Monday, January 31, 2011

Squirreled Away

I was riding home on the R train the other night when a man came walking through my car playing “Quando, Quando, Quando” on the trumpet.

He was doing a pretty good job and I was impressed by the way he pushed his beat box with one hand and blew his horn with the other. I tossed him a dollar as he went by.

“Quando” means “when” in Italian and that seems like a fair question to ask at this time of the year, as in “when, when, when will this goddamn winter be over?”

There’s snow all around me. I’ve spent so much money on that de-icing crap I should buy stock in the company. I can’t step foot out of the house without putting on the parka and strapping on these Frankenstein clodhopper boots.

But then I’m hardly going out at all thanks to this hideous weather. Thank God for Netflix.

And now another storm is on the way…

These never-ending blizzards remind me of a story my father told us about a particularly harsh winter he experienced when he was a young man.

My father, who lived in Upper Manhattan, became concerned about the condition of the squirrels in Central Park. Yes, that’s right, the squirrels.

My dad was worried that the squirrels would be starving, given the rotten weather and cold temperatures. While I think that was very noble of him, I have to confess I’ve never given the squirrels much thought.

It’s nothing personal; it just that I always assumed that the squirrels manage somehow. You hear a lot of complaints about New York, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “hey, we’re running low on squirrels.”

My father was always trying to help someone, though; usually a total stranger and often someone who didn’t deserve or appreciate any help.

One time he gave a man a lift from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The man was Hispanic and when my father stopped the car to go into a store, he left the keys in the ignition to show that he wasn’t bigoted. And the guy promptly stole his car.

The car was a clunker and we were well rid of it. In fact, I was out driving with him a short time later and I pointed to a car in the next lane that looked a lot like the stolen one.

“Be quiet,” he said, “the guy might try to give it back.”

Yeah, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that my father wanted to help the furry little guys out. So one day he loaded up his pockets with nuts and chocolate bars and marched into the frozen wasteland of Central Park.

He found the squirrels, all right. Or rather they found him. It turned out that he was right; the squirrels were indeed very hungry. They were so hungry that scores of the ravenous critters came charging out of every corner of the park and headed straight for my father.

They ran up his arms and legs, tore into his pockets and bit him repeatedly in their desperate attempt to get at the goodies. They weren’t polite; they didn't line up in orderly fashion and say “please.” They just attacked.

“At one point,” my father said, “I looked up over a hill and saw even more squirrels galloping toward me.”

I’m trying to imagine what a herd of charging squirrels looks like. It sounds like something out of a Hitchcock movie.

My father decided this would be a good time to make his exit, which he did, quite rapidly, throwing the remaining nuts and candy bars over his shoulder.

He had to go to the hospital to be treated for the various bites he had suffered during the feeding frenzy. He recovered and I don’t think he ever tried to feed the squirrels again.

But he got a good story out of it and its nice to have something to laugh about while waiting for the snow to melt and the sun to shine.

Quando, quando, quando...


bonnie said...

GREAT story!

Ron said...

Great post, Rob!

You had me laughing through the whole thing!!

"I’m trying to imagine what a herd of charging squirrels looks like. It sounds like something out of a Hitchcock movie."


Oh, but your dad sounds like such a sweet soul. I too love squirrels, therefore I can totally indentfy with his concern. I go out during the cold winter months and feed them in the park too. And yes, they can be very aggressive, however I've never been bit - YIKES!

Yes, I heard today that we here in Philly are getting another snow storm this week!

Don't worry, Rob...there's only two more months of winter weather left, and then it'll be Spring!

"Quando, quando, quando..."

Rob K said...

Thanks, guys! Yeah, Ron, my dad meant well. And I can't wait for two months to be over.

And to my dear friend, Jen, whose very kind post apparently got deleted--thank you and sorry about my dumbness!

Brenda from Flatbush said...

This one's a classic, Rob, laugh-out-loud funny and a wonderful sketch of your a bit of moral support for surviving this bloody endless winter. It is also, as it happens, exactly the right length and perfectly cadenced--you make it look easy.

Rob K said...

Oh, thanks so much Brenda!