Dear Friends, I am putting up an old one today, at the suggestion of my friend Jeremiah Moss. I'm very sorry for how negligent I've been lately about posting new ones. I'm going to be much more diligent about it in the months to come. Meanwhile, this one was originally posted in 2007, but the perils of thread are no less perilous out there today. Sincerely, Romy
I was on the Crosstown bus reading the New York Post when an old geezer sat down next to me and said, “That’s my name,” pointing his finger at the front page. BOY WONDER, it said, with a picture of a skinny looking New York Yankee pitcher. I said, “Whaddaya know?” The old geezer said, “NOT whaddaya know! They called me the Boy Wonder!” He looked to be about 80 years old and he stank of cigarettes. He rooted around in a blue tote bag. “I met Einstein once,” he said. “Did he tell you anything worth knowing?” I asked him. “No, he didn’t,” he said. “But I know everything there is ta know.” He pulled several sheets of paper out of his bag. They were all covered in drawings of people’s faces, done in blue and red ballpoint pen. “Ya ever seen anything that good before? Ya ever seen anything in a museum that looked like this?" He showed me one all covered in geometric blue and red circles, each with a little face in the center. “I most certainly haven’t,” I said. He said to himself: “OK, next stop,” then he turned to me and said, “Ya know Marion Davies, the one that used to be William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend? Well, I did all kinds of work for her when she lived in the apartment on 40th Street.”
“What kind of work?” I asked him, and he shrugged his shoulders as if he just couldn’t believe what a dingbat he’d saddled himself with. “Well, ART! I made all the art in her apartment! And look at this!” He pointed his finger down at one of his sneakers where there was a hole on the top. “I can see your little toe sticking out,” I told him. The bus swerved over to the curb and stopped. “I can’t AFFORD new shoes,” he said. “What artist can?” I said back, and he smiled at me before he descended the steps to the street. After he got off the bus, I wondered if he really had done work for Marion Davies and if she’d had an apartment on 40th Street. Maybe he had done all the art, or maybe the art was the colored paint on the walls of her dining room. I was inclined to believe that Boy Wonder had met Einstein and Marion Davies. Why not? Why make that up and not something else? I remembered meeting a man at a seder once who had been the greatest, most sought after wallpaper hanger in New York. He had hung wallpaper for some of the most fabulous people in the city. I think he even said he hung wallpaper for Barbra Streisand. It wasn’t something that just anyone could do. I got off the bus in front of the library on 23rd Street and went in to return a depressing video I had borrowed called Saraband. I knew it would be depressing when I checked it out because Ingmar Bergman made it, but I checked it out anyway. I wondered while I watched it if Liv Tyler was named after Liv Ullman.
Walking home, I saw a pigeon sitting on the edge of the curb on 7th Avenue and 22nd Street and I stopped to look. Another lady was looking at him too. The pigeon looked sad but alert, not at all like some of the old sick birds you see huddled in a doorway waiting to die. He didn’t look sick, but something was keeping him sitting there. I wondered if one of his wings was broken. The problem is that you won’t find a veterinarian in most neighborhoods who will help out a street pigeon or a rat. The lady took a little baggie of walnuts out of her bag and started dropping them in front of the bird, and he perked up. He leaped up and gobbled up the walnuts, and the lady put another little handful down in front of him. That’s when I saw that the bird’s two feet were shackled together with what looked like a piece of white thread. He could hop a little with his feet like that, and the more walnuts he swallowed, the more he hopped. But he couldn’t stand or walk normally, and after he ate up the nuts, he sank back onto the pavement.
Then a little man appeared. “Is it thread on his foot?” he asked in a thick Spanish accent. He had gray curly hair and was very effeminate. “Wait,” he said. “I catch.” He squatted down and carefully reached for the bird, but the bird flew in an arc and landed a few feet away. “I use coat,” the man said, taking off his jacket. From his pocket he drew a little pair of scissors and a pair of tweezers. “I cut thread,” he said. “Always I carry this for birds.” He said that the worst thing for pigeons is thread and hair extensions. He said that beauty salons throw out hair and the threads used for eyebrow threading. The birds get all caught up in them and their feet get bound together. He’d cut lots of birds loose from those threads. The lady had emptied out her walnut bag and the bird was fortified. He had no intention of being caught in the man’s jacket, and flew up to the roof of my building with the little thread between his feet. In all my years of looking at pigeons, I had never considered the dangers of thread and hair.
In the same day, I had met a man who made me realize how little I really know, and another one who told me that he knew everything there was to know. “Well, I do nothing this time,” the man said. He put his scissors and tweezers away. “I’m really not a bird person,” said the lady. “But I couldn’t just let him sit there.” Then we all went our separate ways without saying goodbye.