Brooklyn – Got the Jimmy Legs


It's the only way to live in cars

Every New Yorker without a car should force themselves to rent a car at least once a year, if only to reiterate the inherent smartness of living the rest of the year without one. Sure there is the initial joy of feeling like you can go anywhere! do anything! You feel possessed of the heady sense of self-determination that no-doubt drove our forefathers to wagon-train into the Great Unknown of the Louisiana Purchase only to settle in what is now Utah. Then you realize that all the assholes who get in your way on the subway are now in front of you, each in their own metal exoskeleton, and each of them with as little clue as to where they're going or how much room they're taking up than on the L train platform.

I just returned a rental car (from Image on Empire Blvd, cheapest Sentras in town!) and despite how useful it has been over the past four days, I am relieved to not have to drive one for the foreseeable future (at least, not in a major metropolitan area). We got the car to drive to Baltimore to surprise Jeannie's mom, who turned 80 recently. We snuck down and stayed at a friend's house for the night, then emerged while the Moms was at what she thought was a casual dinner at her friends' house. The surprise worked (video to follow, I left my camera in Jeannie's purse), and a lovely time was had by all. We got to spend some time with her and I got to see the many faces of Baltimore, something I had wanted to do since Female Trouble. A misreading of the map landed us in West Baltimore, which indeed does have that Wire feeling, although to me it looked a lot like Bushwick in places. Our friend lives in Hampden which is like a flower-filled and silent Williamsburg, with better architecture. In between we saw sweeping mansions and blasted out hovels, historically-significant buildings and an influx of skinny jeans.

The rest of the time we were driving, to Baltimore, to Bel Air, back to Brooklyn. I know Robert Moses didn't invent the superhighway but I still like to curse him every time I'm in traffic. There was a lot of traffic to and from Baltimore, mostly severe jams that lasted hours and seemed to have no cause whatsoever. Also there are like a bazillion tolls between Brooklyn and Baltimore, whose costs were only slightly less annoying than how the constant stopping and paying affected traffic. It's impossible to relax while driving, and relaxing isn't something I'm that good at anyway, so I'm still a bit frazzled from the trip.

One shining light was the fact that Costco is right off the BQE, and we got back into town just in time to duck and grab more cat food and dish soap. Our car was minuscule but it held all the crap we got there, as well as all the crap we bought at the Bel Air Target (I know we have one in Brooklyn but it's always so picked over). The Costco trip was something we needed to do anyway so it was a nice perk to get that out of the way. We dragged the stuff home and thankfully got a decent parking spot in front of the house. Despite the positives, I still can't see how people can live like this every day.

I took the car back in the morning, thinking the trip would be a nice cruise over to Crown Heights, but once again the Impossibly Stupid Drivers of Brooklyn were out in force. It should have taken 20 minutes, tops, to get over there but it took twice as long, due to bad drivers, a plethora of red lights, and perhaps a bit of my own poor driving skills. With the car dropped off, I walked around the corner and got on a 5 train taking me almost directly to my office halfway up Manhattan in less time than it took me to drive a few miles in the car. Now that's transportation.

Catch the pigeon

I went on the latest BCUE walking tour of Bushwick, this time focusing on the southern tip of the neighborhood. Bushwick Specialist Adam Schwartz (of upfromflames fame) led some 20-odd folks around, getting down to the Trinity Cemetery and up to Irving Square Park, going through the side streets along the way. I'm not sure if the route was selected for this purpose directly, but we went by some lovely homes, and not the kind of thing I would have expected.

When I walk around my neighborhood, it's usually for some purpose like running errands or heading to the train. I don't get a lot of time to stroll around and just look at the place. Since I spend most of my time on Broadway, my view of Bushwick is loud and garbage-strewn, with a lot of shuttered storefronts. While this may be accurate, there's also a lot of charming homes and people hidden in there somewhere. It seems odd to have such a revelation since I've been living here for nearly two years; I realized that my estimation of the neighborhood has been, my block is nice but not much else is around here. But like my street, there's many well-maintained blocks full of beautiful houses. Thanks to the tour I was able to pay more attention to this fact, as well as pick up some history as well.

I was a bit disappointed to see only a couple of people I recognized from the, but this side of the neighborhood is not exactly a hotspot: most of the tour attendees appeared to be senior citizens, possibly residents of one of the former iterations of Bushwick. The meet-up was especially surreal because a) they were working on the street so there was almost no traffic, and b) the meeting spot at Chauncey is surrounded by new construction retail buildings, none of which appear to be rented yet. But when we plunged down the side streets, the scene changed immediately to the neighborhoody vibe that had attracted me here in the first place.

We saw several sides of the neighborhood, the beautiful churches, the Shell station that used to be Trommer's brewery, the houses on Chauncey Street with the weird little balconies. As we were covering the Our Lady of Lourdes part of the tour, we met Izzy, a local who led us to the church's current incarnation in a former Chevrolet warehouse off Bushwick Ave. The Most Holy Trinity Cemetery was founded on the notion that all people should be equal, at least in memoriam, so all the grave markers are made out of metal. A nice theory, but this leaves you with a field of rusty tombstones.

I had to ditch the tour a little early to go to a band rehearsal, but not before we saw an impeccably-appointed fire house, and spied a pigeon coop on top of a building on the corner of Eldert Street. Adam explained the sport of pigeon flying, in which competitors try to lure other people's pigeons (O.P.P.) into their flock. I knew about the sport after puzzling over the "Pigeons & Pet Supplies" store at the end of my block, but I've never seen a coop before. I probably just haven't been paying attention.

Ironically the tour ended up making things seem less exotic to me. Demystifying the neighborhood is a good thing since I feel like I understand a little more clearly how this spot I call home came to be. But knowing the history doesn't change the fact that it's still just a neighborhood, the changes that have occurred since I got here are just another drop in the bucket.

Even if you don't please

I forgot to take pictures of the kittens again, but I'll try to take some tonight. It's pretty fascinating to watch the progress. They are now a month old and are behaving more and more like cats and less like larvae.

Elsewhere in the cataverse, I thought another rundown of the main locals is in order. Many of the cats who hung around a while ago have not been seen in a while, while new cats have appeared to take their places.

Marbles. This is the cat that I thought was male at first, but she proved me wrong by getting pregnant. She hasn't given birth yet, we have tried to get her inside but she doesn't like to stay long after she eats. Then again, she will lie for hours next to our garbage cans, which apparently she prefers to our comfy chairs.

Gladys. This little female started showing up about the time we realized Marbles was pregnant, I had hoped to ensnare her and have her fixed. Then I realized she already gave birth and was currently nursing a litter. No telling how old they are or where they are being raised.

Jojo. This young male showed up the other day, barged into the house, flopped down on the floor and hasn't left. He will not take no for an answer and I'm a sucker for a gray tabby. Since we seem to have no choice in the matter it looks like we're keeping him. I wanna take him into the shop to make sure he's not harboring some horrible disease. He still spends nights outside until we can confirm his health and his ability to play nice with others.

Siamese Cat. This guy is a prizewinner. I don't think he's purebred because he's sort of muscular and stocky for a Siamese. But he's one good-lookin' cat. If anybody wants a Siamese, I'm working on taming him and will try to get him fixed. How does such a cat become a stray? Even if he's a mix, these cats don't usually come cheap. We came up with a host of theories, usually involving an elderly dowager who owned the cat, then died, leaving him homeless. That's probably not what happened, but at least it allows me to look at him and not necessarily think somebody tossed him on the street on purpose.

Chauncey. You may remember this guy, we haven't seen him for a long time. He was part of the whole crew of cats who used to come by and try to steal our cats' food. His sudden reappearance gives me hope that some of the other cats we haven't seen lately are still out there and okay. We're nearly positive he had an owner now, since he's been MIA for months and then shows up looking totally healthy. Unfortunately, the intervening months have shifted his personality from goofball older kitten to randy young adult. He got into the house and got into a fight with Lucy which I feel only happened because she's the only unaltered female around. It's too bad, he was a fun cat. This makes me want to take him in and have him fixed, even though he's not a stray. Imagine his owner's surprise when he comes home sans balls! Anyway it's an interesting ethical question.

And finally, the New Cat. Actually, there are at least two of them, as a pair showed up the other night. I think they're washing their paws in the water dish I leave out. They are enormous, by the way. What bizarre animals.

Also sighted lately include George, the tuxedo cat (newly-thin after giving birth, we assume), the flea collar cat, the second Russian Blue (who showed up the same day as Chauncey, they may both be owned by the same person).

Sadly, no one has seen Mugsy in a long time.

In the diet of denial

Operation: snip & tie

Gothamist had another depressing post about the number of cats in the city. Damn there are a lot of cats here! And people do not seem to be getting any smarter. I commented that it seemed to me the best course of action for the city would be to offer free neutering to any pet owners. If people would only get their pets fixed, we wouldn't be up to our ears in the first place. Of course, there's already a huge number of wild cats out there too. But I don't think it's the feral cats who are dropping of boxes of kittens in front of every shelter in town.

Anyway, somebody responded to my comment with:

The ASPCA offers FREE and low-cost spay and neuter services six days a week for pet owners who are residents of New York City's five boroughs.

Low income pet owners in New York City's five boroughs with proof of public assistance such as Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, Disability, Food Stamps, or Public Housing qualify. Unemployment does not qualify. If you do not have proof of public assistance, a $25 donation per animal is requested.

The ASPCA website has the schedule of spay/neuter clinic locations and more info on the "New York Services" page:

Or you can call for the schedule here:
(212) 876-7700 / Ext.4303

Hey! Somebody is offering free/low-cost neutering, AND coming to specific neighborhoods! Now my question is, are they telling anybody about this? If you check the calendar, you will see the mobile spay unit does get around. In fact, it's been to Bushwick recently. Funny, I didn't hear about it. Oh yeah that's right, NOBODY TOLD ANYBODY THEY WERE COMING.

Maybe I'm not going to the right parties or reading the right magazines, is the SPCA promoting this fact in any real sense? I don't know what I want from them exactly, but I've been trying to find resources for "cheap fixes" for some time and this is the first I've heard of it. So I'm trying to think of ways to spread the word, aside from the mighty power that is this blog.

I really can't figure out the mindset of people who own pets but don't get them fixed, especially cats. Unaltered cats, male and female, are full of drawbacks. The males caterwaul, fight, and spray everything in sight. Females go into heat and then have kittens all over the place. Would the owners of animals who do this have the wherewithal to note when the mobile unit would be in town and get their cats worked on? Seems unlikely to me.

Worse is the fact that the next time the mobile unit comes to my neighborhood, it'll be on a workday, so only the unemployed or those in a position to take time off from work can make it. I know this thing has to roll all over town, but this still sucks. I think I can take the day off from my job, but lots of people don't have that flexibility. Oh well, it's a start.

All this cat stuff is grating on me of late, as I've noticed even more pregnant cats in the street lately. Apparently this is prime kitten season, but there's a lot of summer left.

… Plus we kind of took in another cat the other day, but that's a story for another day. Spread the word about the mobile spay unit and get your damn cats fixed!

Quite contrary

Ferdinand the Bull, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

As promised, less kittens and more big fat white cats in the back yard! We hit up Home Depot yesterday for the first of what will probably be several trips there to populate the yard with plants. they had a surprisingly good selection, both for the garden and the window boxes I bought months ago but have yet to fill and mount. And yes, the window boxes are the lame plastic kind, but that's all they had at the XXtra discount store. In fact, HD was running low on decent planters too, I saw only one window box worth anything, and it was too small. To remedy this, we tried to get plants that would spill over the edge of the box to minimize our gauchity.

For the boxes we got annuals (including some 'double impatiens' which I just think are swell), but everything for the yard is perennial, so that we may enjoy the greenery for years to come. Or until we win the lottery. We're sort of reaching at straws, picking out stuff we like with little plan as to where stuff will get planted. But I guess it can go anywhere for now, it's not like we're gonna run out of room with the few plants we have so far.

At some point I'll have to remove most of the mint plants that sprouted up everywhere. I hate to tear up a perfectly serviceable plant that is doing a helluva job covering the side of the yard, but then, it's not like it won't just come right back.

I still want to get some big planters and plant some tall skinny trees so that I may move them around the patio at will, but HD had only superlame planters left. What's up with the state of outdoor furnishings? It's like people want their yards to look like the Enchanted Fairy Forest of Faux-Bronze Pots with Little Fleur-de-Lis all over the place. To the customers' credit, it seemed all the plainly designed planters and whatnot had all been sold, leaving the fugly stuff behind. But somebody must be buying this crap. I'll take my plastic boxes over the ostentatious stuff any day!

I've got the rest of the week off! If only I could enjoy it, but the specter of the workload when I return will ruin my ability to savor my freedom. Unless, perhaps, I get really drunk.