Tag Archives: urban wildlife

Lame Adventure 437: Back to the Birds

The New York Film Festival’s closing night feature hit another high note, Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is a pitch black comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton plays a Hollywood has-been best known as the comic book hero, Birdman, a character that brought him fame and fortune. He is determined to resurrect his sagging career and gain relevancy by adapting a Raymond Carver story for the Broadway stage, even though he is losing his mind to Birdman who has a stranglehold on his identity.

Milton and I doubt that Birdman will come anywhere near the crowd pleasing popularity of Gone Girl, which opened the festival, at the US box office. But Birdman is a beautifully shot and edited film with a great jazz drum score. Michael Keaton, whose own career hit its high mark when he started playing Batman twenty-five years ago (a role he quit before acting in the third film of the series), is terrific as a man who is losing his grip on reality as he directs and stars in a play that is hemorrhaging his life savings. It nails the New York theatrical community with falling props, insecure, egotistical actors and nasty, snobby critics. Adding to the authenticity, much of it is shot at the Saint James theater, where Milton and I have seen many Broadway plays through the years. It’s very entertaining with an ending that’s open to interpretation.

Birdman played eight times on closing night at the festival. Milton and I could not afford to pay the king’s ransom to attend the star-studded gala screening. Our screening at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater did not rate an appearance by any of the stars. It was a venue with first come, first serve seating so loitering outside the press tent was not an option. Therefore, the closest we got to rubbernecking the likes of Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts or Zach Galifianakis was this guy vacuuming the red carpet in anticipation of their arrival.

Vacuum-man.

Vacuum-man.

So, how does one follow up sixteen days of intensive film going in Lincoln Center? The first option is to enter withdrawal. The second it to head downtown, specifically to Greenwich Village to indulge in street theater.

Birdboy.

Birdboy.

As a longtime fan of pigeons, I was very excited to read last week in The New Yorker, that Tina Trachtenburg, also known as Mother Pigeon, an animal activist and artist, was conducting a pigeon “flashflock outstallation” in Washington Square Park on Saturday with a rain date on Sunday. Milton and I had tickets to two screenings on Saturday, so I was elated to see rain.

I was even more elated to see Mother Pigeon’s acrylic felt flock on Sunday.

Mother Pigeon's pigeon outstellation.

Mother Pigeon’s pigeon outstallation.

"Why aren't we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?"

“Why aren’t we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?”

Flock of feathered felt.

Flock of feathered felt.

She creates these whimsical creatures and gives each unique markings. She explains on her web site, “I like to make them all different because all pigeons are different.” As someone who is quite familiar with the many pigeons in my own midst, that is very true.

Mother Pigeon.

Mother Pigeon with the pigeons in her midst.

Yes, she even created one pecking at a slice of felt pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

As I was heading back uptown, I encountered life imitating art.

Mother Nature pigeon enjoying lunch.

Mother Nature pigeon pecking at pizza crust.

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Lame Adventure 425: TV Tales

Unlike my friends and family, I would prefer to watch a squirrel in a tree eat its breakfast scone than watch TV. But perhaps, my friends and family would enjoy watching that squirrel if it were on TV. Maybe even the squirrel would like to be on TV, if it was paid in scones.

It's a good day to be a scone-loving squirrel.

Let’s negotiate a rate in foodstuffs.

The expense of TV irks me. Last year, my cable TV provider increased the cost of service. With taxes and fees I would be paying about $110 for hundreds of TV stations I had no interest in watching. As much as I hated forfeiting the few stations I liked, I refused to shell out over a grand a year for a service I watched scant hours a week, often in a semi-coma. So, I pulled the cable plug. My TV-loving friend, Milton, the unofficial advocate for the TV industry, suggested I purchase an RCA digital TV antenna to still view the major broadcast networks. I thought that idea was brilliant. When I hooked the antenna to my TV, I could only access snow. We learned that my TV was obsolete and incompatible with the antenna. Minus that costly cable hookup, my 86-pound set was reduced to the electronic equivalent of a beached whale rotting in my apartment.

For about a year I streamed TV onto my computer via Aereo, an $8 subscription service that the Supreme Court put out of business last month with a ruling that Aereo was basically committing theft. As much as I personally disagreed with that ruling, I knew the networks had a very solid case. Once Aereo shuttered, I considered buying a new TV, if only to use my RCA antenna to watch the broadcast networks.  Then, the people that manage my building informed me that they would be vacationing in Poland for three weeks.

Building Manager: Is there anything you’d like us to do for you before we leave?

Me (light bulb to self): Here’s my opportunity to unload the 86-pound eyesore!

Now living in a landfill.

For services rendered: next stop, a landfill.

Over the July 4th weekend, I researched TV models. I concluded that a 32-inch Samsung Smart TV would fit my needs. Recently, I visited my neighborhood Best Buy store where an affable dude sporting a hickey only the size of Topeka sold me a set that fits within the confines of my budget: cheap. Even though the box was a tad cumbersome, it was light affording me to carry it home on the bus. I appreciated that fellow passengers did not seem to detest me too rabidly for traveling with a space-hogging parcel.

Much more portable than its heavy as a boulder predecessor.

Much more portable than its heavy as a boulder predecessor.

Setting up my smart TV proved a bit problematic. My decade old Apple Airport Express is borderline obsolete. In addition, when I was reciting its serial number to Apple’s automated prompt, my iPhone somehow called my across the street neighbor. She texted me about this. I explained what happened, but I have the sinking feeling that she thinks I’m an orifice, and not the ear canal.

Thanks to Jeff at Apple Support, he walked me though a few adjustments in a configuration that resulted in compatibility. Something else wonderful Jeff let me do was revise my wireless password. For ten years, it had been the name of a former friend’s cat, an animal that has long since died. At the time I named it after that cat, at the former friend’s insistence, had I known I would be stuck living with that cat’s name as my wireless password in perpetuity, I would have put a tad more thought into this.

When I set up my digital antenna, I was dismayed to discover that I could only access four obscure stations in New Jersey. After nine more tries, I was able to access ABC, provided I place the antenna on a pillow on my bed while shaking my right knee and positioning my left thumb at a right angle. When I blinked, I lost access to the four obscure stations in New Jersey. I suspect that this antenna could be challenging for the long haul, or until Milton visits and tries to work his magic on it. One thing I do not want to do is pay for cable ever again.

I accepted my friend Beagle’s generous offer to sponge off her Amazon Prime i.d. as long as I promise that I will refrain from ordering porn. Fair enough.

Einstein, the Smart TV getting ready to show off.

My Smart TV ready to flaunt its inner Einstein.

Lame Adventure 419: The B Word

The b word I have in mind is birthday. Mine occurred on Sunday. This is the first birthday in forever that I am physically fit. On December 30th, I stopped eating like a starving hog and started riding a spin bike for 40 minutes four days a week. I’ve been a barnacle to my diet and exercise routine. As a result, I’ve shed a dozen pounds, went down a pant size and rediscovered my waistline. When I glimpse myself naked in the mirror my immediate thought is no longer:

Me: Ugh, I’ve gotta do something about that.

Now that I’ve returned to being lean, I wonder:

Me: Why are you still single?

Another dividend of de-flabbing is that I have much more energy and I feel much less cranky. On Saturday, I was walking down my block when I encountered a squirrel. We made meaningful eye contact. I dug my hand into my pocket. The squirrel looked hopeful. I took out my iPhone. The squirrel realized that I was a useless source for treats, scampered under a shrub and dug out a snack from its stash. The critter then hopped onto a ledge and struck a pose.

Last critter photographed at 54.

Last cute critter photograph at 54.

I snapped a shot. A woman approached:

Woman: What’s he eating?

The Old Me: How the hell do I know? Do I look like a squirrel-ologist?

Now that I’m mellow I’ve muted my snark. If she was lesbian and we had chemistry, this could have been a brilliant way to meet: bonding over a charming rodent nibbling God-knows-what.

As for my birthday, I’m not big on celebrating, but I appreciate low-key acknowledgment. My friends and family know that I’m not into gifts. My bud, Coco, once remarked in sheer exasperation:

Coco: You’re the hardest person in the world to get a black tee shirt for.

I welcome cards and my annual birthday cake at The Grind. This year, I wanted a pie, specifically an apple pie. My boss, Elspeth, opened her wallet, and my colleague, Godsend, ordered the exact pie I craved: crumb topped from Billy’s Bakery. Billy’s is known for their cakes, but note this fellow pie enthusiasts: Billy’s crumb topped apple pie is superb.

Birthday pie.

Birthday pie.

My birthday wouldn’t be complete without attending the theater with Milton. This weekend, we saw two plays on Broadway. As I power slept on Saturday he rose at daybreak to wait in line for $29 rush seat tickets to The Velocity of Autumn, a one act play starring Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

It’s a very moving, unsentimental story about a middle age son trying to talk his elderly mother out of blowing up her Brooklyn brownstone with one hundred Molotov cocktails she has scattered throughout her home in defiance of his siblings demand that she enter assisted living. It is not a comedy, but it is packed with hilarious jokes. It strikes many chords about aging whether you’re 85 or 55.

86-year-old Estelle Parsons delivered a knockout performance as the mother. She was nominated for the Best Actress Tony award last week. Ticket sales were slow so the producers closed the show on Sunday. Because time was running out to see it, Milton hightailed to the Booth Theatre’s box office in pursuit of the cheap seats. He scored third row orchestra, but was warned that they were partial view, proving the new adage that skinflints can’t be choosers. When we got to our row C seats that hugged the theater’s wall, Milton gasped in terror:

Milton: What an angle!

Angle.

Angle.

Fortunately, when the curtain lifted, the view was good. Milton declared:

Milton: I would gladly pay $29 to see every show on Broadway from this seat.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parson at curtain call.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parsons at curtain call.

On Sunday, my birthday proper, we saw Of Mice and Men starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. We bought those tickets in January. The theater was packed with young women, many probably attending a Broadway play for the first time. But they behaved. No one screamed or threw her underwear at the leading men.

Pre-theater crowd entering the Longacre Theater.

Pre-theater crowd outside the Longacre Theater.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times gave this inspired revival a bitchy review. He ridiculously compared James Franco to Yosemite Sam. Milton said that for film stars that had never performed on Broadway, both gave very solid performances. We thought it was entertaining. Furthermore, Milton never once complained about having to climb 51 stairs up to the balcony.

First pigeon photograph at 55.

First crummy pigeon photograph at 55.

This year is off to a great start.

Lame Adventure 389: Did It Fly or Did It Die?

It is not a secret that I envy the pigeons that perch on the sill outside my window at The Grind. They fly wherever they want to go which sure beats riding the subway at rush hour. Here in New York, they always look well fed with all the free eats lying around. Often, I hear them cooing their birdbrains out indicating to me that they’re feeling pretty content. When they want privacy, they slip away to the air conditioner on the west side of the building and engage in pigeon-style tantric relations. This entails much wing flapping and flying feathers. I have also seen them lock beaks — pigeon-style kissing, which is an aspect of the mating ritual called billing here in the US and nebbing in the UK — for those of you inclined to read this site for its vast educational component.

On a recent Thursday, I noticed a pigeon huddled under the air conditioner in the building across from my office. My colleague, Godsend, is very aware of my bird watching.

Godsend: Are you looking at a pigeon?

Me: Yes, it doesn’t look good.

Sleeping or dead?

Sleeping or sick?

Godsend strained her neck for a look.

Godsend: I’m sure it’s sleeping.

Me: I think it’s sick.

Godsend: I think it’s fine.

For hours, that pigeon was perched in that same spot, immobile. Every so often I’d check on it. My glutton for punishment pal would ask for a report.

Godsend: Is it still there?

Me: It’s still there and it’s still not moving. It might be dead and we might be spending the next three weeks watching it decay.

Godsend: Don’t say that. I’m sure it’s sleeping.

Later, I returned and it appeared to be gone.

Godsend: Do you see it?

Me: No, it’s gone!

Godsend (genuinely relieved): See, it flew away!

Me: Wait a minute; it’s still there. The light was playing a trick on me.

The downbeat was audible from Godsend’s desk. It remained tucked under the air conditioner that entire day. The next day when we came in, it was actually gone. Godsend was massively relieved.

Missing or dead?

Dead gone?

Godsend: See, it did fly away!

Me: I think it was dead all along and it fell off the ledge.

Godsend: Don’t say that! Let’s think happy thoughts.

Me: Okay. Even if it did drop dead and fell off the ledge, at least we don’t have to watch it rot away for weeks on end.

Godsend remains convinced that it flew away. I am sure that it died. We cannot open our barred windows to stick our heads out to determine its fate, so fellow Lame Adventurers, as proven creative thinkers, what do you think happened to it?

Lame Adventure 366: Birds of a Feather

I thought it was an interesting coincidence that on a day when I found myself nodding out at my desk at The Grind, a pigeon that perched outside my window had the same idea.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Where we diverged was that after it completed its snooze, the reinvigorated avian extravagantly stretched its wings and took flight. I remained in groggy land-locked captivity on the other side of the bars. It’s possible that I drooled.

The Boss had ordered me to work on a Very Important Assignment, the kind of mission with no margin for error. If it’s screwed up she’ll likely have her head handed to her on a plate. Therefore, I am under pressure to be perfect. Even if nothing is screwed up, I can foresee someone down the line getting cranky about some aspect of this project and blaming her. This brings to mind that I have a tendency to philosophically reflect on my fellow man, or on the woman that announced to me, just as an off-Broadway  play that I was volunteer ushering was about to start:

Woman (whispering): You’re sitting in my husband’s seat.

I nearly suffered a heart attack. The House Manager had assigned me that sixth row dead center seat. He’s always on top of his game. I thought:

Me (thinking): The play’s starting RIGHT THIS SECOND. What am I going to do?

Lightning fast, I spring to my feet and apologize profusely for this snafu. I envisioned her husband bolting out of the bathroom, bursting through the house’s closed doors and hotfooting down the aisle at that very moment.

The woman reveals:

Woman: I turned his ticket into the box office. He’s not here. Sit!

She finds my heart stopping terror hilarious. As a volunteer with an obligation to represent this theater in the best possible light at all times, I press my personal mute button hard to silence what I am thinking:

Me (thinking): Are you a psychotic crazy person?  Was that really necessary to say to me right at curtain?

I suffered shallow breathing well into the first act. When an ominous looking bread knife was brandished on stage, I realized that there just might be a little Norman Bates in me, too, but I digress. As I tend to philosophically reflect on my fellow man and woman, factoring in my own experiences with members of the human race, I have concluded that many people are assholes.

Other people at my company are basically treating this project that my boss is spearheading like a hot potato. No one wants to touch it. Therefore, the potato has been handed to me. Maybe when it’s finished I should ask for a title upgrade to Minister of Potato. If I were Elsbeth, my superior, I would have dumped it on me, too. I’m excellent with detail, over-educated and underpaid. What a bargain until …

Oops.

Oops.

I lose consciousness and key in 83,338 of a product that costs $1,416. The line item calculates to $118,007,080. Fortunately, I came to before hitting the ‘enter’ key and reduced the quantity to the intended amount: two.

In my next life, I hope I return as a New York City pigeon. I’d be free. I’d never be bored. I could fly, mate at will, stuff myself with street food, but best of all, I could crap on annoying theater patrons and get away with it. Hey, I’m just a doity boid.

Lame Adventure 334: Lost and Found

Losing stuff is a daily occurrence in New York City and this is not just in reference to the propensity of subway riders losing their tempers in this congested metropolis.

An outraged response to MTA cheery self-promotion.

New Yorkers lose their cats.

Anyone seen Chester? Did you look under the sink?

New Yorkers lose their socks.

Sock Monster by the kids at PS 9. (Nice to know where the tubes I lost in the 80s went.)

Sometimes I draw the short straw and I’m the loser on the subway.  Once on my way home from The Grind, I did not lose my temper, but I did lose my umbrella.  This happened while I was sprinting across the 14th Street subway platform to transfer from a local train to the uptown express.  While doing my anemic Usain Bolt impersonation, I unwittingly dropped my umbrella, but speedy me did manage to hop onto that express train just before the doors shut.  The reward for my victory was reaching my stop three minutes and seven seconds faster and arriving home a helluva wetter.

Recently I thought I had lost a book, but fortunately, my pet puppet goat, Bill E. had it.

“I’m on page 103.”

Last week, I sliced my right index finger.  I have no idea how this injury occurred, but I realized that I have now lost my chance to seriously pursue a mid-life crappy-hand modeling career.

“Let me see.”

More often, I’m the one that finds another’s loss lying in the street. Sometimes someone’s loss is my gain, such as when I found a dollar entering the 72nd Street subway station.

It pays to ride the subway.

I applied it toward my replacement umbrella.

Just this week I noticed a tie, a pair of gloves, and a potato.

Tie.

Gloves (flattened by cars).

Spud.

I am sure the rightful owners wondered:

Rightful owner:  Gee, what happened to my [tie, gloves, potato]?

Then, there is stuff that someone no longer wants so they purposely leave it out in an act of passive aggressive charity.

One of a kind combo — microwave in chair.

Recently, I saw a sofa complete with detachable feet, a pair of men’s boots (people in New York are big fans of leaving shoes out), and some mats that I first thought might be for yoga, but upon closer inspection I ascertained better suitability to absorb car grease, or possibly candidacy for residence in a landfill.

Sofa with feet detached.

Leather boots going elf-toe route.

Mats. Next stop can to frame left.

I kept a close eye on the sofa.  First the detachable feet went missing, then the entire sofa itself.  I suppose what is one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, especially if you’re someone that treasures bed bugs.

I agree.

Considering the recent epidemics of these pests in Gotham City, I steer clear of street swag.

There are also some distinct intentional dumps of stuff, stuff that the former owners have decided must go so they just toss it in the street willy-nilly to sound as irritating as former Secretary of Irritation in the Shrub Administration, Donald Rumsfeld.  In this case I have seen chair casters and last year, a movie-style popcorn popper filled with greasy unpopped corn kernels.  It was as if this machine got ditched in mid-use possibly because the original owner has severe A.D.D. or was just a typical Type A orifice – no, not thinking the ear canal.

“I feel detached.”

Degrading departure.

Another New York City specialty is wild trash.  Wild trash is trash that is not in a bag that’s deposited in a trash can awaiting pick-up. This is untamed garbage at its most feral. Newspaper is a popular breed of this type of refuse.  If sidewalks could read, New York’s would be the most literate in the country.

Public health announcement courtesy of the pavement.

Although this has yet to make the evening news, urban wildlife out here is suffering an obesity epidemic.  Who wants to peck at dry seed out of a feeder when the pizza is so abundant in the street?  That would really be bird-brained.

Pizza party!

Notice how both the pigeons and the sparrows completely ignored the pencil — not a writer in the flock.

Finally, there’s what I call the hit and miss style of dealing with wild trash.

Side by side.

NASA can fly a vehicle to Mars but we’ve yet to equip a banana peel with a spring mechanism allowing it to bounce off the eater’s head into the trash can.  Now that would be progress.