As soon as I walked out of my front door last night, en route to the Art Bar in the West Village for my going away party, I heard music blaring from a parked car. Now that winter is over, the natives are getting restless and beginning to hang out at night.
I am leaving just in time. Just as I was silently counting my days until I lived in civilization again, I spotted, just three buildings down from mine, a lone chicken bone on the sidewalk. I whipped out my BlackBerry and snapped the accompanying photo. Yes indeed, summer is approaching. And thankfully I will not be here to experience another.
I hate to leave New York, a city I really do love, on such a sour note. I don’t prefer my last memories of New York to be that of uncivilized Harlem any more than I want my last memories of my mother being her months in a skilled nursing facility, unable to respond to commands, talk or eat without a tube. But such is life. We don’t always get what we want.
A while back my friend Karen asked me if I had problems with Harlem because it was a black neighborhood. Hardly!! I know almost nothing but black neighborhoods. I grew up in Windsor Hills. Bought a house in Ladera Heights. For most of my life the overwhelmingly majority of my neighbors have been black. But of a different ilk than the majority of those I have encountered in Harlem. I know there are plenty of sophisticated folks in my ‘hood but I don’t see enough of them for they are not hanging out on the corners, shooting dice against stoops, leaving chicken bones on the sidewalks, peeing in the street.
I have witnessed so much public urination that I have been scarred. No lie. It has gotten to a point that whenever I see a man standing still with his back to me I think he is peeing. A couple of days ago I saw a man standing in front of a wall in the subway station at Rockefeller Center. Being that I can’t keep my mouth shut, I walked toward him to chastise him for urinating. Then I saw another set of legs. His girlfriend was standing with her back to the wall and the two were making out. I left them alone. Relieved that he wasn’t peeing.
But I hate that New York has put that fear in me. I can be in the cleanest city in the world but when I am out at night I am constantly looking for rats and mice. I don’t blame Harlem for that because I have never seen a rat outside of the train station. The rats are fierce on the streets of Tribeca and SoHo, daring you to cross the street when you encounter them from the opposite way. Mice ruled the Upper East Side. I don’t know how long it will take me to get over searching for rodents when I walk.
L.A. has its share of creatures too. I’ve seen possums wandering the streets of Ladera at night. Lizards are plentiful in the hillside behind me. One even got in my dining room one day. I’ll never forget going over to pick it up, thinking it was a leaf. When I realized it was a lizard, I screamed and ran away. I called my mother at work and asked her how to kill a lizard. She said to hit it on its head with a stick. I did just that, whacking the poor creature so hard that it went flying into the living room. Not knowing what to do next, I picked up a stack of newspapers and dropped it on the lizard, flattening the poor sucker. When my date came over that evening, I asked him to pick up the papers and dispose of the lizard underneath.
Every city has something.
When I was in L.A. last month, my friend Cheryl joked that she was going to put chicken bones outside my house to make me feel at home. We laughed. But it’s really no laughing matter.