I came across this memoir tonight (December 6, 2010). As I read it many feelings came over me. Perhaps one of those feelings was 'loneliness'--not the kind of loneliness you experience when you have no one to talk to, but rather the worse kind of loneliness you're struck with when you have no one you want to talk to.
The memoir (for I have no other word to describe it) is very much incomplete. I began writing it about a year after the terrible incident which occured on December 7, 2004 at 927 Fifth Avenue. I had planned to continue it and even one day complete it, but now exactly six years later it appears that I never will complete it. It is most likely not worth much and perhaps not worth posting, but I thought that since I took the time to write it and since I seem to have lost the spirit I had when I wrote it five years ago that I will post it anyway.
After reading it I thought that I should make some changes and even look for spelling and grammatical errors, but I decided to leave it exactly as I found it. Maybe people should stop worrying about how stupid they can appear when their spelling and grammar is bad and just write more from their hearts than from their dictionaries and then more sincere thoughts may be liberated from them.
December 1, 2005
The last day of my vacation and I’m
sitting in a coffee shop with my back to the window which looked out onto Seventh
Avenue and more noteworthy, Carnegie Hall.
The only reason I was in Café
Europa just after lunch instead of being in Central Park
is because it was raining. I was not too thrilled to be spending that Tuesday
scribbling mindlessly in my hardcover notebook, instead of being in the Park
looking for Pale Male & Lola. The weekend was pleasant and I did spend all of
it near The Model Sailboat Pond with my telescope cart. I remember finding Pale
Male & Lola on their nest bringing twigs. On Sunday Pale Male was on a tall
crane on the west side of The MET.
It was after ; I hardly pay any attention to the time, but indeed
it was after because I’ve gone
through the sequence of events many times during the last year. I have a good
idea of what I was writing also even if I haven’t really checked the pages in
quite some time. It would have been some mindless incoherent rambling where the
flow of the ink on the paper was more soothing that the rigid words that I
always feel compelled to keep structured so someone rummaging through my
possessions after my death may at least be entertained if they took the time to
scroll through the pages.
I felt my phone vibrating and
naturally expected to be getting a call from my place of employment. It was not
my place of employment. It was Jane Corbin.
She spoke in an excited voice with
words that still weakens the bones in my body. I pretended to be in control and
even tried to convince her that she was mistaken. Nevertheless, as I spoke to
her I was on my way.
I have bad news for you...they are taking down Pale Male’s nest!” Jane has a
very soothing voice even when she’s delivering news of a distressing matter.
Her apartment located in The Woody Building has a window which looks out at the
Café Europa is just two blocks away
from my apartment. I considered running home for a small camera but decided against
it. Instead, I ran up to Central Park South and I believe I found a taxi in
front of whichever hotel is around the east corner of Seventh Avenue.
The rain was not too heavy but it was steady. I must have surely passed
carriage horses along the way because my cab turned into the Sixth
Avenue entrance to the park and headed north along
the East Drive. My memory
of that ride is mostly made up really, since I can only remember for certain
getting out of the cab at 5th Avenue
and 72nd Street.
I stared up at the building and saw what I saw—two young men on a window
washing rig busy at work—all the twigs that comprised the nest were gone and I
saw the arm of one of the men applying what appeared to be a dry brush on the
wall where once stood the nest of Pale Male.
As for the cab, he must have turned
down Fifth Avenue or he may
have gone straight across 72nd Street.
I don’t know why I don’t remember. At that intersection there must have been a
bus passing—there are always busses on that Avenue. I must have looked at the
traffic signal before crossing also, but I remember no such things. There must
have been sparrows nestled in those bushes along the wall on Fifth
Avenue or pigeons foraging on the wet sidewalk. I
cannot recall anything like that though. I can only fill in the missing
portions between the vivid images I have since retained.
The doorman must have been wearing
shoes—of course. And they must have had legs—certainly. However I only remember
the parts of their faces revealed between the wrought iron framework of the
front door. They wore hats also, sections of which were revealed through the
door. I remember the word ‘no’ but they must have said other words. I can still
see the long ropes hanging from the roof as I stepped back from the closed
front doors and looked up into the rain.
At some poorly ventilated factory
in some third world country some underpaid lowly worker must have turned some
steel wheels and tightened some springs and out of one side of a very noisy
machine must have come the very rope at which I stared. A lowly worker may not
have ever imagined that the lengths of rope that was produced on his shift at
the factory would one day be hanging from the roof of a Fifth
However there may be a small chance
of that very lowly worker one day sitting on a log under some palm trees just
outside of his factory in that impoverished country and where he may have opened
up his meager lunch and be saddened by the hopelessness of his mundane life,
only to look up into the sky and watch a bird soaring between the swaying palm
trees against a patch of blue sky and for at least a moment he’ll feel the
freedom of the soaring bird on his chest and his meager lunch may have a bit of
flavor and that moment may very well last a long time with him.
The rope bounced and dangled as I
saw the two young men milling about in their contraption that was stationed
sacrilegiously close to the hawk’s nest.
I would like to believe that there
was at least one sparrow in a tree across in the park who huddled under a few remaining
dried leaves of the late fall and looked at me with some pity for the way I was
behaving, because I couldn’t find a single human who understood what was
happening. To date I still trust that a little sparrow was indeed watching.
The doormen refused to call Mary
Tyler Moore for me but later did accept a note I scribbled to her telling her
that I was downstairs and of what had happened.
I made calls on my phone with its
dying battery. Looking back now at all that happened back then, I realize that
my biggest enemy was the human language.
It was my language against theirs--puffs
of air spitted out from mouths--accusations, denials, warnings, threats! But
they were all words--evolved out of greed, deception and a mad quest for
I went into the service entrance to
speak to the building superintendent. I was bombarded with the stench of
cigarette smoke which I never encountered on my previous visits there. On this
occasion I did not have to wait for Hugo, instead he was waiting for me. He appeared
to be expecting me. He stood in the hallway propping his short body with an
outstretched arm against a wall which looked like it had two hundred coats of
glossy paint on it. The other arm hung to his side and bore the putrid
“Hugo what is happening—the nest is
gone!” I uttered in as steady a voice as I could compose.
“What you talking ‘bout man?” he replied
calmly in his thick South American accent, his face bearing a cool suave smile
as if imitating a B Movie actor.
“Come on Hugo the nest is already
down! What the hell happened?”
“Oh don’t worry ‘bout that! They
just check the cracks and clean up the building—they don’t take no nest
“Hugo don’t bullshit me man! I was
out there I saw them put the nest into garbage bags!”
“You take it up with Brown Harris
Stevens man—they in charge!” he dropped the façade suddenly.
I really cannot remember how I
ended the conversation and I cannot remember how I got back to the front of the
building, but I was soon back in front pacing up and down in front of the
I went over to Jane Corbin’s house
and borrowed her phone after my battery finally died.
I was lost for words after a while
and I began to do what a starling would do when it knew there was no justice
for having its young stolen from her nest. I yelled!
I called 911 on Jane’s phone and I
described to them what was happening. They naturally said that it was not an
“I’ll make it an emergency Mame!
All I want is for a cop to come and stop what is happening until someone in
authority can get here.” I cannot remember the exact words I used for the rest
of the conversation. But I tried to explain that a law was being broken and all
I wanted was a cop to come over and be present. A 911 operator is not the kind
of person you really should have any sort of conversation with but I had no
alternative—I just didn’t know who else to call.
“Mame, if you don’t send a cop over
I’m going to pull on the ropes and then we are
going to have an emergency!” I had obviously lost it somewhat, but I never went
I kept looking at the doormen and I
begged them to call Mary for me. On the following night she told me that they
did deliver my note and she was trying to call me but as you know now my
battery had died.
I must have made more than one call
to 911 because I was eventually connected to Lee Scheneckenburger (via 911) of
The US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Honestly I can’t tell the
difference between the FWS and the DEP and the EPA and DEC. I had a recent
conversation with the legendary Vivian Socol who explained the differences
between these various agencies. I had just been introduced to her by Anne
Shannahan as the two ladies were walking up the hill from Turtle Pond that led
to the East Drive. All
three of us stood at the side of the path under The Polish King statue as the
small white haired woman described each agency’s function with what appeared to
be years of frustration. She also described her contempt at various degrees for
each one. Vivian is a renowned bird rehabber for New York
City. More noteworthy; she is the only human being
that has ever touched Pale Male.
“Where is this nest located?” asked
Mr. Schneckenburger. Even if it was unnecessary I remember looking up at the
street sign and reading out the name.
“It’s at 74th Street and
Fifth Avenue!” I yelled all through our
conversation. He remained calm. My first name was to his tone what my tone was
to his surname.
“Oh I know about that nest—that
building does not need permission to removed that nest—that nest is abandoned!”
The noise of the Fifth
Avenue traffic with its busses and reckless cabs
pounding down the road could not match my reaction to the man’s absurd
“...Email the pictures to me...” he
To transcribe the rest of the
conversation is not just pointless, but it really gives me a stabbing pain in
my head. Because as I write this it is December 1, 2005—just a few days short
of a full year since this horrible incident and nothing has changed in any of
these departments. Lee Schneckenburger is still behind his desk in Long
Island or wherever he operates from. He is still putting his
rubber stamp on forms filled out by land developers, authorizing the
destruction of animals. His office has still not received any punishment for
their hand in this evil deed. This is the agency that is supposed to protect
innocent animals. All across the country these poor sweet animals are being
killed for exotic food, for their skin or just killed for the hell of it. The
Schneckenburgers of the entire planet is there to mediate between the wealthy
and the government to provide a license to destroy animals that cannot speak
our poisonous language.
I watched the window-washing
platform come slowly down. There was another man on the roof directing the two
workers on the platform. As the rig came to a stop over the building’s front
garden the two young men began to unload the blue plastic bags that were laid
out along the length of the rig.
“Hey let me have the nest will
you?” I asked the two men. They murmured something illegible. “Come on man it
garbage isn’t it?” I steered my attention to one of the two.
“No speak Englais...” he uttered. I
became annoyed since I was certain he understood me.
“Come on man it just garbage—it
means a lot to me and you’re just going to throw it away.” That was the TV
version of what I said to him. What I really said was more fitted for HBO.
I approached the rig and began to
pick up one of the bags. It was very heavy so I peered inside and saw that
there were just tools inside it. They both rushed toward me to prevent further
“There’s nothing in there—just
tools” said one and he closed back the bag hurriedly. I looked over at the
other bags and realized that there was a good chance the nest was not in any of
“I thought you didn’t speak
Englais?” I reminded him. I backed off reasoning that these guys were not to be
blamed and I should not direct any energy toward them.
I walked around confused; none of
those bags were big enough to hold the nest. What had happened? I wanted to be
made the biggest fool ever right there on Fifth Avenue.
I wanted everyone to laugh at me and call me a big jerk. I wanted Hugo to come
out and show me that they really were fixing the building and that I was a
total idiot for acting like I did. I truly wanted it all to be a big
misunderstanding. But the image of the man brushing clean the wall behind the
empty arch came charging back to be—I was not wrong.
They had handed the nest material
to person or persons on the roof. None of it came down to the street that
night. This fact I pieced together days later, but on that night I followed the
young men and watched them put the bags into a small van. I wrote the license
plate number down in my note book. I still look back at that bit of scribbling
in the light rain with my fountain pen.
Of all the photographs that I had
taken of Pale Male and everything else related to him over the years, I had not
even a small camera to document anything from that day. The van had the title
printed in plain black letters;
The very next day I was getting
threats from the owner of Basonic Construction. He claimed that his company did
not take any nest down and if I didn’t take his number off my website he was
going to sue me for damages.
He was right; Basonic Construction
did not remove the nest. The company that removed the nest was owned by his
uncle whom had borrowed his van for the evening--another fine example to
demonstrate the splendor of the human language.
Soon people began coming over.
Richard Pyle came from The Associated Press in less than a half hour after I
called him. Richard tried to talk to the doormen but they, as expected, did not
give any information to him.
It was when I introduced him to
Jane Corbin and she bluntly refused to talk to him is when I realized that this
was going to be a scarier night that I had not prepared for. One of the biggest
supporters of the nest had backed out of putting herself on the line for it. I
tried to understand her position; she is a real estate agent and if her name
got published in a matter like this it could affect her reputation. Her husband
who was very willing to talk was instantly shut up as she ran over to him and
physically pulled him away from Richard.
“The building was so good for ten
years—the hawks are going to find a tree to nest in...” Jane once again stated
in her once soothing voice. When I borrowed her phone she was at a meeting or
something and came down to the lobby to meet me. She hugged me and tried to
comfort me with those very words. I accepted her comfort but was unyielding to
her advice to accept what was done. When I heard her speak to Richard Pyle and
saw how unsupportive she was her true colors were revealed to me. Her voice was
not soothing anymore; rather it was like a blunt hacksaw blade gnawing into my
ear. I looked at her and decided that I would not expend any energy toward her
hopeless attitude. All the same I registered her words in my mind;
“The Building was so good for ten
years...” on another occasion she said;
“They put up with it for ten
“He’ll find a tree, and it’ll be
better than that nest...
“They were so good for ten years...”
We were all in the lobby of the WoodyBuilding when this was happening
and I remembered Richard throwing a fit.
“How the hell am I supposed to
write a story if none of you people want to talk to me?”
I read very little of what was
published in the newspaper during the heat of last December, but of the little
I read I took notice of Richard Pyle’s quote of Jane Corbin. He wrote something
‘Jane Corbin said that the building
was so good for all these years so she cannot understand why they’ll do something
like this now.’
Some people believe the world will
end with a great flood, others believe it’ll be hit by a meteor from
space—nuclear war--famine. My personal belief is that our language will
eventually destroy us—and what a horrible tormenting death it will be.
I don’t remember exactly when I saw
EJ McAdams and his colleague Igal. They were in front of the building early and
the sight of them gave me a lot of comfort. I didn’t feel like the lone insane
person making a big deal over a silly bird nest and bothering respectable
people about it.
It never stopped raining. I don’t
remember when I cursed Charles for not being there, and I don’t know if I truly
believed that somehow he was watching what was going on, but I knew that he
picked a very awkward time to die and it made no sense to me that he of all
people was not going to be here to see this through. I recalled one day when I
myself had to calm him down when he took too seriously, some careless statement
a passerby uttered about Pale Male. I don’t remember exactly what it was--something
mildly negative but by no means callous.
I myself was the new kid on the
block compared to ‘the regulars’.
Lee Stinchcomb came over and it was
like seeing the next best thing to Charles. This was their nest. If it wasn’t
for their dedication to their hawk watching I would never have ever been a part
of any of it. I wish my memory was better so I can remember more of Lee’s
reaction but I just cannot remember. It must be because the part that I
remember very vividly knocked out all the before and after parts.
“Well I have to get to my
Butterfly...” something or the other. She must have had an umbrella too because
it just never stopped raining. Lee hurrying off to her volunteer job at the
butterfly exhibit over at The Natural History Museum left me dumb. I remember
feeling like I was standing on one leg as she crossed Fifth
Avenue and disappeared into the darkness. I often
feel stupid like that...even as a teenager there were many occasions at parties--building
up all my courage to ask some girl to dance and finally walking up to her as
the slow tunes began to play, and her grabbing some other guy to dance with,
and me left there standing all alone hoping that it’s darker than it really is
and that no one is seeing me frozen on that slippery floor where somebody
spilled their beer. Lee was gone--to dance with butterflies.
I should not use anyone’s real
names here because I don’t want to embarrass anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.
But I don’t want to make stuff up and I don’t have the energy to dodge and
pussyfoot around the real events especially when I am trying to explain my
Several television microwave trucks
were gathering. Igal made a statement which I ignored almost entirely. My hope
was to have any and every person regardless of how I felt about them to add to
the force to get the nest reinstalled.
“This is just what we needed EJ...
Publicity!” I had the impression that Igal had never seen Pale Male’s nest
before. I didn’t care really, even if I knew he meant ‘publicity’ for The NYC
Audubon Society. I knew EJ for quite some time and I had some faith in him.
The next blow I had was from Noreen
O’Rourke. Noreen was the last corner of the trio—Charles, Lee & Noreen. I
spent countless nights with these three—prowling through The Ramble at absurd
hours of the night where Charles would pick up a twig from the ground and peel
it properly and offer it to me for tasting. Soon after which I’ll be begging
him to find more so I can relish again the refreshing crunch of the Japanese
Nutweed. Noreen would walk away unnoticed from the pack and soon after we’ll
hear her whispering unseen. She would have found an owl perched on a branch
where I would never even dream of looking.
The blow; the producer from an ENG
crew was asking me a series of questions. On seeing Noreen close to me I
encouraged them to speak to her.
“This is Noreen, who has been a
dedicated observer for many more years than I,” I said to the producer. They
instantly turned to her. I cannot remember the exact reason but the producer
shortly after talking to Noreen asked her if she wouldn’t mind waiting until
they were ready to continue the interview. Maybe there was a problem with their
camera or something.
“How long is it going to take?”
asked Noreen. I looked at her as I was a little surprised of her anxiousness. I
knew she was not camera-shy.
“Just about ten minuets if you
don’t mind waiting?” replied the producer.
I cannot remember if Noreen said
she couldn’t wait that long or what, but she was anxious to leave.
“Noreen, why can’t you wait a few
minutes?” I looked at her still surprised, “This is so important Noreen—the
more coverage it gets...” something–something I said to her. The producer was
listening to us. “Where do you have to go Noreen?” I was shrugging my shoulders
and shaking my head.
“Well I’m meeting some people for
dinner?” she directed her response to the producer.
“Dinner!” I raised my voice. I have
not yet come to terms with whether or not I was justified to react like that to
her. “What could be more important that this?” I raised my voice even more.
calm down!” she said to me offering her usual subtle smile. “You can join us if
you like...” she said to me as she rubbed my shoulder.
“Oh sure, let me run along to
dinner with you!” The rest of the conversation is even boring me right now, so
I’ll stop. I remember her saying that they will all sit down to dinner and have
a ‘good cry’.
Well that was the blow I was
Sometime before that whole
conversation she also said to me that the nest will never go back up and she
wondered who will be the first one to see which tree he chooses.
Which is why I am still hopeful
that there was a sparrow in the bush making observations—something that I can
I saw EJ McAdams holding his phone
in one hand and maybe an umbrella in the other.
“Well, no law was broken so there
is nothing else we can do here...” he said. He was standing in front of the
building. He may have asked me what I was going to do.
Only when someone asks you what you’re
going to do, do you scramble through your mind for a plan.
“I’m going to stand right here
until the nest goes back up!” At least that sounded coherent. It was better
than saying I didn’t know what I was going to do. I gave it some thought of
what it was going to be like to just stand there all day long. I thought of
Charles, and knew he was a much deeper person than the person who was simply
nice to every one. I thought that wherever he was he’d be wise—much wiser than
he was on Earth. On Earth people only pretend to be wise, but what they really
are, are phonies. Death must bring some level of wisdom, and what that means is
that you don’t just squish stupid malicious people when they do something
stupid and malicious but you just observe the bigger picture as it evolves.
If I was wise I would have just
stayed inside the park and observe everything silently and chew on a mint leaf
or something—maybe knit a quilt. If anyone asked me anything I could say some
random nonsense like ‘the feather of the sparrow is not one but many, but the
many sparrows are but one’
Only when you baffle people with
nonsense do they believe you’re wise. But when you say things from your heart
they make up their minds that you’re stupid.
I saw how hopeless things were that
night and I also saw how weak I was. When you’re weak you make a lot of noise.
December 7, 2010:
the above paragraphs were written sometime around December 1, 2005 and never finished. Perhaps for the sake of many people's perceived reputation I should not complete it. And yet the truth has, amongst other healthy attributes, healing properties. With this in mind, one day if I am driven I will write what I know and what I can remember.