McFadyen's Musings March/ April 2017
My wife had never been to New York City and I had not been in 30 years. The total amount of time away from our home, including travel, was only 53 hours. Yet in that short span, I made four and she made seven new friends. We ate incredibly delicious, trendy and expensive food. We walked for miles blending into the Crossroads of the World, as long as I did not draw attention by speaking. “So what was your favorite part?” people ask. Mine was witnessing the unending stream of dogs visiting Central Park.
Biscuit was my canine guide—our host’s pet—with a large dose of poodle and a little something else mixed in. She was tall enough to have played basketball in her prime, but that was years ago now. She also smelled a lot more expensive than does my setter dog in Eastover. Biscuit made three trips a day to Central Park: morning, noon and night. She did no socializing while there, always avoiding contact with those of her own species. Her visits were primarily of a utilitarian nature.
In a nod to Southern modesty, I turned my head during Biscuit’s biologically functional moments. The problem is that you cannot turn your head in any direction in Central Park without witnessing a similar purge from some other man’s best friend. It is going on all the time. To its credit, New York’s human population, diverse as it is, demonstrates a unilateral commitment to not leave any visible evidence of these canine necessities. However, the process does require uncountable plastic grocery bags.
It is a difficult concept to grasp for a country boy like me, whose dog gets turned out in a 5,000 square foot pen each day. I could almost discern the NY dogs speaking to each other in a language I did not understand saying, “Watch what I can make my human do.” Then again, it was probably just the wind.
I knew that I, like Biscuit, was supposed to silently enjoy my time around Central Park and not inject myself into the lives of those millions of strangers. Honestly, I never really even attempted to abstain. On the first elevator ride to our host’s eighth floor apartment, I learned that the lady on crutches broke her leg badly while skiing, would be in the cast for 14 weeks and the cast would be off before summer. She exited on the second floor. The next morning at the corner coffee shop, I introduced our host to Bob from the fourth floor who split his time between Florida, Colorado and New York.
On my last walk to Central Park, we coaxed Biscuit toward our crosswalk. A lady to my right was being walked by an aged golden retriever who had very little sprint left in him. He was beautiful and proud; I am sure Father Time will not allow me to see him again. On his right side, a much younger unleashed chocolate lab with “prime of life” oozing from his pelt barreled past him toward an impressively large sycamore. At its base, Lab screeched to a halt, locking into a point that resembled my smelly bird dog when she gets wind of a quail. My predatory eye caught the slight movement 30 feet up of a bushy gray squirrel that had slipped around to the side of the tree away from Lab’s line of sight.
I remembered granddaddy teaching me how to hunt squirrels under the great oaks in the front yard of Uncle Turk’s house at what is now The Preserve at Grande Oaks neighborhood. We would run at the squirrel on the ground, with “prime of life” oozing from our pelts, treeing it. I would stand perfectly still on one side and Granddaddy would circle to the other side. Br’er Squirrel would skitter around the tree away from Granddaddy’s movement. Sometimes I missed. Sometimes, Mam-ma cooked me squirrel.
Injecting myself into another New Yorker’s life, I drawled to her: “Where I come from, a dog can make a living with talent like that.” She laughed: “Yes. He remains ever hopeful of one day succeeding.”
When the little man lit up in the crosswalk sign, we looked back to make to make sure Biscuit was on her way with us. The squirrel was ascending into the sycamore. Underneath him, a city of dogs passed the time in Central Park.