Pigeons and Squirrels and Rats, So What?

The young mother I sat across from in Central Park didn’t look happy when a large rat scurried across the path. But her preschool-age daughter squealed with delight.

“Look,” she said, “it’s Mickey Mouse!”

Lately we have been bombarded with NYC vermin tales, as videos have gone viral showing a rat dragging a full slice of pizza down subway steps and a squirrel pulling a half-full milkshake from a garbage can and diving in.

Do we freak out watching these? Au contraire. We have even given them cute names: Pizza Rat! Milkshake Squirrel! Cheeseburger Pigeon! (OK, I made that last one up, but it’s only a matter of time.)

Why do we delight so much in what others might view with distaste? Maybe it’s a perverse pride of ownership. They’re home-team vermin. Those living in rural areas have their deer, horses and rabbits. We have our pigeons, squirrels and rats.

“When I moved here from Westchester and saw my first city rat, I freaked out,” confesses Victoria Unschuld, a NYC hypnotherapist. “Now when I see a rat, I take it in stride.”

Unschuld’s live-and-let-live attitude is typical of most New Yorkers — but not all. While I’m not thrilled with those who feed pigeons in the park, what bothers me more are kids who chase and try to stomp the pigeons, while their parents sit idly by. It’s no accident that some of these kids grow up to be serial killers, or hedge fund managers.

How can they be so cruel to these feathered and bushy-tailed neighbors? Squirrels will come right up while you snack, with a “Are you gonna eat the rest of that or what?” look in their beady eyes, while pigeons have their own cool, distinctive strut and soothing coo.

And please don’t lecture me about how filthy they are and how they spread disease. They speak well of you. Yes, I talk to the animals — what of it?

A visiting cousin recently saw two rats scurrying around the Herald Square station subway tracks and panicked. When I felt compelled to defend the rats, she looked at me as if I were crazy.

Hey, they might be vermin, but they’re our vermin.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Showtime Above Ground: One Small Step for Sanity

 “Venom” warmed up the tourist crowd with a slightly off-color joke, then introduced his fellow young street dancers. It’s showtime!

Relax. This wasn’t on the subway. Pole-swinging subway acrobats are not a favorite of most riders, to put it mildly. But now the city’s It’s Showtime NYC pilot program is giving subway dancers a chance to take their talents above ground.

Christopher Brathwaite of Bed-Stuy — dance name “Venom” — told me he used to perform on the Union Square subway platform, but never on the trains.

“It’s a whole lot better outside,” said Brathwaite, 20. “It’s stifling on the train station. You can’t breathe. The people watching here in Battery Park aren’t a scared, captive audience — they actually want to see us dance.”

NYPD Transit Bureau officers offer palm cards to subway dancers that read, “Make money. Avoid arrest. Dance!” The program, run with the Dancing in the Streets organization and the Mark Morris Dance Group, also offers rehearsal space, dance lessons and career-building opportunities in the arts.

I watched the It’s Showtime NYC dancers recently beside Ian Bassin, deputy counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Bassin said the program benefits both dancers and riders, getting the dancers off the subway while “providing a leg up for young people who want a career in the arts, but don’t know how to get there.”

But what happens in the winter?

“We are looking at options as far as providing space when the weather turns colder,” Bassin said. “Meanwhile, the cash they make up here in the fresh air is better than the cash and arrests they can expect down on the subway.”

The Saturday afternoon performances in Battery Park, just outside Castle Clinton, will continue throughout the fall.

As Mayor de Blasio noted in a statement about the pilot program, “For many young New Yorkers, the right opportunity can make the difference between a career and a criminal record.”

So why not come down noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and check out the dancers? As Bassin said, it’s a “win-win” for the dancers and the riding public — and we can use a few more of those, can’t we?






Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Did Someone Say Stupid Loser? I’ll Drink to That

Let’s get ready to rumble__again! Tonight brings us the second ”Trump Unchained” reality show. Oops, I mean GOP presidential debate. The first debate drew a record number of viewers, but how many of you will tune in this evening?

Decent paying jobs, crumbling infrastructure and other issues that apply to you and me are likely to get less attention than say, the virtues of a county clerk who refused to grant a same sex marriage license. Still, since it’s possible one of these candidates might be our next president, you want to do your civic duty and watch, right? But how to get through it? My friends and I have chosen to endure the two hour main event by making it a drinking game. Care to join us?

Here Are The Rules:

When Donald Trump calls anyone “stupid” or a “loser”, take a drink.

When former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush (Jeb!) calls himself “Veto Corleone” for the 97th time, take a drink.

When you start to think Dr. Ben Carson sounds like a reasonable guy, then he compares Obamacare to slavery, drink.

When former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says expecting Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to obey the law in the gay marriage case is “an attack on Christianity”, drink.

When Trump explains that when he said “Look at that face—would anyone vote for that?” about Carly Fiorina he wasn’t talking about her looks, drink.

When Fiorina replies “Look at the ego on that misogynist—would anyone vote for that?,” drink.

When a candidate compares himself to Ronald Reagan, drink.

When moderator Jake Tapper asks Jeb (!) why he stopped using his last name and how he feels about his own mother saying “We’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, drink.

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich defends expanding Medicaid under Obamacare to provide health care for poor families in his state, and the audience jeers, drink.

When Tapper asks a question that a candidate wants to avoid, and the candidate growls “See? That’s why everyone hates the media,” drink.

Sure, tonight’s debate might remind you of the slim number of admirable candidates running for president in 2016. But hopefully by the end of the evening, you’ll be too drunk to care.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Friday Morning Fights and Friday Night Lights

Swarms of New Yorkers left the city early Friday to get a jump on the holiday weekend, leaving behind the tourists and the hustlers who prey on them.

Friday morning in Times Square, a Buddhist monk challenged a bogus Buddhist scamming people for money. They wound up in a Buddhist battle royal, with the fake Buddhist tackling the real one, clinging to his leg while bashing his own head on the ground, as confused tourists looked on. Was this some kind of strange New York street theater?

Nope, business as usual. Fake Buddhist monks are making a comeback, adding to the list of parasites bugging tourists and locals in Times Square, and increasingly, throughout the city.

On Friday evening, my family stayed in town for a night of Coney Island fun and fireworks. The Parachute Jump was electric blue, the lights from the rides were dazzling, the Boardwalk filled with the happy faces of couples, children, and__oh no, costumed characters hassling them for money!

But unlike the tourist crowd in Times Square, Coney was filled with real New Yorkers. And when Spidey and Elmo tried to pull their scams, they were nearly trampled by the fast-moving locals.

As a lifetime New Yorker, I’m aware that these street hustlers are nothing new. But I don’t remember it quite this bad. Creepy Cookie Monsters, near naked “desnudas” accompanied by their pimps, oops, I mean, “handlers”, fake Buddhist monks scamming tourists for cash__a bit much, no?

Add these shakedown artists to our familiar subway con artists, “recently released from prison” , “recently lost their bus ticket and only need $17 to get back home”, “recently (fill in your own scam pitch here).”

And don’t get me started on the phony, screaming subway preachers.

Yes, they have their rights, and yes, begging in the streets is not against the law. But don’t we have the right to ride the subway or walk the streets without being constantly accosted? The city can go after “aggressive” panhandlers, but the definition of aggressive is too often unclear.

“I don’t like the situation…and we are going to address it in a very aggressive manner,” Mayor de Blasio recently said.

There’s that word again. But what does it really mean?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Kennedy, Churchill, King…Trump?

We take inspiration from history’s greatest leaders and thinkers. Now that it looks like Donald Trump has a real shot at the Republican presidential nomination, let’s see how his words compare with our revered legends and heroes:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

”I have black guys counting my money…I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.” (Donald Trump)

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jesus Christ)

“Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.” (Trump)

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” (Winston Churchill)

“She (Megyn Kelly) gets out there…and you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her…whatever.” (Trump)

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Emma Lazurus)

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best…They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists…” (Trump)

Men’s minds are raised to the level of the women with whom they associate.” (Alexander Dumas)

“You know it really doesn’t matter what they write, as long you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” (Trump)

“Whoever strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other as well.” (Jesus Christ)

“For many years I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back. When someone hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.” (Trump)

Any fool can criticize, complain and condemn__and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” (Dale Carnegie)

“Rosie O’Donnell’s disgusting. Bette Midler is grotesque. Arianna Huffington is a dog.” (Trump)

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)

“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” (Trump)



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Game of Muppets in the Works?

A wave of mergers has created some powerful media forces, and now Cookie Monster has been enlisted in that brave new world.

NYC-based Sesame Workshop and HBO are the latest to form a grand partnership. The deal allows HBO to premiere new episodes of “Sesame Street” for the next five seasons, as well as a “Sesame Street” Muppets spinoff series.

But will it stop there? No way, Grover.

According to highly unreliable sources, HBO plans to launch other spinoffs of “Sesame Street” more compatible with the cable giant’s brand.

For instance, I hear that “Game of Muppets” is in the works, with Kermit the Frog cast in a lead role. He goes through various traumas, including a fierce battle with the character Tyrion, which ends touchingly when Kermit serenades him with, “It’s not easy being a dwarf.” The two unite in an inspiring brotherhood, which makes the last episode even more horrifying, when Kermit is boiled alive and yes, croaks.

But that’s only the beginning. Earlier this month, Miss Piggy broke up with Kermit (“We will be seeing other people, pigs, frogs, etc.,” Kermit announced on his Facebook page), and now she is free to explore her lusty libido on “Sex and the Piggy.” The passionate porker has been seen around town with Animal, Elmo and Justin Bieber.

Meanwhile, Oscar the Grouch is preparing a documentary on the homeless in which he finally explains the roots of his grumpy disposition, plaintively imploring us with, “Hey, wouldn’t living in a garbage can make you grouchy?”

One “Sesame Street” regular who has breakout star written all over him is Cookie Monster. HBO wanted him for a “Curb Your Appetite” spinoff, but instead has typecast him as the title character in the new “Cookie Boss.” Unfortunately, CM has already established a rather difficult reputation on the set, repeatedly screaming “Cookie!” and scarfing down the products.

Yes, HBO plans to take full advantage of its new partnership with Sesame Workshop. Other shows waiting to be greenlighted include “Bert and Ernie Move to Chelsea,” with the long-rumored-to-be-gay companions finally coming out of the closet, and “Cheep,” with Big Bird cast as the first feathered American to hold elective office.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hillary’s Job: Keep Bill on a Leash

Today (8-19) is Bill Clinton’s birthday, but when he blows out the candles on his cake, it will be Hillary Clinton making the wish: Don’t extinguish my campaign.

Bill is 69. He’s had major heart surgery. And yes, his wife is still the favorite to be our next — and first female — president. But Hillary faces a dilemma, and I’m not talking about classified email. What do you do when your husband is both your biggest asset and biggest potential liability?

On the plus side, the birthday boy is still a terrific campaigner, a schmoozer with a warm, charismatic presence that Hillary will never possess. He knows how to charm not only a crowd, but also key Republicans, from the Bushes to Donald Trump.

Right before Trump declared for the Republican nomination, Bill Clinton had a phone conversation/pep talk with him, according to The Washington Post, telling The Donald he was a rising force among conservatives. Trump declared soon after, and since then chaos has reigned in the GOP, which has only helped Hillary’s chances.

Meanwhile, Hillary faces some serious issues, from the FBI going through her email server to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading her in the latest New Hampshire primary poll.

But as in many a horror movie, the biggest threat to Hillary’s election may lurk right inside her Westchester County home.

It’s no secret that Bill Clinton has skeletons in and out of the closet. Numerous women have claimed to have been involved in affairs with or received unwanted sexual advances from “the Big Dog.”

The latest drama involves Brooklyn-born billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted in 2008 of having sex with underage girls and whom Bill chummed and jetted around with. Don’t be surprised when the GOP outrage machine (Servergate! Benghazi! Littering!) tries a guilt by association move on Hillary over this as well (Epstein!).

But Bill has shrugged it all off, and continues his new Spartan lifestyle, which includes a vegan diet, Buddhist meditation to relax, charitable work worldwide and helping Hillary’s campaign whenever asked.

So enjoy your sugar-free birthday cake tonight, Bill. For Hillary’s and all our sakes, hopefully you have finally realized that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hip-Hop, History and Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton must be spinning in his grave. Or is that a hip-hop dance?

After more than 200 years of relative obscurity, Hamilton has again taken center stage, both literally and figuratively. Last week the hip-hop musical “Hamilton” opened on Broadway to rave reviews and sold out houses.

Hamilton was an amazing man. Raised in the West Indies and orphaned as a child, he went to NYC’s Kings College (now Columbia), became the first Secretary of the Treasury, founded the nation’s financial system, was a military hero, lawyer and also founder and publisher of the NY Post.

Who today is as eclectic as Hamilton? Try the play’s author, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who not only wrote the music, lyrics and book, but plays the title role.

Miranda’s musical, with a huge advanced sale and celebrity-packed crowds, finally gives Hamilton his due as a key founding father and major force in our nation’s history.

But it’s never just good news with Alexander Hamilton. In 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr challenged political rival Hamilton to a duel, then shot and killed him. And in 2020 the U.S. Treasury will knock Hamilton off the ten dollar bill. Well, halfway off.

The movement to place a woman on U.S. currency resulted in the Treasury deciding to do so by replacing Hamilton’s portrait on the $10, ignoring protests that the $20 bill, now adorned with the face of the deeply flawed Andrew Jackson, would be more appropriate.

As you might imagine, suggestions for the first woman on our paper currency came in fast and furious, ranging from Harriet Tubman to Eleanor Roosevelt to Caitlin Jenner.

By the end of the year Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will make his final choice known. Last month the Treasury came up with the curious decision to leave Jackson alone on the $20, while the $10 will feature portraits of both Hamilton and the woman. Side by side? Front and back? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, getting tickets for Hamilton is nearly, but not totally, impossible. The musical offers a “Hamilton for a Hamilton” (#Ham4Ham) ticket lottery two hours before each show, with the winners paying just a $10 bill__a Hamilton__to sit in the front row.

Pretty sweet. But what would they call that promotion in 2020? Half a Ham4Ham? Or would that be a bit ham-handed?



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guaranteed to Happen at the GOP Debate

Tomorrow’s the day Democrats have been giddily awaiting and Republicans quietly dreading: the first GOP presidential debate.

The 10 candidates chosen from the Kentucky Derby field-sized crowd of contenders includes two shy, sweet men from our area,  N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and NY’s own Donald Trump.

How proud we’ll be!

For those with more important plans (like watching “Hoarders” reruns), here is a sneak peek at exactly how the debate will go:

After the obligatory round of Hillary Clinton bashing, the lesser candidates desperately try for attention by ganging up on front-runners: The Donald, the Bush who now refers to himself only as “Jeb!,” and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who said he would “very possibly” have to bomb Iran on his first day in office.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich tries to score points early by accusing Trump of being a closet liberal. “Aren’t you pro-choice and pro-single- payer health care?” he challenges. “Just as you went bankrupt, you want to bankrupt America.”

“Me?” Trump replies with a smirk. “Weren’t you a managing director at Lehman Brothers when it destroyed the American economy? We’re in your home state, and half the audience never heard of you. Loser!”

On government spending, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul repeats his description of Christie as “the king of bacon.” A glaring Christie threatens to flatten Paul, prompting a warning from a Fox News moderator.

When the topic shifts to immigration, the candidate formerly known as Bush takes on Trump’s nasty rant against Mexicans here illegally. “I was hurt, hearing you speak in such a vulgar fashion,” says Jeb, whose wife is Mexican.

“Boohoo!” says Trump. “What’s the matter, you couldn’t find a nice American girl? My God, you’re even stupider than your brother!” A furious Jeb hurls his notepad at Trump, but The Donald ducks, causing it to hit Walker. “I’ll drop a bomb on you, too, Jeb!” fumes Walker.

“Time’s up!” barks moderator Chris Wallace. “All of you, off the stage, now!”

As they file off, Wallace admonishes “You should all be ashamed of yourselves.” He is slipped a note. “What’s this? Highest ratings in debate history? Great job, guys!”

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

For de Blasio, It’s Lonely at the Top

I can predict with confidence that Mayor Bill de Blasio will not alienate any more prominent NY Democrats this year.

He’s already alienated them all.

The latest supposed ally to lash out against the mayor is City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Complaining that he tried to take credit for an agreement on the ride-sharing service Uber last week, an angry Mark-Viverito said “I’m not going to allow anyone to save face at the expense of this council. This was a process that had nothing to do with the mayor.”

She then took a stroll off the deep end, saying: “I find this offensive as a woman and as a Latina.”

Huh? What does that have to do with anything? Whatever you think of our mayor, he is an equal-opportunity offender. Just ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Last month, de Blasio lashed out at Cuomo, saying he lacks leadership and that he carries out “vendettas,” a word usually reserved for mobsters.  I’m sure our governor will be much more cooperative with him now.

Meanwhile, de Blasio had an unpleasant surprise for former boss Hillary Clinton, who he failed to endorse on the day she announced her presidential campaign. The mayor first demanded to see her “progressive vision.”

Wait, I’m sure we can find at least one prominent NY Democrat who gets along splendidly with our mayor. What about NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer?

Stringer complained last week that de Blasio’s effort to cap the growth of Uber “made no sense” and that his proposal was “backwards.”

Let’s not give up hope yet. What about our freaky friend Anthony Weiner? After the mayor’s non-Clinton endorsement, Weiner fumed to The Wall Street Journal “Hillary was working on a progressive vision of health care when Bill was still smoking pot at NYU, or wherever he went.” Ok, scratch Carlos Danger.

De Blasio has been on the road a lot lately for both business and pleasure — jetting off to California, Iowa, New Mexico and Italy, among other places.

When he runs for re-election in 2017 and seeks a top Democrat to campaign with him, he shouldn’t be surprised to find Clinton, Cuomo and Mark-Viverito out of town as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment