Wildlife in the City

Riding the subway sometimes feels like a wildlife journey. This morning as I waited for the train to arrive on the outdoor platform, I heard the quacking of ducks. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark. I couldn’t see the birds, but I heard them  quacking to each other incessantly. They had a lot to say and were passionate about it. Finally they took a breath and that’s when the geese started in with their honking. They were loud and vociferous. The ducks couldn’t take it and flew over my head with jet-engine speed.  FullSizeRender (23)

Yesterday as I boarded the train to go home a woman told me not to sit down. “Why?” I asked. “There’s a rat in here!” she said horrified. I look behind me and sure enough the rodent was zig-sagging across the aisle. The passengers were screaming, men and women alike, jumping out of the way. The rat scampered as fast as his little legs could take him in and out of the rows of seats. Women were lifting their legs. The screams got louder. It ran past me and onto two seats by the door. It found a hole in the back of one of them and disappeared.

We stopped at another station. People got on. The seats were filling up. The only two empty ones had the rat in residence. “Don’t sit there!” a man said to people who wanted to sit down. “There’s a rat in the seat,” he said. The riders walked to another car.

At another stop a woman got on and sat down. The same man warned her, but this time in Spanish. He just knew she was Hispanic. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No me da miedo.” She was right. There was nothing to be afraid of. The rat was in its hidey-hole with a palpitating heart hoping nobody would rip the seat out and extinguish it. The rodent had nothing to fear. There wasn’t a soul on board with the courage to do that. Even the men, some in hard hats and fluorescent vests, big burly construction guys with tool belts around their middles, might as well have been ballerinas in tutus for all the help they provided.

It showed me I better be my own warrior.

It also occurred to me that the easiest way to hold a group of people hostage would be to unleash a few rats on a subway system. The entire system would be paralyzed in no time. 

Calvin says, “You humans. What’s a stupid rat going to do to you? Now snakes, there’s a thought.”  beagle

Up or Down?

As a friend just posted on Facebook, “I’m thankful to God for daylight savings”. Frankly it’s a tradition that has outlived its purpose and it’s time to chuck it, but until that happens, this time of year gives me God’s paintbrush strokes all over the sky when I come into work.

No two sunrises are the same. Each one has its unique features.

Some are bold and striking. Others wear summer pastels. 

The cloud formations are different, too. Sometimes they come at me with furious energy and tones. Others are quieter and appear in a whisper.

The morning sky is like a fashion runway with the color statement for the day. I look forward to it.

What floors me is my fellow passengers on the train. Nobody looks out the window at the spectacle. They’re blind. They prefer their inner landscape curated by social media.

Calvin says, “Most people don’t look up or down. Me? I love sticking my nose into a burning bush of sunrise.” beagle

 

Look Up, Will You!

This is the time of year for majestic sunrises and sunsets.

I see them because I’m on the subway at those hours.  IMG_5728

While I’m busy clicking away, my traveling companions have their earbuds and electronic devises on.

They’re watching their shows, but missing a better one outside.

This phenomena even happens on a walk in the country. FullSizeRender

The trees are in full blossom, the creek is gurgling, the ravens are cawing in the trees, the squirrels are zooming across meadows full of wildflowers, and the hikers? They’re plugged into their music with heads down watching their feet.

Thank you technology.

You’ve made us blind.  We now prefer our inner landscape where there’s nothing to see because it’s dark in there.

If we can’t enjoy nature anymore, what makes us believe we can enjoy each other?

Calvin says, “That’s why you need a dog to watch so he doesn’t roll in that wonderful, foul smelling cow manure.” beagle

 

 

 

A Good Friday

I love when police officers ride the subway in the mornings.

Immediately everyone calms down and there’s peace in the car.

These officers usually travel in pairs and stand close to one another by the door as they chat.

But you know they’re not really chatting. They’re checking everyone out.

This morning another pair showed up.

This time it was a tall officer with his Westminster-Dog-Show K-9 companion.

Nobody looked at the officer.

We took a collective breath of admiration for the dog.

He was simply gorgeous. And friendly. But that was camouflage.

I wouldn’t want to smell like a bad guy because that friendliness would turn into a growling mass of teeth.

So I got up from my seat one stop early and walked over.

I had to.

“How old is he?” I asked.  IMG_0970

“He’s seven,” the officer said. The dog looked up at me and then lay down. Phew. I passed the bad guy test.

“Was he brought over from Germany?”

The officer shot me a look that said, How did you know that? “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Do you speak to him in German?” I asked.

“No, he speaks English,” the officer said.

Of course.

The dog continued lying down and looking very relaxed, to keep everyone on board oohing and aahing over him.

I said thank you while I kept my hands in my pockets to keep from reaching down and scratching him behind the ears. Sweet and lovely as he was, I also know he’s trained like a ninja and I didn’t want to see that side of him.

But he did make my morning commute oh so sweet.

Calvin says, “Somebody has to play bad cop. Glad it’s not me. I’d just sniff out everybody’s lunch.” beagle

The World on the Train

I asked my seatmate on the subway this morning what station he was getting off at since I needed to get out. It turned out to be the same as mine. I noticed an accent, so I asked him where he was from.

“Zimbabwe,” he said.

I was waiting to hear Berkeley.

“Have you been back recently?” I said.

“Oh maybe 12 years ago. I’m more a native Californian, been here for 28 years,” he said.

“Do you miss it?”

“Not really, it’s a mess.” photo (7)

“The world’s a mess,” I said.

He agreed. He was a man in his 40’s, fair skinned, blue eyes, blonde short cut hair. He looked like the average American except for his accent.

I looked around the subway car. The world was in there – African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Koreans, White, and this morning the man from Africa.

Who says America is no longer the melting pot of the world?

They just haven’t ridden a subway lately.

Calvin says, “You want melting pot? Visit your local doggie daycare. It’s dizzying.” beagle

 

 

 

A Reality Ride Home

Last week’s subway train was late pulling into the station. The crowd shoving to get on board reminded me of a stampede of cows racing down a hillside before an earthquake hit. A few stations later, a commotion between two people began at the back of the car.

“Don’t touch me!” a woman yelled to a man who had pushed his way onto the car.

“I didn’t touch you!” he screamed back.   Christmas2

“Yes you did! Don’t you touch me!” she bellowed back.

Their voices intensified as we traveled through the tunnel to the next station. At this point everyone was straining their necks watching them.

A reality show was unfolding before us.

Next the name calling began, followed by obscene language, and then tempers erupted.

I didn’t want to be witness to a homicide. I prayed. I asked God to calm them down. He did, but it only lasted until the next subway station. Then both parties detonated again.

“Don’t you remember they taught  you in kindergarten to keep your hands off of other people? Did you learn that?” the woman said.

The man said nothing. He drew a knife.  The woman screamed even louder.

The subway was now parked at the station.  Seconds later the police showed up and stepped on board. They handcuffed both parties and escorted them out of the station.

The rest of the ride home was in eerie silence.

Calvin says, “What they need are sniffer dogs to ferret out eruptions like they do drugs at airports. I’m game. I’ve had lots of practice.”  beagle

 

The Street Crazies Aren’t Always People

My everyday morning commute to work is your typical jammed-packed-full-of-bodies-on-a-train experience. Nothing romantic or inspirational about it. I serves me well for characters in a story, for recording dialogue, and for picking up nuances of personality.

This morning, however, I met a character that made me laugh out loud.

His name is Buddy.

But Buddy is no ordinary personage.

He’s an English bulldog with panache.

I’ve seen Buddy before. He’s usually on the other side of the street with his owner, in an enclosed area between two buildings, barking at an orange ball the size of a watermelon. His owner is usually on his cell phone, so Buddy has to wait to get his attention. Hence the barking. Then his owner kicks the ball and Buddy waddles after it with more barking. His barking sounds more like snapping with a smoker’s voice. It echoes down the street and commands attention.

This morning I heard the snapping before I saw Buddy. This time he was on my side of the street. I rushed to catch up to him.

Buddy didn’t have his orange ball. Instead he was cruising down the street on a skateboard. 

That’s when I laughed out loud.

I caught up to him at the curb waiting for a car to clear the street. Buddy seems to know about streets and curbs and traffic because he was waiting patiently there. His skateboard had flipped over, exposing the four orange wheels. It seems orange is Buddy’s favorite color. He snapped and gnawed on one of the wheels.

“Flip it over,” his owner said.

Buddy barked with frenzy.

“Come on, Buddy, flip it over,” the man said.

Buddy opened his mouth, bit down on the wheel he was conversing with, and with a turn of his head, flipped the skateboard onto its right side. Then he nudged it with his nose, which in his case was his entire face, and pushed it across the street, which by now was empty of cars. Once on the next street, Buddy hopped on, peddled with his front right leg, gathered speed, then climbed on for the ride.

“How did you teach him to do this?” I asked the owner, a man as strong and street smart as Buddy.

“He taught himself. One day he got on it, and it’s been his thing ever since,” he said.

I looked up and Buddy had hopped off just in time before the skateboard crashed into a tree. It flipped over.

Apparently Buddy knows about trees, too.

“He’s getting good exercise,” I said.

“Yea, I’m hoping it will lengthen his life. His breed doesn’t live long, eight to ten years. Maybe with all the exercise he’ll live to be twelve,” the man said.

Then he added, as if talking more to himself than to me. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him. I like him better than people.”

Calvin says, “Buddy sounds deranged. Skateboarding? That’s like a beagle zip-lining with his nose. I’m also not happy sharing top billing with this creature.”