floodgates of response. It’s a red tailed hawk. Someone opined that it is probably a relative of Pale Male, a legendary red tailed hawk that nests at 927 Fifth Avenue, apparently with co-op board approval. He’s currently on his eighth wife. Maybe his name should be Larry King. Normally, these birds of prey nest in trees, but Pale Male plays by his own rules. Because the hawk atop the  clock is fuzzy, someone pronounced it a fledgling. Because it’s young, it’s still honing its hunting skills, which explains why it dropped its dinner.

Dinner. Freshly killed.

Dinner. Freshly killed.

That rat falling out of the sky is what first created the stir on the sidewalk. Had I witnessed that pre-show entertainment, I would have been so traumatized, I would have needed therapy. As I was snapping a shot of the rodent, a middle-aged woman holding A Serious Camera asked me:

Serious Camera Woman: Is it dead?

Me: I don’t think it’s going to sing Everything’s Coming Up Roses again.

She nudged its head with her toe, a gesture I found so repugnant, I bolted. Something about making physical contact with a dead rat gives me industrial strength willies. I also didn’t want to witness it spring back to life, even if that meant missing it channel Ethel Merman.

When I returned to my oasis, My Doorman greeted me. I showed him the pictures I shot of the hawk. He’s a bird enthusiast and said that many red tailed hawks live near 116th and Riverside. Like the hawk expert in the crowd, he also thinks it dropped its dinner because it’s in the learner’s permit stage of development. I reasoned that maybe it was for the best:

Me: How was he going to eat that rat? He wasn’t sitting on that clock holding a knife and fork.

My Doorman: He’d shred it. When they’re flying around, hang onto the Chihuahua.

Ingesting that factoid, I entered the elevator promising to keep that advice in mind.

"I'm so hungry."

“I’m so hungry.”

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Lame Adventure 449: It’s the Most Familiar Time of the Year

New Year's Day hangover balloons.

New Year’s Day hangover balloons.

Sixteen hours into January 1, 2015, my holiday season officially entered the ether and the most familiar time of the year resumed. This happened when I encountered my first asshat of the New Year: a chap about my age at my go-to supermarket, Fairway. Fairway is a place where, a few years earlier on another New Year’s Day, the toes of my right foot were nearly severed by a girl not much taller than a walking stick burning rubber on a scooter in the produce section. Apparently, that moppet, with parental approval, was training to compete in the Dakar Rally via the broccoli bin. My market could serve double duty all year round as the Asshat Convention Center of America, or ACCA for short.

Fast forward to the ACCA around 4pm on New Year’s Day 2015. I am patiently waiting my turn in a cue of fellow shoppers to grab a hand basket. The man in front of me takes his hand basket that contains some detritus left behind by previous users of that basket. There is a trashcan nearby at the store’s entrance, but Mr. Asshat upends the trash from his basket into mine.

Me: Was that necessary?

Mr. Asshat looks back at me and cringes, possibly flashbacking on his nagging mother. I swipe out the detritus and dump it in the trashcan he chose to ignore. Sufficiently humiliated, he mumbles an apology before scampering down an aisle in a failed effort to turn invisible. But, I appreciated his civility, unlike the last asshat I encountered in the Old Year: a woman half my age reeking attitude.

She crossed my path on another reliable source of suffering: the New York City subway system. This episode in the series, Meet the Asshat, occurred on my second-to-last train ride before embarking on a two-week hiatus from The Grind.

Ms. Asshat was sitting on the crowded 1 local during the morning rush hour with her legs crossed, determined to give anyone near her the boot.

Shin kicker's boot.

Shin kicker’s boot.

Unlike Mr. Asshat in Fairway, my subway riding survival instinct warned that this was a Code Red Asshat, i.e., someone with the potential to detonate. Don’t provoke her. I got lucky and scored a seat allowing me to escape her foot follies. Everyone else near her came close to getting it in the shin. Her nasty expression screamed f-bomb. Fellow riders shared my cautious vibe and were mute around this volatile asshat. There are times when New Yorkers know to zip the lip.

Days later, I was in mellow mode visiting kith and kin in the San Francisco Bay Area. While in Sausalito with my best friend from college, BatPat, we strolled through a neighborhood of storybook-style houseboats docked on calm waters.

Mini mansions in idyllic Waldo Harbor.

Mini mansions in idyllic Waldo Harbor.

Many of these whimsical vessels belong to artists and writers.

Tim Burton-esqe style houseboat from behind.

Tim Burton-esqe style houseboat from behind.

Tim Burton-esque style boat from the front-ish.

Tim Burton-esque style boat from the front-ish.

I flashed on ditching the steady stream of petty irritations that are such a key ingredient in big city life in exchange for the tranquility of a floating nest and the camaraderie of courteous neighbors with cool cats.

Super cool houseboat cat Bow.

Super cool houseboat cat Bow.

Bow's super cool houseboat home.

Bow’s super cool houseboat home.

But whom am I kidding? Within a month, or an hour, my blunt force trauma temperament would surface and I could be the resident asshat in Shangri-la.

In front of my home, this bombshell might be active.

In front of my home, this bombshell might be active.

I am allergic to cats, I can’t swim and my astrological sign should be Seasick. I can do mellow by the shot glass, but my personality is frantic by the barrel.

Cool in principle but not for me.

The Neversail Ark: cool in principle but not for me.

Shortly after I returned from my California getaway, I was briskly walking down my block on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was five in the afternoon, a time of day that looks exactly like ten at night in winter, when I found myself doing a double take on what else? A sweating package identified as fresh chicken.

Re-gift chicken.

Re-gift chicken.

I don’t know what gave me the willies more: knowing that I reside in close proximity to a New York City asshat who re-gifts fowl, or later that evening, when I went out again and saw that there had been a taker. A few years ago, New York City was besieged with a bedbug epidemic. Have we graduated to salmonella sharing in 2015? Meanwhile, a New Year has dawned once again replete with a new crop of New York City asshats. The time of the year may no longer be the most wonderful, but it is certainly back to being the most familiar.

Asshat New Yorker-style Christmas tree disposal.

Asshat New Yorker-style Christmas tree disposal.

Lame Adventure 447: Christmas Trees Of Gotham – Bitty, Beastly and Best

One of the most enduring symbols of the holiday season wherever you go in the country is the Christmas tree. Here in New York City, Christmas trees are not purchased in tree lots. New York City dwellers purchase their trees from sidewalk vendors.

Trees being pimped on Columbus Avenue.

Trees and wreaths pimped on Columbus Avenue.

For about a four week period from Thanksgiving to Christmas, New Yorkers not only sidestep the usual: each other, kids in strollers, elderly folks moving at a snail’s pace, dog walkers and walking dogs. Added to the daily dance of pedestrian navigation at holiday time is zigging and zagging around a forest of pine trees crowding the corners on what seems like every other block.

How tree-buyers get their trees home is another tale in the playbook of inconvenient. A Christmas tree cannot be delivered like a pizza. Christmas trees are takeout. In the thirty-two years that I’ve lived here, I have yet to see a delivery guy on a bike transporting a Christmas tree in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. New York City Christmas trees are brought home in a variety of ways starting with Manual: the woman I saw walking on upper Broadway struggling awkwardly as she hauled her tree solo. Next up, there’s Happy Teamwork Style: a guy duo effortlessly carrying their firry [sic] friend in tandem.

Not to be confused with this furry friend who is surely wondering, "When is my tree getting here?"

Not to be confused with this furry friend who is surely wondering, “When is my tree getting here?”

Reported in Gothamist was Irritating: a guy riding with his tree on a subway train. I am sure that some people carry their trees home in taxis, or for the privileged with a car, the Traditional Method: tying it to the roof.

Many apartments such as my own thumbnail-size sanctum sanctorum are too cramped to house a tree, so wreaths and mini trees are very popular. My building’s vestibule is decorated with the trinity of holiday adornment New York City-style: a mini tree, a wreath and a poinsettia.

Holiday decorations in Casa de la Shangri-la.

Holiday decorations in Casa de la Shangri-la.

I do not partake in tree or wreath purchasing but I am an avid tree watcher. Pictured below are some trees, infinitesimal to massive, that I have glimpsed in my neighborhood, as well as that iconic one in Rockefeller Center.

Good luck with that.

Planter Tree: good luck with that.

Nice display of stoop trees, but anyone needing to hold onto the banister is out of luck.

Nice display of stoop trees, but flirting with a lawsuit if anyone needs to hold the banister.

Apartment near my laundromat; looks like a tree purchased on Columbus Avenue.

Apartment near my laundromat; looks like a tree purchased on Columbus Avenue or maybe all the trees are wearing red bows in 2014.

Co-op building tree; I'd prefer a lower maintenance over a tree.

La-di-da co-op building tree.

My building's tree.

My building’s knee-sized tree: what rent stabilized tenants rate.

Lincoln Square tree in Dante Park a.k.a. the tree cross the street from Lincoln Center. Next to no one was looking at it.

Lincoln Square tree in Dante Park a.k.a. the 27 foot tree across the street from Lincoln Center.

Radio City Music Hall's glitz - a light show rather than an actual tree.

Radio City Music Hall’s glitz – a light show rather than an actual tree.

To see the Radio City Music Hall holiday tree light show click here.

85 foot 27 ton Norway Spruce attention whore in Rockefeller Center.

85 foot 27 ton Norway Spruce attention whore in Rockefeller Center.

Is it me or does this year’s Rockefeller Center tree look like a massive, misshapen blob in need of a manicure? Smothered in 45,000 lights cannot hide that this behemoth looks like a shaggy oaf. Possibly I’m being critical because I’m not a fan of big and bloated. I naturally gravitate in the direction of small and lean. My favorite holiday trees are not in windows, rooftops, plazas or parks. They do not
attract herds of gaping gawkers from near and far. Here are my favorite trees of this holiday season: The Trees of West 73rd Street.

First up, a sturdy trunk tastefully swathed in red and gold.

First up, a sturdy trunk tastefully swathed in red and gold.

Second tree in blue and silver: a shout out to those that celebrate Hannukah?

Second tree in blue and silver: a shout out to those that celebrate Hanukkah.

Tree Three: a slender number in formal attire ready for New Year's champagne.

Tree Three: a slender number in formal attire ready for New Year’s champagne.

The fourth in the series: Purple Passion tree.

Tree Four decked out in purple and silver  for those celebrating eggplant and flatware.

The fifth and the finest: the candy cane tree.

The fifth and the finest: the candy cane tree lovingly embraced by a bike.

Each West 73rd Street tree exudes New York City attitude and style. If I could have a beer and socialize with a tree, these are the trees for me. If I were able to interview these trees and ask them what they think of the trees purchased on street corners or the trophy trees that stop traffic they’d likely say:

The Trees of West 73rd Street: Fuhgeddaboudit!

Every time I walk past these five trees en route to the subway, no matter how late I’m running or how irritated I’m feeling, seeing these festively dressed trees lifts my spirits. Whoever decorated them did this with personality, care and flare and probably at their own expense. Possibly they did it just because they like seeing them. I know that I sure do. This cool, quirky, “all natural” quintet of trees will not be piled high on the sidewalk in round two of street hogging. What’s round two you wonder? That’s when the Christmas trees of New York City prepare to be converted into mulch. That tradition resumes December 26th.

Tree speck in street: swatch of suicidal pine needles.

Tree speck in street: swatch of suicidal pine needles.