Tag Archives: Dogs

Been doing some thinking about squirrels

and especially squirrels as pets.

John Singleton Copley painted his delightful subject, nine-year-old Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, in 1771. You can visit with the imp at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and I often have. Perhaps because I’ll dealing with some especially dark subject matter these days in my professional life, my mind likes to veer when possible toward what’s lighter, wacky, odd. The not-so-lost art of procrastination.

So, squirrels. In your house. Intentionally. It’s not the only image of a pet squirrel in Copley’s art. He also produced this intricate portrait of Mrs. Theodore Atkinson in 1775. 

Note the attention to the luscious details of the sitter’s world, the fabrics, the way the light falls on them, the glint of the metal leash, the glow of the animal’s eye.

These creatures were surely treasured by Copley, who kept a few of his own.

Birds, cat, squirrel. Sweet.

Now, many people around the world take dogs as pets. (Perhaps not so much in Puerto Rico, where strays run abandoned in the streets before being gathered up for eager U.S. families, or in China, where they are too often raised for food.)

Maud’s Ottie, while no longer a puppy, is still the baby of the family.

For some people, just one dog won’t too. Gotta have a couple.

Or a bunch.

Famously, the royal corgis.

I’ve always loved the shot of a young Edith Wharton, who so loved her little companions.

Dogs have such soft brows and muzzles. Oliver.

So snuggle-able. A puppy so young it doesn’t yet have a name.

I’ve adored them since as a girl I hugged Shnuffles, she with her bad legs and worse temper.

But I’m distracted. Is this all just an excuse to think about my wonderful dogs of yore? Sugar.

Is distraction the better part of valor? Think that was discretion. In any case, I’ll leave it to another time to write more about dogs.

Cats, I find, hold less interest for me than they once did. I know that’s sacrilege on social media. Even exceptional specimens like the one my friend Josefa cares for.

Again I digress. Squirrels, now. When did someone think of domesticating a squirrel? And why? Benjamin Franklin wrote an tribute to a pet squirrel killed by a dog: “Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!”

By his time, squirrel ownership was faddish. Squirrels could be wild caught or sold in markets and, by the 1800s, you could buy one in a pet shop. How much is that squirrel in the window? The one with the waggely tail? Rich families bragged about them. Again, Copley. John Bee Holmes.

Copley’s masterpiece was surely Boy with a Squirrel,  in 1765, a portrait of the artist’s half-brother, Henry Pelham. See the lavish vanilla vest, the pink satin collar, the brilliant cuffs, their ruffles, the perfect glass of water, the light and shadow? What an ear.

This was a flying squirrel, one of a tribe of 50 specie in the family Sciuridae, which are not in fact capable of flight in the same way as birds or bats, but are able to glide from one tree to the next with the aid of a patagium, the furred parachute-like skin membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. A long tail provides additional stability.

It seems funny now, but keeping squirrels as pets was commonplace through to the twentieth century. Before the family canine, the family squirrel. Here we have the Ridgely brothers in 1862, Howard and his younger brother Otho, the children of a wealthy landowning family in Maryland.

Back in around 1526, squirrel owning was significantly less democratic. Hans Holbein the Younger set a precedent with his Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling.

Oil on oak, it shows in addition to the lovely nibbling squirrel a bird perched on a grape vine, its beak pointing at the right ear of Anne Lovell, wife of Sir Francis Lovell, an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII.  The grape, natch, represented abundance and wealth. As did the squirrel?

William Butler Yeats wrote in To A Squirrel At Kyle-Na-No:

Come play with me;
Why should you run
Through the shaking tree
As though I’d a gun
To strike you dead?
When all I would do
Is to scratch your head
And let you go.

People have often taken monkeys, too, as pets and occasional business partners.

In the heyday of organ grinders, it is said, around the turn of the 20th century, nearly one in 20 Italian men in the gritty Five Points neighborhood of New York City were out there with their capuchin monkeys. They only disappeared when long-time New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia banned the practice in 1936. He refused to renew the grinders’ licenses, saying that radio and outdoor concerts had rendered them unnecessary and with the intention of discouraging street begging. Historians suspect that La Guardia might also have wanted to discourage stereotypes about Italian immigrants (his sensitivity on the subject probably shaped by his experience putting himself through night law school by working days as an Ellis Island translator – the man supposedly spoke five languages).

Wild animals such as squirrels probably have no place in the urban jungle in any case. Court is a different matter.

Scholars have just discovered what is thought to be the first depiction of a pet guinea pig. In it, three Elizabethan children pose with their a cream, brown and white pet. “We know that guinea pigs were introduced into Europe by traders and were kept as exotic pets,” says a National Gallery spokesperson. “While archaeological finds for domestic guinea pigs in Europe are rare, a partial skeleton of one that dates from c.1575 was discovered at Hill Hall in Essex, an Elizabethan manor house.”

Charles Dickens kept a raven as a pet – he talked about how the bird camped in his stable, “generally on horseback.” In more recent news, my friend Cheryl likes nothing better than to cuddle her bearded dragon against her chest.

I myself might prefer a hedgehog. Or a tapir.

Or a peacock.

A group of peacocks, by the way, is called an “ostentation” or a “muster.” In ancient Rome, rich folks served peafowl as a delicacy. Today, peacock pets are said to be affectionate, though noisy, eating out of their owners’ hands and even coming to sit on their laps. They are good at fighting snakes, too.

None of the above, I’m pretty sure, are legal to adopt in New York State. The law here clearly states that you may not own any wild animal, defined as a non-domestic feline or canine or hybrid, bear, crocodile, venomous reptile, or primate. You can be fined 500 dollars if you break the law. It’s different in Oklahoma, whose residents need only a permit to own a ferret, any primate or a coatimundi. Oregon lets you have alpacas, ferrets, bison, camels, chinchillas, emus, ostriches, llamas, lemurs, sugar gliders, and giraffes. (Not wise probably to have all at one, at least not in the same pen.) In Arkansas, you can own up to six captive-bred bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, or squirrels without a permit.

But then you’d have to live in Arkansas.

Did you know that hedgehogs are the new squirrel?

I hear they’re legal in Connecticut.


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Melancholy and rapture

would be pretty good words to characterize the music I heard recently, performed by my friend pianist Beth Levin at Merkin Hall in Manhattan. Outside the concert venue, pin oaks held tight to their leaves in the autumn gloaming.

The piece Beth played, Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, has stayed with me. The composer was a product of the Russian nationalist movement of the late nineteenth century, but remains fresh today.

Beth’s self effacement in person is matched by her thunder as a performer.

We treated ourselves to dessert beforehand at the classic New York diner Old John’s Luncheonette, across West 67th Street.

Good place to go if you want a Broadway mojito (rum, muddled lime, mint, soda), or a brief Prossecco, or a ginger ale, or “momma’s meat loaf.” Or, more my speed, a warm brownie with fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream and mocha crème anglais.

These days I mainly consume rabbit food. Maybe the ice cream qualified, it was in fact made with fresh mint and so tasted a little medicinal, though scrumptious with a brownie right out of the oven.

The ticket-taking usher on being told we had pie: Pie is always a good thing.

Yes, and so is Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky wrote it to honor his friend Viktor Hartmann after the artist’s unexpected death from a brain aneurism in 1873 at the age of 39.

The suite of ten short pieces was inspired by a postmortem exhibit mounted in St. Petersburg of Hartmann’s work, with the central conceit of promenading past the different works of art. As interpreted by the solo piano version it is both intimate and grand – and incredibly difficult, requiring stamina as well as passion. Beth has both in spades.

Walking in the quiet of a fall afternoon, thinking back to this haunting elegy, one creative person pouring out his soul to another.

In fall, the melancholy that is always with us as humans seems pronounced. How do you capture the feeling in art? In music? In fall the flowers keep coming.

Will this beauty never stop? I stalk a black squirrel around the trunk of a big black locust. The sound your shoes make sloshing through crisp autumn drifts.

The sound of hammering just off the trail — workmen snugging down a roof before winter comes.

Plantanus offers its astonishing platter-size leaves.

One of the most affecting passages in Pictures is “The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in Their Shells,” and it’s also one of the few extant pieces of art on which Mussorgsky based his music, a watercolor featuring costumes for a children’s production.

The things you come across as you promenade. A child’s lost shoe.

Hemingway, it is said, once wrote a six-word story on a bet: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” A writer who knew a little bit about melancholy.

Mussorgsky ventures into the Catacombs of Paris after his friend’s dark and umbrous painting.

He wrote in the score: “The creative genius of the late Hartmann leads me to the skulls and apostrophizes them. The skulls begin to glow.” Sad, sadder, saddest. In fall we think about friends we’ve lost too young. How happy we were.

Winnowing down storage, coming across journals I kept as a much younger woman, replete with both melancholy and rapture in gouts that are so great as to be embarrassing. I remember feeling euphoria at the sight of a plate of ripe sliced tomatoes on a diner counter. Today, the red heartbeat of the Japanese maple.

Only connect, from E.M. Forster, served as my adolescent mantra. If you had told me at 24 I would be still connecting as a writer I think I’d be hornswalloped.

Mussorgsky never heard Pictures performed – he died six years after composing it at age 42, almost as young as his friend Hartmann. The piece would have faded from the culture entirely if it hadn’t been orchestrated in 1922 by Maurice Ravel. Beauty is Truth, Truth beauty. Keats’ perfect adage, always relevant. I meet the my new favorite cocker spaniel on the trail, Pepper. A little melancholic herself. She wouldn’t be bothered with me, but why should she be?

Scraps of saved letters surface in dusty boxes. Missives from Maud as an itty bitty.

Promenade past pictures, promenade past trees. Birches glowing in the autumn sun, bright as skulls.

As long as you make sure to promenade. Wherever you’re likely to find melancholy and rapture.


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Road trip revelations big and small

included some arresting sights, such as the Wisconsin highway barn painted in mile-high letters by people who obviously wanted to get their message across. These guys should work on Madison Avenue. OKAY, WE HEAR YOU!

A flock of blue jays, one of which left a memento behind for someone (me) desiring signs and best wishes for the future.

Earlier on our journey, another blue jay, by the road side. Good effort to whomever created it, and good tidings to all travelers passing by.

A message dishtowel I seem to have absconded with from the family reunion cottage on Green Bay. Yes! Agreed.

Flowers lush, fresh, unexpected. Euphorbia milli.

A rainbow, always a good harbinger, this time at what is called the American Falls at Niagara. Eschewing the yellow ponchos they give out to tourists who stop under the torrent, I looked down over the whole scene and was impressed by a) the majesty, of course and b) the tawdriness of the surroundings. Have three quarters of all commercial establishments (hotels, restaurants, etc.) shut down during the pandemic, or does it just seem that way?

Wanted to find a memorial to Annie Edson Taylor, the 63-year-old nearly penniless widow from Bay City, Michigan who thought she’d achieve fame and fortune by braved the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel in 1901. Challenged by a reporter to reveal the skimpy outfit she might wear to make the journey, Taylor responded, it would be unbecoming a woman of my refinement and my years to parade before a holiday crowd in an abbreviated skirt!

Apparently her only monument stands in Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, where she died as a public charge – only 17 minutes of fame for her and no gold at the end of the rainbow (bad manager blamed). A schoolteacher, she fitted herself out in barrel weighted down with a 100-pound anvil and went for the ride of her life, only getting slightly banged up.

Farm-stand raspberries just picked, before being gobbled down. Summertime, summertime…

WOW! Seemingly defunct art gallery in Manetowac, just before the Canadian border. Peeking in, dusty easels and all.

Apple plucked from the grass beneath an old-old tree, the kind of fruit people used to go crazy for in the days before candy for everybody all the time – mainly sour, cottony, with skin of leather, instantly oxidizing – which I ate down to the core before tossing out the window.

Johnny Appleseed fantasies. An interesting fellow, not a myth. John Chapman, born in 1774, was a pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of the eastern U.S. He was also a missionary and when he traveled around to various states distributed materials about the New Church along with his apple seeds, giving sermons that cautioned against such indulgences as calico fabric and imported tea. 

The Runway Bar in Door County at the small airport for private planes, Bad Lands in the back (bordello?), shut down in the ‘90s but still offering a side-of-the-road sight for sore eyes, tree busting through the roof and all. A dive bar that took a nose dive, says Gil.

Another way sign I grew instantly fond of. Beach Harbor, baby. Let’s go.

Sleek windmills all along the highway. I’m told not by Cervantes not to tilt at them — they might be evil giants — but I insist. Saw some on the road being transported, accompanied by a robust police convoy.

Well-groomed Motorcycle Memorial Park way off the road.

A place to raise a beer to fallen comrades, apparently. But remember, bikers don’t let bikers drive drunk.

Aldo Leopold bench kit at The Ridges nature center at Bailey’s Harbor – 120 bucks will get conservation-minded carpenters the great naturalist’s name brand for their garden.

A canoe setting sail with family members at sunset. Sweet dreams are made of this, as the Eurythmics would have it.

In other boating news, a homemade flotilla and race at Sturgeon Bay – only plywood and caulk allowed – and almost all sink to general, gentle Midwestern hilarity.

In still more boating news, a Gideon’s bible graces the cabin on the coal-fired ferry from Manetowac, Wisconsin to Luddington, Michigan, across the great lake. Will put reading that old thing on my to-do list.

Odd tree habits. I don’t get this, but I love it. Maybe there is a biblical allegory here?

The moon that followed us as it waxed, flaming yellow and orange, so close you could see the ancient, impossible face. No Iphone pic can do justice to this fever dream of an evening sky. Truly the magic hour.

It was hard to get enough of Ottilie the German short-hair pointer taking cat naps in the back seat.

But don’t mention cats to Ottie, who has a thing about cats and other small creatures. This great bird dog, without a hunting trip to focus her, once put a chicken out of its misery at doggie day care.

And speaking of dogs, nine puppies for sale at a crossroads farm – parentage impeccable, Red Aussie/Red Heeler/ English Shepherd/ Border Collie.

Like fur-covered jelly beans, all of six weeks old. Callie the home-schooled farm girl (not sure what grade I’m in — ninth, I think?) shares a picture of the father. Pretty formidable presence, I’d say.

Will we adopt one of his progeny? I am currently petitioning my dog-loving husband, who cherishes his freedom now that all our prior dogs have crossed the rainbow bridge, as some people like to put it. Probably originated with some of the same people that put up the JESUS IS LORD barn message.

Perhaps the blue jays will bring me luck.

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What is luck?

You make your own, yada yada.

Had a friend who always said we were so lucky. Why? Dunno, just are. It’s our luck to find a dino and a rocking horse hanging out together while we’re first embarking on our trip cross country. 

Maud says, Luck is being afforded an opportunity not of your own making. Also, health and the health of my family. She thinks: Options.   

I’m a bit less lofty. Are you surprised?

Clouds over Pennsylvania. Amazing.

Luck is dipping the most delicious grilled shrimp in the world into the most delicious garlic sauce out of carry-out styrofoam in front of a tv screen choked with monkey pox, soldiers castrated in Ukraine and the kind of massive flood in Kentucky that has people perched on top of rooftops, their life possessions soaked, ruined. It’s not schadenfreude, just being conscious that we are spared – at least for the moment – all the terrible things in the world.

We have so much to be thankful for. It is almost shameful. 

Simplicity: dogs in the back seat, mostly snoozing. Good girl, Ottie.

The end of the day brings us to Mosquito Lake, and specifically the dog park there, outside Youngstown. Get out of the car. Heavenly cool air.

Remembering when Ohio was a marvelous, dangerous, always-startling frontier. Fanny Trollope settled in Cincinnati, determined to capture America in her travelogue—and make her fortune as a writer, which she did. A whip-smart, dowdy, indomitable Briton, she came to 1829 America and her observations caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.

She was broke when she arrived and had never before written a word. No dog parks then, only corduroy roads, tent revivals and the “incessant, remorseless tobacco spitting of American men.”

If you have never read her epic Domestic Manners of the Americans, I will be happy to loan you my copy. 

The dog park at Mosquito Lake rocks. 

Tyson, a lucky German shepherd/husky mix with electric blue eyes, goes algae dunking. 

Beneath the lucky, soaring red oaks, many with multiple stems. 

Mainly today, luck comes in the form of love in the clouds.

Nothing to do but drive, eat, listen to Joni, Both Sides Now, on repeat.

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, as Henry James famously remarked, to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. James liked to drive, or anyway be driven, by his buddy Edith Wharton in her model T on summer afternoons in the English countryside.

A life of luck.

We are privileged. Life on the road, on a vacation, reminds me of this every day. Life, love and luck. 

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A nice trail at a nice time

if you happen to be a dog. Not.

Or the owner of a dog. Nope.

Or people temporarily in possession of granddogs. Yes. Their actual, official humans are in Italy for the week, so Gus and Ottie are making do with us.

Magic hour. Rowley’s Bridge.

Nice trail if you happen to like white mulberries.

Swamp white oaks.

A sugar maple mysteriously tagged long ago.

We buried a dog here once. Grave undisturbed, good to see.

A stand of mature osage orange trees, probably celebrating their millionth birthday. No production yet this year, of course.

Maclura pomifera is not actually an orange at all, though its oversize pimply fruits do resemble citrus. It is linked more closely to the mulberry. Native Americans preferred its wood for war clubs and bows, so much so that they would travel many miles to harvest the trees.

A nice place to pick raspberries, now still holding tightly to their promise.

The Hudson, majestic. A word coined specifically to describe the Hudson.

Tracks looking very Stand By Me.

I’m pretty sure we once parked here to speak of things that matter.

A nice place for a Golden mud bath in a filthy stream.

Just a start if you are a German short hair. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, according to  Seneca. Apt words for dog ball chasing.

Back at home for more wind sprints under the sycamore maple. Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure. Another quote applicable to ball chasing from another sage, Mr. Stephen King.

Why not stop and smell the tiger lily blooming out of a patch of fennel?

It’s a granddog’s life. Food, water, a ball chase at magic hour. Soak up all the mud while you can.


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Life being somewhat complicated and challenging

at times, it is awfully good to focus on the basics: coffee, tacos, and dogs. Fortunately there is an abundance of all three in Austin, Texas, where I happen to be sojourning for several days. I knew good things were in store when I spotted the taco food truck actually inside the airport terminal. It was 11pm and the place was hopping. The millennials seemed all to be heading back from Las Vegas.

Nothing too weird yet, but I feel something could be about to spring up.

Until then, got a jump on the caffeine thing with a cosmic coffee, a spring specialty at Maud’s favorite joint that pairs cold brew with Mexican vanilla, orange honey and oat milk. Pretty decent. Next time might go for the root beer latte.

Texas mountain laurels have just come into bloom and it seems every little old fashioned bungalow has one out front.

The western redbuds are popping too.


Now a latte and a stop at the Korean nail salon. The man getting a gel manicure next to me wants it to be known that he is getting a special design on each of his pinkies: a peace sign rendered in yellow and blue.

Not quite a Rothko, but very much in keeping with the spirit of the times.

Canines run free in the dog park except when they pause awaiting the flight of a ragged tennis ball.

I wish our lives had the simplicity of Fetch under the live oaks. Everyone here wears flip flops, so I got a pair. Ahhh, instantaneous simplicity.

Are you hungry yet? You’re in luck.

Criispy pork belly tacos with fried parsley and mandarin orange pico.

Extra fat included at no charge. Fingers are for licking.

Two of my favorites come intermixed in a dirty horchata–horchata and coffee, silly. You knew that.

Home again, home again. Baths and naps all around. The simple life.

No freak show.

Perhaps that will come later. It is Austin, after all. I feel we’re just gearing up.

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The numbers are in, and the black bear lost.

Across New York State, where I live, hunters took 1,346 black bears during 2021.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos declared, “Although they aren’t always successful, thousands of dedicated hunters venturing afield each year help keep populations [of black bears] at desired levels, maintaining healthy bear populations in the state.” Both bows and muzzleloaders came into play. The heaviest beast weighed more than 600 pounds.

The black bear has always been held sacred by the Cherokee, and a project in North Carolina displayed sculptures decorated with the symbolism of different clans: Bird, Blue, Deer, Wolf, and so on.

I’ve never been big on buffalo burgers or gravitated to goat stew, feeling something of a kinship with both animals. And I’ve never had horse, or at least knowingly. But I somehow feel even worse about the idea of shooting a bear, although the purpose of the hunt might be for meat as well as trophy. And, hunting advocates tell me, the bears are invading the suburbs! They are dangerous! They must be stopped!

Seventy-five percent of Americans think hunting wild game is a good thing. Between 40,000 to 50,000 bears are legally hunted in the U.S. each year; an unknown number are also illegally poached.

Not every hunter is what’s known as “slob hunter,” someone who hunts legally, but behaves unethically. A slob hunter will take bad shots, leave trash in the woods, damage habitat, vandalize signs, or show disrespect toward natural resources, landowners, other hunters and people in general. 

The vast majority of hunters in America (95%) eat the game animals they kill. So it’s all okay, isn’t it?

Let’s consider some other animals that are routinely killed for their meat.

Dog eating is still common in China, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and the region of Nagaland in India. An estimated 30 million dogs across Asia, including stolen family pets, are killed for human consumption every year.

In Taiwan, many people think that eating black dogs in will help you stay warm. Taiwan is the first Asian country to crack down dogs as food. The country’s Animal Protection Act fines anyone caught selling, eating or buying the animals for consumption, with a fine of up to £6,500. Those found guilty of animal cruelty could also receive a fine of £52,000 and two years in prison.

Each year in June, the city of Yulin in southern China hosts a dog meat festival, where live dogs and cats are sold specifically for eating and an estimated 10,000 are slaughtered for their meat. You can look up pictures if you like; I can’t bear to run them here.

South Koreans eat more than one million dogs per year. They consume much of it during boknal, the hottest days of the year, in July and August. Some believe it revives energy or virility sapped by the heat. They consider dog meat in bosintang stew or the drink gaesoju as “a soup form of Gatorade,” according to American food writer Joe McPherson in a 2015 UPI interview.

The most common dog breed raised for food is called nureongi — Korean for “yellow dog.” They have short, yellow fur, and are seldom adopted as pets. In other words, they are considered generic, and so expendable.

Humane Society International has been liberating canines from the farms that raise them and adopting them out to U.S. families.

Cats are also considered medicinal in Asia. In Korea, cat meat was historically brewed into a tonic as a folk remedy for neuralgia and arthritis. Modern consumption has mainly been in the form of cat soup, consumed most often by middle-aged working class women for perceived health benefits. It takes ten cats to produce a small bottle of goyangi, an alcoholic elixir.

With the increase of cats as pets in China, opposition towards the traditional use of cats for food has grown. In June 2006, approximately 40 activists stormed the Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant, forcing it to shut down.

What about bears? Are they good eating?

In Europe of the late medieval period, the consumption of bear meat was an aristocratic privilege. In Tyrol and Piedmont, villages had to fetch up a set number of bear paws to the local lord every year.

Elsewhere in the world, Kodiak Natives hunted bears for food, clothing and tools, and left bear heads in the field as a sign of respect to the ursuline spirit. 

Closer to home – in North America. Native tribes, frontiersmen and settlers ate bear meat for hundreds of years. 

The black bear has become one of the most widespread big game animals in North America, and hunting them is legal in 27 states, last I counted.

A blip occurred in the American support for bear hunting, which slackened when Teddy Roosevelt went on a hunt and refused to shoot a bear tied to a willow tree. A toy company famously marketed a stuffed bear to commemorate the incident. You know the rest.

Hunters have come to recognize Arizona as one of the nation’s greatest spots for black bear hunting. A staple of all Arizona bear diets is the prickly pear cactus, and bears can predictably stay close to a patch. Kind of like a salt lick with thorns.

New Jersey’s hunting guide offers an online bear cookbook that features “Grilled Bear Loin with Brown Sugar Baste” and “BBQ Bear Roast.” 

“Good bear meat can go toe-to-toe with any other wild game meat when prepared properly,” proffers hunter Connor Gabbott on a web site. “The best bear meat I have ever eaten was from an inland, spring-time sow that was estimated to be over twenty years old. Bear meat is slightly darker in color than beef and the grain of the meat is coarser and a touch looser. All the bear meat I have tried has been very mild and somewhat sweet. There is a distinct (not off-putting) smell to the meat, the same way raw lamb meat has a unique smell. To ensure the best table fare, it is highly recommended to remove all the fat from the meat prior to freezing. If left on, some potentially off-putting flavors from the fat can migrate into the meat while frozen.”

I feel sure that many people would get their hackles up were one to suggest we stop killing and consuming bears. Not having ever experienced the thrill of the hunt, I know I wouldn’t feel deprived of the hobby were it to be curtailed.

Sometimes considering one example helps us to focus on another.

The meat of the hyena is now a delicacy across Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Somalia, where people have developed a keen appetite for the wild animal’s meat – as long as they can afford it, as it comes at a cost. Pakistanis and Iranians also cook up hyena meat, which has been deemed halal. Don’t know about you, but the hyena is one of my favorite animals, with its keening vocals, sharp aroma and gender-fluid sex characteristics. I hate to think of them being et.

I feel the same way about the bear.

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The grand dame

that is the Grand Concourse in the Bronx has certainly seen better days.

But there is still an awful lot of life there. Crews are installing new sidewalks and new medians separating the wide boulevards (2 lanes and a service road in each direction). They need a tree inspector to make sure no harm comes to the gingkos and zelkovas lining the avenue.

You’ve got wonder about people in the city, the way they love to lean things up against trees. Why? They can be told again and again not to and still you find a clutter of debris around the base of a tree. In this case it’s actually condoned. Huh?

But if you’re in the neighborhood, why not enjoy the local scenery?

I like hand lettered wall art.

Bronx residents love fruit, judging by the number of produce stands, including this one that has the owner peeling your orange for you.

There is still some of the past. The Grand Concourse was built in the late 1800s to rival the great boulevards of Europe, and it soon became a middle class haven, before the advent of white flight and the deterioration of the Bronx in general. Once in a while you meet someone who tells you their old Jewish granny used to live on the Concourse.

Glimmers of the past exist.

And most amazing, a  hulking, barely visible grand building.

Behind the scaffolding stand, the Paradise Theater, built in 1929 and used for various types of entertainment since, even since it fell on terrible times – supposedly a church holds forth there now, though that’s hard to believe.

The ticket book evokes times gone by, as does the ceiling above it.

But really, the Concourse is contemporary.

Concerned with the important things.


And the home of thousands of grand pit bulls. This one snarls, then comes in for a pet.

I’m not sure about his manners, but he’s a handsome devil.

I wonder if pit bulls were the breed of choice at the turn of the century? Helen Keller had a pit bull named Sir Thomas. She was born in that era, so maybe the Grand Concourse was teeming with them.

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