Thursdays

If anyone’s read the blog entries I’ve written, ‘yeah crazy’, is likely their first thought before moving on. But so what? I’ll wager I’m the only chick living in North Hollywood, or in all LA for that matter, stuck in the middle of an all out territory dispute with nature. Science and research need to take a closer look at Corvid’s capacity to understand human behavior beyond our own human understanding of ourselves. A record of corvid social behavior and mating patterns is important, but observing interaction between human and crow is far more interesting. Agrippa and I have an unlikely bond, one-of-a kind, forged by the simple act of recognition of each other as individuals among their own respective and populous kind.

Thursday is a day of the week I refer to as ‘mental health Thursday’. I use to attend group therapy on Thursdays, but stopped last year after the move over the hill. Thursday is still mental health day, but I see one person rather than a group. When I think about the old Thursday group sessions, I remember crow calls outside the building while Wayne and I walk to and from our cars. After therapy we’d drive to a breakfast joint and Agrippa flys ahead of the car to let me know he’ll meet us on arrival.

The level of crow and bird drama Thursday morning is practically non-existent in the new apartment. Thursdays in Venice were horrible in comparison, and Agrippa’s harassment outside the apartment created real tension in the overcrowded beach community. I know I heard applause when I left the area for my 7:00 a.m. appointment. Agrippa is excited on Thursdays, and though he still caws and makes a fuss in the morning, he’s limited by Henry’s ability to tolerate his presence.

When I met Wayne on Thursday, I ask him why he thinks our meeting day holds so much importance to Agrippa? His interpretation and reply is ‘he’s holding on to the familiar’. The familiar. The repetition. The routine. His interpretation made sense.

Wayne is the other human bond I consistently reinforce, and when I’m away from LA Agrippa and his gang of NoHo baddies search him out.  4 to 5 crows show up at his apartment and even stalk him to work and home again. When I’m home on Thursdays, Agrippa knows there is a 90 percent chance I’ll leave the apartment early and meet people, or a person, at a location. The location changes; an office building, a coffee shop, a park, a restaurant, but always a human connection. I’ve learned Thursday is an important day of the week for him to reaffirm our bond. I imagine him thinking, ‘move to a new place and take away our regular bike rides, but I’ll be damn to hell if you fuck with our Thursdays’. At least, that’s what I hear when he stands his ground against Henry perched on a telephone pole close to the balcony and caws ‘Thursday! Thursday! Thursday!’


Homecoming

After two months convalescence in a small eastern Ontario (Canada) town, I’ve returned home injured and walking wth a cane. Of course, my aviary waited for me in LA. Perfect for an injured crow. I wonder if Agrippa feels betrayed after a two month absents? I thought of him time to time as winter turned to spring beneith my prison window. The bond is strong on both ends I suppose, but my human bond tethers me to this place and Agrippa knew I’d return eventually. He’s seen me leave before, though I’m sure he had moments of doubt this time around.

What a way to start the year. What do people say about breaking a body part at the start of a new year? Is it an omen? Do people say it’s an omen? I think it’s an omen, but a good omen. Only the best days ahead for 2019, or least minus tramatic or debilitating events. During recovery in the sleepy little snow covered town, I spent time with my brother, his family and the dogs, and watched plenty of Hockey Night in Canada with Mom and Dad. See? Good things from bad already.

My arrival marks an end to the temporary reprieve in the war between Raven and Crow. I’ll never escape the crow v.s raven territory dispute, my insane albatros. I’ve learned to accept a basic fact; as long as I live in this apartment a war is certain to continue. The raptor of the corvid nature, without question, is smart, or smarter, than any chimp. The unusual bond Agrippa and I have is destined to shape all the years I reside in this city.

I wake early and nary a bird chirp to met me. Unaware of my return, the silence is golden until mid morning. I limp around the kitchen to make coffee and hear the first crow call. One of Agrippa’s sentinals. Clever bird. Agrippa’s caw is like any human voice. Distinct, one of kind, and unquestionably recognizable. The little birds hear the sentinal’s call go out and grow excited. Then, the rottweiler next door breaths out a low, sad, rumble. A heartbreaking growl. The beautiful silence, a silence he remembers back before we moved onto the street, is broken.

The reception lights my heart. 10-15 crows hearald my return and an end to a sad, gloomy Agrippa. Finally, a reunion and every crow in his new crew is invited to the party. A group gathers around the skylight to caw and jump up and down on the plastic dome. The window shades drawn wide reveal a broken crow, limping on a cane and exibiting signs of pain, injury and weakness. Agrippa calls to me several times over the next few days, but where is Henry the raven? The crow invasion signals my return to the bird cage, and like the neighboring rottweiler lamenting silent days, Henry, perched high, drops his head and sighs heavily before he picks up a stone.

So, here I sit three weeks after my arrival and change is in the air. First, the relentless hourly raven stone bombs on the skylight seem to have ceased to disturbing levels of quite. Why Henry? What is your strategy now? Is a new brood to rear and nest to build confine you? Is Agrippa at a distance in the daytime hours (except in the morning – he has to see me at in the morning) until I fully recover? Is my injury and temporary housebound state set a new stage? Or do the actors performing in our strange little play finally accept the part they’ve been cast?

Agrippa Comes With His Boys

Yesterday, I decide to catch up on some reading while peace presided over the neighborhood and didn’t want to have close the living room blinds to sit in the reading chair; which as a side, is the only way to block out bird activity and keep them from constantly flying by to look inside. I chose the bedroom rather than the spare room, and listen to the occasional pellet drop on the skylight and little else. Then Agrippa comes with his boys. Like a motherfucker on sounding the war cry, he came to make a fucking statement. The book fell from my hands when, outside my bedroom sliding doors, the NoHo crows gathered en masse. I was tempted to creep over and peek through the closed blinds, but didn’t want to encourage this unprecedented sneak attack. I listened, almost frightened, to the hard cawing of at least 20 crows grow louder every passing moment. I didn’t grab my phone to make a recording like an idiot. Movement seemed unwise. I wondered how many were out there and what the fuck had happened?

As of now the corvid problem has arrived at a new level of crazy; the entangled relations of the Venice crows and I, the Venice crows v.s NoHo ravens, and the NoHo ravens hating on me, whom, I’m certain, think I’m part of the crow family, has made a notable shift.  I’m astonished how the mind’s of these birds work. Obviously I can’t see everything going on above the apartment, but I know plans are being hatched and orders given. I’m gifted and cursed with acute hearing; almost bird level of hearing, not quite dog, but definitely bird levels of selective hearing. A strange and often regrettable ability, if I make the effort, to pick out individual sounds from extraneous audio heard by the naked ear. This battle is one I’m uncertain of its resolve. I need help, or move from this apartment and out of North Hollywood. Even moving to a new location, I suspect, is without guarantee of full closure and an end to the drama. I have one precious reprieve; flying out of LA and off to Ontario Canada every few months to see family and relish the peace.

The sea of hate I swim daily is calm compared to prior weeks. The air strike campaign loosened slightly and the dogs next door bark less, but I’m vigilant and on guard for the next attack.  I think the owners of the adjoining property have no choice but to keep li’l yappy Lamb chop inside.  Stupid me to think new ways of torment weren’t being cooked up on the roof of the building by Henry and Bella. I have another theory centered on the Thursday routine; a day of the week the Venice crows have claimed and me, at the crack of dawn, included.

For 10 solid minutes, I listened to the raucous caws aimed to demonstrate power in numbers over a handful of ravens. The noise grew intense. All other sounds blotted out and I wondered at once if Agrippa had been doing his own plotting as of late. Had he put the word out, cashed in a few favors, and said, “Today’s the day my brothers. The NoHo crow clan make history!”? Is this what fucking happened!? Of course, I hear Agrippa first. Every crow and raven caw has a distinct timber and strength, and to forget or mistake his call, even if I try, is impossible.

The clan slowly release its grip on a struggling little corner of the valley, signaled by a slow dwindle of caws. Relieved and drained by the experience, I hear Agrippa, the last and final crow, call to me as if to say, “Jesus! Don’t you see what I just did here!? I did that!”. In my heart I wanted to step out onto the balcony and applaud loudly. If I were anywhere but here, I’d happily reply with a few caws of my own. Today, I ponder what provoked the attack and ask myself if Henry and Bella had crossed a line enacting their latest and greatest scheme.

A Truce on Christmas Day

Christmas day had a ceasefire on skylight airdrops and you think the war is over. I’d describe the last two holiday days as almost peaceful; the dogs next door, quiet. I’m certain now I’m dealing with ravens and not crows. Ravens! This isn’t good. Deep down I’ve known all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Ravens have greater intelligence and physically bigger than even a big crow. Night raids are frequent and I’ve heard them ping the skylight past 10:30 p.m. But tonight I sit in a tense silence, afraid to hope the end of persistent and timed air strikes, is near. Henry and Bella tested out various methods over the last six months. Thankfully the scratch and dig on the roof above the bedroom approach was a short-lived strategy.

The good will and reprieve from a daily attempt to dislodge me from my apartment had me take advantage and brave the balcony to trim my prize Meyer lemon tree. All the birds quiet today and the silence felt unsettling. I heard a caw in the distance and wondered if I’d have to abandon my tree trimming early. Word is out I’m out on the balcony. Is the NoHo Raven king cooking up a new one? Has Henry lived so long he understands Christmas? Fewer homeless in the street? Fewer people overall, driving. Stores close early. The look on a child’s face tells the King these days are special and to act accordingly.

The ‘Tapper’, a bird who hammers away on the roof very early in the morning, is absent for the last few weeks. A strange, sad, and difficult early times NoHo story, is a blog post ahead. I’ve never seen him (most likely a male), but one day while driving on the 101 Ventura Fwy west to the 405, I looked into the distance and saw the biggest black raven; the wingspan freakishly wide I thought it was a hawk. Taking a picture while driving on the freeway unadvisable though the next time, I don’t care, I’ll have my phone on the ready. A few days later, thinking about the Tapper, I thought maybe the huge giant I saw flying over the 101 is the Tapper! 

Will the soldiers fall back into formation along the battle lines drawn by their King and Queen? Is the time of good will and rest left behind for another year? Tomorrow is a renewed hope the Venice crows stay far enough away to keep the NoHo ravens from making up for lost time.

The Day the Eagles Came

I saw them one Friday from my balcony looking east into the morning. I defiantly sat and smoked. By treat of three days notice to evict, smoking on the property is forbidden. I tried to enjoy my hand rolled cigarette free from guilt and ravens and crows, and looked out into the Verdugo hills. That’s when I see them coming. Circling high at first; slowly descending on the busy NoHo downtown, two hawks, I don’t know what kind, one bigger than the other, circle houses and streets a block away. Two fast movng preditors set the birds in the hood into a sharp, quiet alertness. All I did was smile, watch the fun, and enjoy my cigarette. The small hawk aimed its body toward a roost of resident pigeons lining Magnolia and sent feathers into the air. It darted straight into the center of the group; a moment of amusment rather than lunch I gathered.

I do smoke two or three rolled cigarettes a day, and 90 per cent of my smoking is in the car, in the street. Obviously, defending my decision to light up on the balcony is dumb, but I need that moment from time to time, to pretend I have a real outdoor space free from guilt and shame for 10 or 15 minutes. A hand rolled cigarette is often re-lit and burns slow. I’ve time to hold a complete phone conversations sitting in my car savoring the curling blue smoke. Usually I listen to NPR and watch a dying, once quiet residential street try and adjust to rapid and large-scale changes. I should quit fucking smoking, huh? But enjoy the ritual too much, and a moment of sanity and pleasure a few times a day is worth all I have to give. I don’t want my neighbors to deal with the second hand effects of my vice; forced to close a window, or drive them from their balcony, but one periodic indulgence here and there can’t be critical to ones overall health, only a temporary inconvenience. Right?

The street birds; finches, house sparrows, humming birds, and I think at least two towhee families, pepper a thin line of trees on a street in the throws of gentrification. Me in a parked car, in the street, almost daily, I try to enjoy a rollie while birds of all kinds flit from fence to bough. I use to hear the chatter and see the attention differently once when I felt like a friend and less of a threat.

The pair came, over two weeks ago, and I wasn’t in my car, but breaking laws and maybe inconvenience people, I don’t know, happy either way for a moment. Smoke curled up over the railing as they circled, navigated the neighborhood, quieting the restless and irritated ravens, and silencing anything else born with feather and hollow bones. I hope those hawks come again soon.

Real Rain. Total Bliss.

Any amount of rain in Southern California is a gift, and it looked like Christmas came early this year when, on December 6, 2 inches of water fell on Los Angeles and environs. Record setting amounts. Water has been scant in SoCal for the last 10 years, but when we moved here from the east in 2007 it did rain in the winter and quite hard as I recall. Since then, SoCal had two droughts to make a total of 5 drought years out of the whole decade. But on Thursday of last week, the rain took out some of the PCH near Malibu with mud slides, and it snowed hard north through the Grapevine and closed off a chunk of the 5 freeway.  In North Hollywood, Vineland was a lake and Riverton a river. Rather than struggle out in the street with terrified Angelenos for parking and time, I invited Wade to stop by the apartment for coffee. 

The North Hollywood Ravens

The rain really started the day before; a change in air pressure, a brisk wind, cool with clouds, and a clear scent of moisture in the air. I craved comfort food and a warm blanket. The change in weather quieted the neighborhood bird community; you could feel them waiting for the big rain. The hard rain pounded the skylight and woke me in the night.  I happily went  back to sleep knowing, for the first time in months, the crows had no choice but to wait, wait and wait, for the next chance to pick up a stone and drop it on my kitchen skylight. But on Thursday, rain is all I heard for 48 blissful hours. The skylight is King Henry’s weapon and last great hope to get rid of me and those strangers invading their territory. I named him King Henry and his mate Queen Isabella; the king and queen who rule the NoHo crow family. 

King Henry

Henry is head honcho in charge of the strategy to eliminate the problem. Several times a day for reasons unknown, except for my interpretation and theory, the king drops pebbles and stones on my kitchen skylight. I don’t know when I first began to notice, months ago I recollect. When I first took notice, stones were heard pinging off the hard plastic dome constantly. Henry had recruited his henchmen, and certainly Bella, to fly over  the apartment building and rain down on a bitch. The skylight is only one of many intimidation methods these old raptors cooked up; blast me with their caws and fly menacing straight at me on my balcony, antagonize the dogs next door, and ruffle the feathers of all the smaller birds living in the area.  When the rain came though, Henry and Bella’s main plan no longer had any effect. 

I was grateful for the real rain while it lasted. The moment I heard the last drop fall, king and queen regrouped and solidified their reign of terror. They doubled stone-drop efforts and perched around the apartment cawing to reestablish boundary markers. All the attention stems from three persistent Venice beach crows risking even safety, to stay by my side.  I write about it now publicly, but I’ve kept a written journal documenting the earliest times with birdlife in Venice.  Living in Venice, I believe, had more difficult times when Agrippa ran around the neighborhood cloaked by a huge clan. He made life at the beach so crazy, I suffered anxiety and stress and even stopped riding my bike on the regular. Living in NoHo, he’s been relegated to the outer tree line of Henry and Bella’s territory, and direct access is almost impossible. He still tries everyday to let me know he’s around, today and always.