Hopefully, not affectively ineffectual --- since February

Siena mosaic unveiled
As promised in an earlier entry, I was going to get a photo of the Siena mosaics, to complete my report on our new esteemed neighbor.   (Remember, on the other page, the part where I said 'insipid reporter' instead of 'intrepid reporter'?  Wow. That was funny, wasn't it now? Ha ha ha ha, ------ but I digress).

Getting back to the report: There are two mosaics on the front of the Siena, facing Church Street and Park Street, and there was to be an unveiling contemporaneously with a Sidewalk Sale type event on beloved Church Street. I took photos.

Here is one of the mosaics:



Oh... wait a minute, no that's not it. This is a 'Paint by Number' we had in the basement that we couldn't move in a recent driveway sale.  Hmmmm. OK, Hold on, hold on, shuffle, riffle, ruffle, snuffle, Snapple (took a drink break)....

Ah yes, right, HERE it is:

I don't know for the life of me why I juxtaposed the two pictures; just as Edie Gorme could 'blame it on the Bossa Nova', I'm gonna blame it on the cypress trees.

You know, since we're talking about it, the whole 'Paint by Number' industry was huge for a good while during my childhood, and it got to be enough of a cultural phenomenon that the Smithsonian did a very entertaining and informative survey of the subject some years back. There's a famous example of the 'Swiss Chalet' that was done by J. Edgar Hoover. You see, I say 'the Swiss Chalet' when talking about the Hoover piece because the Swiss Chalet was one of the templates everyone got; it had zones of color that were identified by a number, and you used the appropriate color pencil for that number to fill out that zone, hence the characteristic appearance. That template approach was a large part of the appeal. Filling in the template with your color pencils, you could turn out a passable landscape or other scene (passable by the standards of millions of people who, due to the privation of immigrant status, depression, and war rationing, maybe had never had pictures or paintings in their home to that point --- not that it was a painting, mind you.) In my reminiscence of childhood, this home art kit was contemporaneous with my wood burning kit and Erector set. (I'm capitalizing the word 'Erector' to emphasize the fact that it's a product name, not some DIY kit for carnal arousal, so git yer dirty little minds out of the Montclair gutter).

Green I got; you want green?
This is a verdant part of the world, part of the 'Forest Primeval' as described in the epic poem Evangeline. Even at this stage in Montclair's history, after over a hundred years of development, one can still barely see large parts of town for the trees when one flies over Montclair from Newark airport. Due to the availability of water, life is well established here. The birds in the area number many species, of which the sparrow is one of the most populous, if not most popular. We have a local family of catbirds, who are very bold, and flit around on the ground when we water the yard, as this tends to drive certain insects above ground from their lair, to the birds' delight. This part of the world is also right along significant migratory routes for birds (see 'Cape May' if interested in this); for example, we have a major Hawk Watch at appropriate points of the year, with bird nerds flocking to see and enjoy (yeah, I know, 'flocking' was a gimme).

We also have skunks, raccoons, opossum, squirrel, vole, mouse and chipmunk around here. The chipmunks, to me, are acceptable rodents, on the good end of the continuum that includes capybara, (not as prevalent here, but given pet stores, ¿quien sabe?), rats, and squirrels. Maybe it's because of Chip and Dale, that delightful animated pair from Disney, but I find chipmunks charming. These pipsqueaks' squeaks are almost indistinguishable from the call of the cardinals who bless us with their presence, and I am not talking prelates here; that's another blessing entirely.  The raccoons have those freakly feet/hands (you know, they wash their food, etc.) The come out of the sewers and roam around at night; they live elsewhere too, I suppose. That's not my usual crowd.

The old buildings in which we live have holes in the bricks to let air pass through the crawl space. The holes are the right size and depth for sparrow nests, although starlings were hovering and inspecting for a while.


I think they're cute; all birds are amazing when you think about it, especially those that thrive in cities. It's also kind of fascinating to think that they are actually dinosaurs; quite a 'down-sizing', eh? Don't believe me? "You could look it up", as venerable Mets manager Casey Stengel used to say.



Speaking of freaky lil' feet, like our local raccoons coming out of the storm drains, how 'bout some squirrel pictures? (Actually, their feet are standard rodent feet, but their nails look perfect, to paraphrase a line from Warren Zevon). No, I mean it. Nice and shiny. Walking back from the library one day, I chanced upon a really young one, who didn't quite get the fight or flight thing yet, and was more mellow than a mammal its size should be in my looming presence. It had the 'stay-on-the-other-side-of-the-tree-branch-from-would-be-predator' routine down pretty well, but didn't realize that the girth of the thing-to-be-on-the-other-side-of should make it possible to hide your lil' critter body entirely. As the branch was only about 3 inches across, and the little guy was about shoulder level, I could reach over and touch one of its perfect little nails. Wonder if that innocent survived into a more savvy, wary adolescence. Plenty more where that one came from, in any event. Another thing about squirrels, if you haven't encountered them while driving: They think they're clever sometimes by doubling back over the path of your incoming innocent (until then) auto. I guess that move has worked pretty well with some predators over the centuries, but not the unintentional, oblivious, multi-ton kind. Oh well.

These two are just hangin' and taking it in, like the Robert Young character in the short-lived series 'Window on Main Street'. I call the two Larry and Curly, since shortly after I hear and see them, a THIRD one comes in stage right (separate window sill too), and begins to kvetch and quarrel, and to scold the other two. (yeah, he's Moe). They are incredibly tolerant of my putting the camera right up to the window pane (they're also young), as some of these shots will attest.


Sometimes squirrels hunker down like this to enjoy the coolth (yeah, I made it up, you know like the opposite of 'warmth') of the stone ledges. It looks like a yoga position a little bit.


As they would say in those mobster-and-moll flicks of the fourties: "Why you beady-eyed little..... ". Peter Lorre potential, right?


OK, here comes Moe. The direct stare immediately earned my respect.


A more thoughtful pose by the Maestro and Maximo Lider, as the mutual respect just kept on a-growin' between ape and rodent.


OK, OK, getting skeeved out myself now.  Finito, Maestro.

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