Neighbors – Got the Jimmy Legs


Now it's all covered with daisies

Pizza Pizza

Little Caeser's comes to Bushwick

While some of us (me!) struggle to find work, others in the neighborhood are newly employed. I just found out that a Little Caesar's has opened up the street from me, on Broadway between Jefferson and Cornelia. This is a few blocks off my usual beaten path (it's about halfway between the Halsey and Gates stops on the J) so I didn't hear about it until somebody dumped a bunch of these promotional postcards on my stoop.

There was a time when I would get all huffy about big chains moving in over the Mom & Pop paradigm, but a) I used to live in Clinton Hill, which has been overrun with ostensibly M&P shops full of expensive, unnecessary goods and services (who needs that many type of french pastry?), and b) the storefront it took over was unoccupied, as were its neighbors up and down the block, and they had been that way for years.

You know how after a forest fire, the first things to sprout are the little ferns and underbrush type stuff? They thrive because there's no competition. Their success sets the literal groundwork for the recovery of the rest of the forest.  Maybe the Little Caesar's and the Checkers and the Dunkin Donuts are these lil' recovery plants for Bushwick. Down in my end of the neighborhood, half the storefronts are unoccupied, so anybody willing to give it a shot is fine by me.

The Little Caesar's of my youth was strictly a financial proposition. They used to give you a 'free' pizza with every pizza ordered, hence their mnemonic chant-slogan, "PIZZA PIZZA." Of course I later realized that the cost of the 2nd pizza was already folded into the cost of the first, so it really wasn't such a good deal after all. Also in terms of quality, well, that too was a bit lacking. But I fell for the pitch and patronized them often as a teenager (I think I knew somebody who worked at one maybe). It seems they have abandoned the 2-for-1 pizza concept in favor of a more old-timey approach (round instead of square pie).  So who knows if it's any good, I'll probably break down and try it out shortly. But Jimmy, you cry, aren't you a vegan? Well, one nice touch is that LC is touting the fact they can make a vegan pizza now. Things are looking up!

Digging in the dirt

This isn't the tent he gave me, but I assume it looks like this.

I'm trying to get organized and live up to the secret pact I made with myself that go me through the winter. During the cold months, when there was work to do on the house, I comforted myself with the thought: "I'll do it when it warms up."

Then this weekend comes along with 90-degree temperatures. Great. Unable to put it off any longer I went into the back yard with the intent to half-ass some yard cleanup then retreat to the TV again. Over Christmas we refinished some floors in the house, which produced a whole lot of scrap wood. Instead of dealing with it at the time (see above), I just piled all the wood in the yard. The Plywood, 2x4s, Masonite and old wood paneling have shuttled around the yard over the months, coming to rest against the neighbor's chain link fence. It somewhat resembles the barricade in Les Miserables.

I figured I could put the smaller debris in contractor bags and lash together the longest wood boards together in preparation for sawing them into bundles small enough for the trash guy to pick up. This still would leave some huge plywood sheets that would need to be cut repeatedly but there was no way I was doing that for now. I busied myself with the easiest of the tasks, bagging up small garbage, breaking down some of the thinner panels and whatnot. Meanwhile, my neighbor a couple yards over was puttering out back as well.

He struck up a conversation with me, noting that he had just dug up a bunch of dirt from his yard while working on his latest project, which appears to be a sort of gazebo structure (he described it as a 'cabin' and admitted that he's sort of winging the plans, making it up as he goes along; I like him already). Anyhow, he had a bunch of dirt, and he knows we have all these cats running around (his son learned to say "gato" before "Papi," I was somewhat chagrined to learn). The cats love to 'play' in the dirt, as he put it, so it could help keep the cats in my yard if they had more dirt to 'play' in. So I said sure, gimme the dirt.

Herein lies one of the awkward issues of yard-having in Brooklyn: we can't enter each others' yards. My next-door neighbor and I have no fence between us, but nearly every other yard is fenced off. So dirt that needed to travel some 20 feet would need to be carted through the neighbor's house, out the door, down the sidewalk, and through my living room just to get over here. He suggested an alternative: he would fill up sandbags with dirt and hand them over the fence to me.

For the next couple of hours, he shoveled dirt into reinforced bags, dragged them over to a ladder next to the fence, climbed up and gingerly dropped the bag into my waiting hands. I don't have a lot of space to dump extra dirt, but we do have a sizable plot in the back of the yard and a sort of narrow median down the center. We filled up every inch of available dirt-space, and there's still some dirt leftover. Part of his motivation was that now he won't have to pay to have the dirt hauled away. I don't know how much that costs, but he seemed grateful. It must be expensive, cuz I was exhausted and my muscles are all sore from the hauling and dumping; he did all that PLUS the shoveling. He even gave me a new gazebo tent that would have gone unused by him since he was building the permanent cabin thingy. Wow.

I admit I don't interact with my neighbors as much as I should. I talk to the next-door neighbors, since our houses are identical, so we feel like we are sort of related or something. But we're on head-nodding level at best with most of the other neighbors. So it was nice to have an excuse to speak to him, especially since his family is just about the only other family on our end of the block to use their back yards much. I'm hoping we keep talking, I'm racking my brain to find something I can give to him in return, but I'm pretty rusty in the ways of Neighbor Gifting. If I can't find something I would otherwise throw out he might find useful, should I bake him some cookies or something?

But they're never gonna see another one like I had with you

Mugsy is not gonna win any Cat Fancy awards, but he's one of our favorite feral cats. He's gotten a lot sweeter since we callously trapped and castrated him, which makes me think we should start doing this to people who bug us as well. It's tough love! Anyway, he usually hangs out in our yard with his boyfriend George. He has his own chair under the gazebo tent, a disheveled patio chair with a hair-matted cushion on it. He comes by every day. Or I should say, he did come by every day.

Last Tuesday he abruptly stopping showing up. George still came by to eat, but he seemed like half a cat without Mugsy. Of course, he's a feral cat and by definition they don't have a home and are therefore sort of entitled to wander wherever they want. But it seemed increasingly strange that this one wasn't showing up. Frankly, where would he go besides our yard?

So I climbed through the fence in the back yard and started looking for him. It was a dumb idea, like a feral cat is gonna just sit there and wait for me to walk up, o hai. But I thought maybe I could get some idea of what had happened to him. A feral's life is hard, often brutal and usually short. I half-expected to find his dead body in the bushes, guarded by George.

Behind our house there is a run-down rectory and a recently-resurrected church (bad economy = holy rollin' weekends). The rectory house appears to be unused and we often joke that the cats live inside it. Beyond the church, the rest of the block is houses in a variety of styles; right next door is a 6-family frame house. I crept behind the church, simultaneously trying not to attract attention and acting like I was supposed to be there.

I went past the church to the 6-family house. It's in a pretty sorry state, the best thing about it is the relatively new plywood panels boarding up all the windows (still I'm not entirely sure that people aren't living there). Just as I rounded the corner, I saw what appeared to be George's distinctive tail disappearing under the corner of the house. I knelt down and could see a hole just below the aluminum siding, just big enough for a cat to fit through. All joking aside, these feral cats have their own damn house!

I didn't have a flashlight so I couldn't see much more. But I figured if George was in there, then Mugsy was probably also there, if at all. There wasn't anything I could do but hope he would show up again. Just over a week later, Mugsy did return, his eyes crusted mostly shut from an upper respiratory infection, but otherwise unharmed. I can't figure out how he survived all that time, but there's probably water in the house, and who knows, maybe he was catching mice.

God help the local cats if the economy recovers enough that somebody fixes up this neighborhood, where will all the cats live? Don't answer that.

I'm still Jenny from the block

Hey does anybody attend their Block Association meetings? I finally did a couple weeks ago. Sorta.

When we moved in at the end of 2006 we received a flyer for the meeting, but we didn't make it. We didn't see another flyer until a month ago, so I decided I better make it to this one so I could find out the schedule. It was at 6PM, so Jeannie couldn't go. Plus it was that Tuesday a couple weeks ago that snowed all day. I was running around, picking up newly-fixed cats from BARC,I was tired and I had to shovel the sidewalk so nobody sued me. I was thinking of reasons not to go, but I went anyway.

The meeting was at the library at the end of the block, whose staff didn't seem to know anything about any meetings. But the Young Adult Coordinator checked her log book and confirmed that somebody booked a meeting room. She took me to the empty room, so I sat around trying to determine how long to stay before I could in good conscience, bail.

Eventually a guy showed up, he was the treasurer of the group. Nobody else showed up. But we talked for a while and he said he'd try to adjust the meeting to make them more appealing to the block (like moving the time to 7PM so people could actually make it). He had lots of ideas he wanted to act on, but of course the problem was money, and getting people to pitch in.

One idea included getting the city to erect barriers on our block during the days of summer, so the kids could play without fear of being mowed down by anything but gunfire. He brought up an initiative to get people to clean up after their dogs, which would be nice though I'm not sure how to enact it except to put up a bunch of scolding flyers.

When he started talking about dogs, it gave me leeway to starts my spiel on cats. I told him about our TNR efforts, and how the people we've worked with would trap ferals in people's backyards for free. He warmed to the idea, especially when I noted that a fixed cat won't spray that awful musk, or make yowly mating noises.

Additionally I pointed out the ASPCA would be coming to Saratoga park on the 28th to do their Free/Low-Cost Spay thing. He seemed vaguely aware of the Mobile Clinic, but didn't know its schedule. So I said I'd put up some flyers to alert people.

I only put a few homemade flyers (which I forgot to save so I don't have any electronic version, the ones here are general info flyers) up that explain the process, but I justified it because I wanted to focus attention on my own block. While I was hanging a flyer, a couple of women walking a little dog asked me about it. They too seemed to be familiar with it, but didn't know the details. I gave them a flyer and clarified that people on assistance got their pets fixed for free, which they didn't know. Not sure if they'll take their dog in, but I'm glad to get a little evidence that the flyers might help.

Now I just gotta find a way to get more people to show up to the meeting! Maybe I can get the newly-renovated Dunkin Donuts to cater the affair.

Once more with feeling

Pre-Op Gladys

The weather is starting to change and the local stray cat population is starting to go nuts. Maybe these events aren't related, but the cats I know around here have been getting goofy lately. Gladys is recovering nicely from her surgery/vaccinations, she's gone outside a couple of times but seems to be content to stay indoors (what a surprise). The resident cats know not to mess with her, lest they be subjected to piercing screeching. She may not like the other cats, but she rarely has to tell them twice to keep their distance.

But the otherwise-outdoor cats have all but built one of those things you put up against a castle wall to storm the gates or whatever. Flossie, who still is believed to have a litter in the parking lot across the street) comes to eat and never wants to leave. The gray tabby who we always mistake for Decatur has become bolder as well, and Gladys' 3 remaining kittens are getting especially intrusive.


The orange kitten crossed a behavioral threshold the other night, suddenly not only tolerating being petted, but coming up and asking for it. He's still skittish, but otherwise he's ready to be a house cat. His brothers are less advanced, but they see him getting scratched under the chin and are probably thinking about it. I feel bad for the most fearful of the three, he sits on the windowsill and cries at Gladys. But Gladys seems to have forgotten she ever had kittens, she barely looks at him. Luckily he has the companionship of his brothers to assuage his woes. I keep trying to explain to them that it's in their best interest to get tame right now since the younger they are, the better adoption-fodder they are. Even Gladys may be a hard sell, since she's an adult more or less, and Flossie will probably only appeal to people who have a soft spot for special needs cats, or old ladies (I mean, Flossie would be good for an old lady, not people who are into old ladies).

Anyway, I need to begin construction on some bad-weather cat shelters. Lucky for me, I live in a neighborhood literally surrounded by 99 Cent stores, so it shan't be hard to pick up some big storage bins. But I gotta relocate some of these cats to the back yard; I get enough needling from the neighborhood kids as it is without having the areaway full of cat condos (lately I've been getting "Dude! Kitty, kitty, kitty!" in my direction.)

I'm also doing other stuff, including but not limited to preparing for Motico's first shows since last year! Basically we're practicing a lot and I'm trying to find new stuff to add to my rig to cover up for my lack of proficiency.