Archive for November, 2008

Red-Tails in Love

November 24, 2008


When I was a kid I wanted to be a wildlife biologist when I grew up.  I wanted to be like those people who live in the woods with packs of wolves or spend years out in the ocean following migrating pods of whales.  But living in New York really put me at a disadvantage; how was I supposed to become a wildlife biologist if the only animals I saw were pigeons and squirrels?  I thought it was very unfair.  It took me a while to appreciate the wildlife that was, literally, in my own backyard.  It happened because my neighbor who lived behind us had a bird feeder in his backyard.  And from my tree-top attic bedroom window, I had the perfect view of the birds.  I couldn’t go hiking in the woods or explore salt marshes like I wanted to, but I could watch the birds.  I got myself a Peterson’s field guide and a pair of binoculars and became a bird watcher.

I don’t want to be a wildlife biologist anymore.  I went to college where I actually started caring about people and stuff, so things changed.  Sometimes I wish I was out in the woods tracking wolves instead of in this cubicle because I feel like there is still a part of me that is eternally ten years old, which is why I enjoyed Red Tails In Love so much.  This endearing and funny book is about the first nesting pair of red-tailed hawks in NYC and the bird watching Regulars who followed them.  Pale Male and his mate Lola made their nest on a windowsill of a 12th floor apartment in an exclusive 5th Ave residential building opposite Central Park (Mary Tyler Moore is a tenant, and she became one of the hawks’ biggest fans and advocates).  Author Marie Winn and her band of birdwatchers chronicle the hawks’ every move – their mating rituals, hunting places, and their attempts to start a family in the middle of the city.  When it’s not hawk watching season, Winn explores the park’s other bird visitors.  A few sightings of a rare common loon caused great excitement among the Regulars, as did a nesting pair of killdeers and green herons. 

Both my current self and my ten year old self love this book as it encourages people to appreciate the natural world around them, even if you live in New York City.  Pale Male and Lola became quite famous because of this book.  They starred in a PBS documentary and have their own website at  However, in 2004 the owner of the apartment where the birds made their nest (who’s identity remains a mystery to do this day) removed the anti-pigeon spikes that anchored the nest.  A wooden platform was built for the birds, and they did rebuild their nest but they have not hatched any new chicks since then.     

Maybe its because I spend 40 hours a week in a cubicle, but when I have days off I need to spend as much time as possible out of doors.  (Maybe this is my ten year old self yelling at my current self?)  It was this driving force and the inspiration from this book that caused me to spend this past Saturday afternoon wandering aimlessly around the nature trails of Prospect Park, despite the high temperate reaching only 31 degrees.  But in a way, it was perfect – it was bright, sunny and blustery and I was wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing.  I saw the usual winter birds – cardinals, blue jays, dark eyed juncos and mourning doves.  Its reassuring to know that wherever I am or whatever I do with my career, I can always go outside and watch the birds.

PS – Marie Winn keeps a Central Park Birding Blog: Marie Winn’s Central Park Nature News

Show and Tell

November 21, 2008

Enjoy some random photos while I procrastinate at work.  Please forgive my lack of photography skills.  I don’t know squat about photography but that doesn’t seem to stop me from taking pictures anyway.

Back in September I did the Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk with my co-worker.  I walked, of course. (Why run when you can walk? is what I say).  The cool thing about this run, besides it being for a good cause, is you get to go through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel




When we were kids, my sister and I used to tell our little brother that the boogie man lived in these ventilation cracks that line in the inside of the tunnel.  He believed us and cried and begged my dad to take the bridge instead of the tunnel every time we drove into Brooklyn.  Here’s a boogie man crack:


In the North Woods of Central Park:


Here is Leo, my gown-up puppy playing with my cousin’s new puppy, Abbie:


Here is my former kitty, Oliver, hanging out with his new BFF, Hallie.  Oliver is the orange one. I miss that little fur ball:




November 17, 2008

November is the best month for us civil servants.  Being a civil servant is not glamorous.  We work for the government, so most of the time people hate us.  But, in the month of November, we have three days off. Three paid holidays – Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day.  Three days off in one month.  No other month is as generous with its holidays as November.  I love November.  So how am I spending my free time during this joyous month?  By watching the most depressing TV and movies and by reading the most depressing books ever.  Its not like I purposely decided to watch TV and read books about insanity and death, it just sort of happened by accident.  Maybe it the universe’s way of balancing the joy and elation I felt earlier this month with Obama’s victory.  So let’s review, shall we?

First up, I saw the movie Rachel Getting MarriedIt got the best reviews ever, but I’m sorry, I hated it.  It was so pretentious, unrealistic, and unbelievable.  It is about a dysfunctional family, with Anne Hathaway playing the troubled ex junkie/alcoholic who comes home from rehab for her perfect older sister’s wedding.  I’m usually all for good family dramas, but the problem was the movie was filled with, as one reviewer on IMDB said, “a bunch of boring, self-centered, too good to be true people” that annoyed the crap out of me.

Then I saw Synecdoche, New York with the always amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman, which gets the prize for most depressing movie I’ve ever seen.  Hoffman is a theater director who is slowly loosing his sense of reality and increasingly blurring the lines between the autobiographical play he is directing and his own life.  Manny says its supposed to be existential, but I say that it made me want to curl up in bed with hot chocolate and watch cartoons. 

But instead, I went home and watched this terrifying Frontline episode on PBS called Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.  Lee Atwater was a Republican strategist, he was the Karl Rove of his time, actually, Karl Rove was Atwater’s protege.  Atwater spent his career planting the seed of fear and distrust into the public mind about his political opponents and then sat back and watched it grow.  What happened to him?  Dude was killed by brain cancer when he was only 40 years old.  Towards the end of his life, he freaked out because he was afraid he was going to hell for the things he did and spent his last days apologizing to everyone he knew and praying to every religion for forgiveness.  If you don’t believe in karma, watch this documentary, and it will make a believer out of you. 

On to books – I read the morbid and gross The Almost Moon  by Alice Sebold about a woman who kills her elderly mentally ill mother, and the tragic and depressing Cost by Roxana Robinson about a mother and her disconnected family who try and rally together to save her son who is addicted to heroin.  They were both good books that kept me awake on my morning train ride, they were suspenseful and well written, but l don’t have that much to say about them other than that. 

This weekend I stayed home, watched Kung Fu Panda, cooked this strangely delicious black bean chili with butternut squash, and started reading a book about the first breeding pair of red-tailed hawks in Central Park.  This pretty much makes up for all those sad movies and books.  Plus I have one other holiday to look forward to – Thanksgiving.

Election Night at Hampshire College

November 7, 2008

Election night at my crazy hippie college, that I love dearly.  I was there during the 2004 elections and that was depressing.  People went around breaking shit.  This video made my day.  I love when the students start singing the national anthem out of nowhere, with flute and drum set accompaniment. 

Holy Crap

November 5, 2008

Last night was unbelievable.  For the first time in my life, I actually feel all patriotic and proud of my country and shit.  Weird.  I admit, I shed some tears during Obama’s acceptance speech.  How could I not?  Then Brian Williams at NBC held up a poster with pictures of all the past presidents and pointed out how they were all white men with white hair.  And now Obama’s face will be up there!  Its so historic!  Dammit Brian Williams, you made me cry again.  I felt a little bad for McCain, I thought his speech was very gracious.  I hated how people booed every time he mentioned Obama’s name.  I loved that I lived to see such an event take place.  I love that Obama’s family is multi-racial and reaches across continents and how this represents a changing demographic in America, because I consider Manny and his family part of my own family and I love how this is reflected in Obama’s victory.  Diversity is beautiful, people!  Embrace it.  I hope that I also get to see a woman president in my lifetime.  I think its possible, thanks to Hillary.  (Just, please gods, not Palin.  Or any republican for that matter.  Thanks.)

Over the weekend I went to see an interview with Junot Diaz and Lenoard Lopate of WNYC at the Brooklyn Library.  A young Dominican girl had just commented how his books were the only thing that she could relate too.  After reading his books, for the first time, she could say, “this is what I am.  An American and a Dominican.”  Diaz responded, saying that in folklore and mythology, people who do not have a reflection in the mirror are ghosts.  If you don’t have a reflection, you don’t exist.  He told us to think about how it was for him, and so many other immigrant children and minority children growing up and never seeing a reflection of their life and their reality through TV, movies, music, radio, newspapers, novels, everything.  Or, the only reflections they see of themselves are negative.  How lonely and discouraging that would be for these kids.  And now?  These kids are seeing their reflection, they see a positive example in Obama on what is possible in this country.  In the spirit of being all sappy and patriotic, I saw this sign on TV – “Rosa sat, so Martin could walk, so Obama could run, so our children could fly”

I am still registered to vote at my grandmother’s address.  It took me an hour to get there on the subway, but I went to vote.  There were two people in line, me and an elderly Russian lady who had to be at least 95 years old, who once she was behind the curtain of the voting machine, kept yelling and complaining how the names were too small and how was anyone supposed to see what they were doing.  I went up to sign to my name on the roll, and the name right above mine was my grandmother’s.  She passed away last November.  I signed my name under the copy of her signature, I had not seen her handwriting in so long.  She had beautiful, curvy, elegant script, a lot like mine.    Two years ago when this campaign began she announced she was voting for Hillary Clinton.  She was so excited to see a woman as a presidential front runner.  I know she would have been equally excited about Obama’s amazing victory.  Unlike most of my extended family, who actually told me that Obama couldn’t be president because of his name (!), she never judge people based on race or religion, she was loving and accepting and honest.  She is always my example on how to be a better person.