Animal Planet: New York / New Jersey Edition

I was sitting on a bench in Central Park reading a book and these two shady-looking dudes walked out of the bushes.

It was 6:00 p.m. Raccoons are nocturnal animals. Typically, I only see one when it’s splattered across the roadway. NYC wildlife is so accustomed to handouts that they come out at all manner of the day and night.

That woman was lucky she didn’t have anything to give them. If you feed them, they follow you. And if you stop feeding them, they can get a little crusty.

City animals are conditioned to rely on the kindness of strangers. You can hand-feed sparrows. Try hand-feeding a sparrow in your neighborhood.

These horses were at Christie’s.

Deborah Butterfield
Est: $300,000-500,000
Sold for $367,500

Est: $300,000-500,000
Sold for $307,500

I stood next to them and could’ve sworn they were made of wood but the lot descriptions said they’re bronze. I wanted to wrap them with my knuckles but there was a security guard posted nearby.

As long as we’re on animals, I’ll rerun these from last year. Manhattan has a few peregrine falcon families. There’s sufficient shelter and an unlimited food supply. I’m up on the 50th floor and they occasionally survey the city outside my window.

No other bird flies up this high. We never see pigeons or sparrows up here. I do love these shots. The urban backgrounds stand in stark contrast to the wild predator.

Back in New Jersey, guess what we have in our back yard? Bunnies!

Coco, the evil canine, found this nest. She had one in her mouth but dropped it when it squeaked. I think she mistook it for one of her toys. The previous day, the lawn service guys ran over the nest. Good thing the bunnies are dug into the ground deep enough. What a mess that would’ve been.

This is Corn. We’re cat sitting her. Isn’t she beautiful? Cats are elegant. Dogs are needy.

The daughters were walking through the woods with some friends and found this skull. It’s a deer. Well, we presume it’s a deer. What else could it be? I set it on this stump in an attempt to Create Art and two of its teeth fell out.

This is some genuine Circle of Life shizzle. A good lesson for the kids.

Speaking of the woods…see this giant pile of pulp?

Until last month, it was some woods down the street from me. Unfortunately, they were in the way of nine custom built luxury homes, so they had to GO. Coming soon: Hiddenwell Estates. First they decimate the landscape, then they give it a bucolic-sounding name and complain about the deer eating their flowers. I despise the real estate developers out here. They’re dirty, stinking, parasites.



May 11, 1993

Margaret set me up on a blind date. She said this girl was blonde with great legs and came into a lot of money, but didn’t elaborate on how much or where she got it. Margaret cares about that stuff but I don’t. I told her as long as she has a sense of humor we’ll get along. I wondered if she’s a psychotic racist, like Margaret.

I called this girl, Sam. She sounded pleasant enough but wounded. She said something about men being rotten and, in particular, men who get caught fucking their ex-girlfriends. We arranged a date and she told me to look for someone wearing jeans and red boots. I told her to look for the whitest white man she’s ever seen. She said, “What do you mean? Are you a vampire?” I said, yes, I am.

We met at the Garden and saw the Knicks get their asses kicked. She wore a lot of makeup and ostentatious jewelry. Diamond bracelet. Diamond rings. Diamond pendant. The game ended, I put her in a cab and went home.

All I could think about was Laura.

This feels like when I almost drown in Mayport. I was swimming alone and got caught in an undertow. I could feel myself being dragged out to sea. The beach was deserted. There was no one to yell to. It would’ve been a particularly humiliating death since I was in the Coast Guard at the time. I remembered to swim parallel to the shore and then in. I almost didn’t make it. When my feet touched sand I cried.

How do I swim out of this undertow? I can’t even type a complete sentence without stopping midway to think about her. I’m drowning. This girl is too young, talented, pretty and smart for a fraud like me.

52 thoughts on “Animal Planet: New York / New Jersey Edition

  1. Wow. That’s fabulous to see racoons hanging about in the day like that! I would make the mistake of feeding them and probably have an army of them following me around Central Park. I would be known as the “Racoonteur”
    This is like an episode of Urban Attenborough. Nice bunnies. Great shots of the peregrines. What a backdrop!

    But you kept swimming and got free. When drowning always remember to keep treading water. I was particularly moved by that paragraph.

    • Racoonteur! Yes! Yes! I can always count on you. This is as close to nature as I like to get. Perhaps an occasional paddle about in a row boat but only under controlled circumstances.

      Oh, I drown, alright. I’m not sure I actually ever swam free.

  2. If you had the right name, Mark, you could arrange that skull and escaped pair of teeth just-right, get it in an exhibit, and earn a couple hundred thousand grand. This I’ve learned from your exhibit photos. I think you have the eye.

  3. Crikey mate, yaw a veritable Steve Irwin! Get out on that ledge and show us folks at home just how aMAZing that falcon is!

    Sorry for taking a jab at ya in the last post about Laura. You know how to find the funny bone with any human condition. This time, I see you can also be dead fucking serious and make us weep. Damn death by undertow or death by unrequited love. I choose drowning.

    If Sam becomes a goth, you can blame that deer skull.

    • I had all these odd animal pics in my phone and realized, hey!, That’s a post.

      What are you apologizing for? I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Anything in this public space is fair game. I keep anything sensitive out of the ether.

      They’re calling it the ‘sacred skull,’ which I love.

  4. The woods thing annoys me. Around where I am in crowded-south-east-England-commuterville every bit of space is being built on, including one large house near us recently sold, the developer has crammed in three other “detached” houses around it in what was it’s garden. Technically detached. I reckon about 8 inches between the walls!

    Regularly we have to fight to preserve the very small copse of woods near me as developers eye them and the council want to cut back on the costs of actually looking after them

    • The worst part is that we are powerless to do anything to stop the real estate conglomerates. They have most of our local politicians in their back pockets and do whatever they want. I guess this sort of thing has been going on for generations but that doesn’t make it OK.

      • Land Management has never been mankind’s expertise. Ireland, Greece, Lebanon (among other locations) used to be forested. If we want to save every precious human life, we’re going to have to learn to live more compactly. Architect rant over.

      • Well Britain’s excuse is that is what made us Great Britain – we chopped down all the trees to build the navy that conquered the world! Each ship would require thousands of oak trees to be cut down, where I live was once all Royal woodland to supply trees to the local Royal dockyard. Building of iron ships progress driven by necessity, we were exhausting our tree supplies.
        The story where I live is that before the Elizabethan and later navies were constructed a squirrel could have gone from the south coast of England to near Hadrian’s Wall without ever setting foot on the ground.

  5. Animal Planet! yep, that’s it around here, too. Or as my daughter calls it, too much nature. I have to second the earlier remark about your good eye for photos, sugar. Well done!

    Drowning is a good word for today (for me anyway)! Too much, too overwhelming, and not sure which is easier, swimming or just sinking. xoxo

    • That’s a polite word for them. They were here before you and I were around and they’ll be here long after we’ve checked out. It’s a byproduct of growth. It can’t be stopped.

      I’d rather have artistic skill but I guess I’ll settle for a skull.

  6. You mean you likened your infatuation with Laura to a genuine brush with death? Boy, you must have been young!

    Cats have too much class to beg for food on their hind legs. It’s a terrible shame you couldn’t teach your daughters to be cat lovers.

    • Do you know what’s great about going through a near-death experience with a girl? You never have to do it again. Once you come out the other end, you know you can take pretty much anything that’s dished out.

      I think I’m a pretty good husband and an excellent father but I really blew it when it came to teaching them about cats.

  7. Our house is old and has had parts built on. It’s cozy enough, but I really like our back yard. It’s crowded with trees. Does something for me. One good thing is that mowing is a pain in the butt around trees, so my lawn has a tendency to get a little long. It’s fun to think about my little town and other cityscapes if humans go away. It probably wouldn’t take long for raccoons, opossums and multitudes of bats and insects to populate the place. Enjoyed your post!

    • I do love the city. I bitch and moan about the suburbs but I have to admit, I do like stepping out my patio door and sitting in my backyard to read the paper. You can’t get that kind of peace in the city. That part I like.

      Glad you liked the post. Thanks, very much. There’s plenty more where that came from.

  8. This one made me laugh. The girl in diamonds was too weird. Diamonds are a girl’s best fiend and apparently she needed lots of friends.

    I have read about the falcons In NYC and how that project began to help them re-coop. The introduction has been quite successful.

    I’m like you and could have sworn the horses were made of old driftwood or pieces picked up in the forest or desert or where ever.

    Last of all I’m so glad the bunnies survived the mower. Now where will they find suitable habitat after the bastard developers razed the trees? Upscale developers in my small town save as many trees as possible. Trees help sell property but where you live, folks are eager to buy since it seems to me to be wall to wall houses and folks want out in the burbs. You are lucky to have some wildlife. Count the days when they will be gone just like the trees.

    I almost forgot. The cat is a beauty. Love black cats.

    • A subsequent entry said Diamond Girl wanted to go out but I was too distracted. Pity. I should’ve followed-up on that. It might’ve saved me a lot of grief.

      It turns out the falcons can adapt to living here easier than some humans. What’s vermin to us is dinner to them.
      I still think the horses are wooden.

      Maybe they were dipped in bronze, like a pair of baby shoes, but they’re wood. Click on those pics and enlarge.

      I think the bunnies will be fine, at least for now. We seem to have a bumper crop of rabbits this year. Many more than usual. I like that I can go out in the morning and see rabbits. It makes me feel rustic.

      The new development is going to have the same problem that all new developments have; no old tree growth. All you see are new houses sticking up in a barren land. You can’t replace old growth with old growth.

  9. It’s a luscious swirl of chocolate/vanilla frozen custard that forms a perfect peak at the top like a nipple, this. Happy summer Mark. Fuck the developments. And the bunnies. They’re all dragging us out to sea.

  10. Playing with wild animals, no matter how cute and innocent they look is potentially dangerous. Your pics are great. I’ve done that mower over the bunny nest in the yard by mistake. Same results, no harm done. It must of felt like a cyclone to them. Next time I went around them.
    Blind dates seldom work out. Too much pre-date expectations. It needs to take many months of casual meets with conversation for it to work out. It has to begin on a natural, organic start!
    I use to go to the Mayport Base once a month and take the ferry on A1A to Ferdinand Beach.

    • People watch too many Disney movies. Those raccoons could just as easily jump up and scratch their eyes out. Have you seen the viral video of the little girl being pulled into the water by a seal? People are nuts.

      I did a few blind dates and, yeah, they’re usually kind of a bust. More nerve-wracking than a job interview, really.

      My ship was docked in Mayport and I was a smarty-pants and snuck off by myself for a swim. Almost cost me my life. For real.

  11. I bought a new build once… back in 2000…. I planted the garden with trees, and I saw the garden again recently – I made a mini woodland!
    So, what happened to Laura?

  12. Our dog unearthed a nest last summer and carried them around in her mouth. She was really gentle and didn’t mean to hurt them I don’t think, but by the time I found out what she had and made her give it to me, all but one was dead. I held it’s tiny, quivering wet body in the palm of my hand and it breathed shallowly once, twice, then died. I cried like a baby.

  13. The horses are fab, I have a friend who makes bronzes I’ll ask her about the driftwood look. Eek about the bunnies.

    The peregrine photo is great, lucky you to have such a view. The Mr. is a retired ornithologist who specialised in peregrines, he used to abseil into nests to ring the chicks to stop people from stealing them for falconry. Nice to see them doing well in NY city.

    Your diary has reminded me how intensely painful young love could be, I think that’s a good thing on the whole.

    Glad you got to pal up with a cat for a while.

    • Yes, please ask her. I’m betting those started out as wood and were then treated. How else could you explain the bronze?

      I had to Google abseil. Holy smoke! What a hobby! He’s lucky he didn’t get his eyes pecked out. The Mr. is a musician as well, isn’t he? A renaissance man.

      The only advantage of going through a love that tragic is that you tend to do it only once in life. After you survive a bad one, you can pretty much survive anything.

  14. I’m late, i was on vacation which meant 9 whole days away from the cyber world… raccoons during the day = rabies, of course those swell animals looked healthy but i don’t trust those raccoon types, they’re crafty, around here they travel through the sewers to avoid people, smart bastards… we have Peregrines here in the burgh to eat the pigeons but around my place we have these hawks which are huge, one was standing in my backyard and easily over three feet tall, i was hoping he/she would snack on the bunny nest and maybe it did cuz i haven’t seen as many bunnies lately… and a guy i went to college with paints animal skulls, usually cows, throws the head in a bog where the insects eat it clean and then takes it out and paints it, they go for 5K and up and he’s been making a living at it for years, so get out your paints and get to work…

    • Dang. Nine days is a lot. I can’t remember that last time I was away that long. I escape regularly, but for shorter intervals.

      People watch too many Disney cartoons. Raccoons will scratch your eyes out and take your wallet. No falcons out in NJ but we get a lot of hawks and, most thrilling of all, turkey vultures. They look like giant space aliens. Thanks for the tip on the skull art. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. All I need to do is wrestle it away from the kids.

      • We have them thar turkey vultures here too, had two land on the back deck except being from Clevo aren’t we supposed to call them buzzards? Hinckley and WMMS and the like? and i’m wondering about looby as well, knowing our guy he’s okay, he’s crafty and resourceful, he’ll turn up…

    • Hey, you’re new blood. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

      I post a lot about contemporary art auctions. The amount of money spent is staggering. Especially if you’re just a regular schmoe, like I am. I like to do it for shock value!

      • It was definitely shocking. I figured, from the title of the blog, that you might sprinkle in some Mick Jagger anecdotes?

        My blog is about the bliss of the ordinary, discovered after a harrowing drug addiction.

        Got to love WordPresses uncanny ability to bring people of carried interests together!

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