Having grown up in South Florida, wildlife in my mind was alligators and poisonous snakes. Both of which I’m terrified of.
I then lived for thirty five years in New York’s East Village where wild life consisted of rats, roaches, pigeons and the occasional feral dog (New Orleans where I spent time had packs of feral pooches roaming the streets of the Bywater at night, my late pal Kelly Keller got cornered by a pack one night that got between where she was living and where her car was parked, pretty damn scary). Now I live on the west side, in Chelsea and have a backyard with two giant black walnut trees, and in adjoining yards giant Maple trees, a tri-sected elm (one part of which grows over my yard) and tons of smaller trees and bushes. I now seem to have a personal relationship with urban wildlife, which includes a woodpecker (I’m not sure if you can see him in the top photo, it depends on how big your computer screen is, he’s on the left branch with a red tuft on his head), a pair of cardinals, a red winged hawk (who eats mice alive, quite a show), robins, blue jays, various water fowl, six thousand sparrows and a family of squirrels. Reminds me of one of record that’s evaded my grasp for years– Nat Couty’s Woodpecker Rock, one of the best black rockabilly records ever.
I like squirrels, they’re like lobotomized monkeys. Very much like the people I know. It started off with one malnourished kitten who lived off the paltry walnut output of the aforementioned pair of trees (they seem to be over a hundred years old and are covered in ivy six floors high, great for privacy, probably strangling the trees to death). I started feeding the squirrel, whom I named Peaches (after the brat in Gavin Lambert’s Running Time who gets devoured by coyotes). Soon Peaches (bottom photo) had grown to normal squirrel size and became quite friendly, parking herself on the ledge outside my office window when she got hungry. Then Peaches found a mate– Large Boy, who I once saw get attacked by a male cardinal (he now bears two talon scars down his back so I can tell him apart from other squirrels). Peaches and Large Boy, who maintain separate residences (Peaches lives on top of the carriage house behind St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, right behind my house, Large Boy over a shed in a yard of a brownstone that faces 20th Street several doors east of Peaches abode). I think this is a good spot for one of my favorite records ever, from one of two guys to record for the two of the coolest labels ever Sun and Fortune– Dr. Issiah Ross’ (Doctor of what you ask? I dunno but one of his Sun records was called “Boogie Disease“) Cat Squirrel.
I know Cream covered “Cat Squirrel” but I’m proud to say I’ve never heard it. I hate Eric Clapton. By the way, the other guy who recorded for Sun and Fortune was Johnny Powers. He also recorded for Fox (“Long Blond Hair“) the label that issued the above Nat Couty disc. Boy am I getting off the track…
Back in my yard, nature took its course soon the squirrels had little duffer– I call him Bingo. Bingo soon grew larger than his father and commandeered the entire yard as his turf. Peaches manages to hold her own when they fight over the food (I try and throw her food on one side of the ten foot stone wall that separates us from the church, and Bingo’s on the other to keep them from killing each other) but Peaches is starting to show the scars from raising a brat, one of her ears is now in shreds. Large Boy is terrified of his spawn and shyly comes around begging for nuts only when Bingo is off doing what ever the hell he does. I forgot to mention, Bingo is retarded. I know this because I can throw a nut inches from him and it will take him a half hour to find it. Sometimes he sniffs around in circles for fifteen minutes, missing the nut that is inches from his snoot, then gives up and goes back to his post in the walnut tree. When he does find the nuts he hides them in places where Large Boy can easily steal them, which is good because otherwise the older squirrel would starve to death.
Where my wife comes from in New Brunswick, Canada they have quite the wild life, mammals all over the place, some of them are gigantic. Once she was talking on the phone of the breakfast nook at her parents’ house and a brown bear jumped out of the garbage can below the window. Moose hunting is big up there and the first moose bagged during moose hunting season of 2002 pushed 9/11 off the front pages of the local newspaper. Here’s the best rock’n’roll record ever made about a moose, from the Specialty label Roddy Jackson’s “Moose On The Loose“. Above is a New Brunswick moose, I don’t know his name. I imagine somebody shot and ate him by now as he’s a pretty big target.
If I can put that Moose together with Peaches I can live in a Jay Ward cartoon (I can be Boris!).
These are the things that have occupied my mind since the election was driving me nuts and tv has been crappy lately (except the final season of The Shield which has been pretty good). Sure signs of brain damage….