Agrippa today.

‘Cause you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop..’

I’ve delayed this entry for to long. I’ve tried to write about Agrippa every damn day, but my mind refuses to settle. Life in the aviary is in constant flux. Days of quiet follow days of agitation and back again. One moment I think I can handle the harassment, the next I’m back to scouring websites to look for a high rise apartment.

To my horror and amazement the crows three journeyed over the hill and set up in the new neighborhood along with us last summer. Agrippa is the senior and lead bird in this strange adventure. The three of them integrate easy enough and join a sizable clan north on Chandler Blvd. Agrippa is determined to reinforce our bond daily, but his obstacle is a large, mature raven, King Henry. Corvids need to communicate with one another constantly to enforce social and family bonds and is most likely the true explanation Agrippa comes for me daily. 

Agrippa is forced to adapt to recent changes, primarily the ankle injury, steps to recovery, and lack of drive time in the car. After I disappear for months, then return temporarily disabled and limited to assisted travel for trips around town, he’s less aggressive. Injury is a universal truth among all things living I suppose. To break or succumb to damage is to be alive; and a mishap changes routine and re-shapes your future everyday environment. Incessant crow and raven fights, the skylight air drops, the dogs, and overall neighborhood disturbance is far less. Lately, he employs alternative methods to communicate, but one thing I do know, Agrippa is afraid I’ll leave again.

The big routine shift is less skylight bomb activity and dog barks. Annoying and ever present, the ‘pings’ off the skylight tie directly to me leaving and returning to the apartment. The air bomb frequency is a mystery. Why less and why now? Before the accident, I’d leave my home office once a day and drive around town either to the grocery store, to the park to write in my journal, or run an errand. Then, I’d return to the apartment and the ‘rain of terror’ on the skylight starts up like clockwork. The barking starts. The little birds chirp angrily.

The ravens. The ravens. The ravens. I’d think “god damn those fucking ravens!”. They want me gone. They want me to take the crows and fuck off to who cares where, but not here. King Henry and Queen Bella come around and perch on the roof or a near by hydro pole to raise the alarm. Before my lengthy absence Henry cawed at my window at least three times a day. I haven’t seen or heard a raven call for over a month. Why? What’s happened?

Here’s the rub. I’m wrong about the ravens and I’m glad to be this wrong. Guess the bombing culprits. The fucking crows! My crows! Agrippa is persistent and determined. The main characteristic of the species. When we lived in Venice he bullied me hard. He knew his loud caws upset my neighbors. The fucker wanted me to come outside and learned quick the way to make me. Yes. I’m saying a crow bullied me. I match his will and when he refuses to leave me alone, I close the windows and blinds. He darkens my skylight determined to communicate the message, ‘I’m here. I’ll always be here no matter where you go.”

I search for information and learn. I read a research paper recently, a dissertation, and the study reveals ravens are bigger and outweigh a crow by a couple of pounds, but crows have mob mentality and socialization behind them. Ravens do forge in groups, but on average they live day-to-day with only one other – usually the life partner. According to the data, crows generally bring down the hammer on ravens rather than vice versa. Agrippa has rallied the mob a few times, including the morning I arrived home in April and one other time when we moved over the hill.

Agrippa laments the past. The good times. The regular travel, the conversation, and hanging out at Penmar Park. I have an eerie feeling Agrippa had his eye on me before I ever knew he existed. I use to ride to the park daily after a round trip ride from Venice to the Pacific Palisades. I’d sit in the bleachers, smoke a cigarette, and speak chirp. A pocket of seeds mixed with nuts, I’d watch dog walkers and people who work out in parks early before work. Good times then. I had no idea I’d never be alone again when the crow clan wrapped me in a black cloak.

Why? Why this bond? Why move house with two other crows in tow to come to this place? Why is he so determined to stay here with me, and now of course, my husband. Back in Venice, Agrippa and other crows at that time, caw loudly when my husband is dropped off at the bus stop. I always knew he’d be coming through the door in minutes. And true more than not, he’d be at the door. At around 4 p.m daily, except for weekends, my husband’s returns to the apartment and Agrippa waits for him at the Metro station. He still calls out to let me know he’s on his way home. This is true.

I understand more and more Agrippa has to reinforce the bonds of family, and I’m family now. I’m fucking family! And family is a bond unbroken for life.

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.

Where is My Mind? A Lesson In Technology.

A month or more has passed since the battle between human and raven ratcheted up a notch. The dogs’ barked non-stop, the ravens cawed loudly and little birds panicked. I stop working on my edit, open up Safari, and Google madly for a solution. Short of purchasing an Airsoft gun, pellet gun, laser pointer, or setting off firecrackers, my option for defense against my foe, my fate, is limited in this dense urban community. Then, I start to read posts from people across the country and around the world living under the same level of unwanted attention from the black birds.

YouTube is the real hero the day weasels scurried around my brain. I felt trapped, and my anxiety barometer on the rise, until I found hawk cry audio tracks on YouTube. Then, I found audio files of crows sending up the alarm. I blended the cry of a baby hawk calling to its mother with the panicked crows audio, and output the mix full blast from my little desk speakers. I played the screaming crows and crying baby hawk mix several times during the day and even recorded the tracks on my phone to play while smoking in my car in the street. It worked. My God it worked! I knew the silence had a short shelf life since ravens and crows recognize patterns and sniff out a fake quickly. I use those audio tracks, and the sounds still work, when King and Queen decide to irritate the dogs (they drop pellets on the dogs in the yard next door to provoke…so clever these two) or perch on the power lines close by and scream. 

Henry and Bella didn’t count on a bitch having modern technology.

This morning, a day after the truce, if you’re following along, I walk out to the balcony. I crack the door open and the raven calls start. I listen to the calls come incrementally closer (audio track below). I wonder, briefly, if today is going to be one of the days Henry and Bella feel like causing shit or test the fence for a weakness missed during a previous campaign.

Agrippa, Germanicus and little Claudius (or Claudia) had the advantage of a large group/family of crows at their back when we lived in Venice. I rode my bike briefly when we moved and noticed the NoHo crows perch north of Vineland in the boughs of old pine forest beauty on Chandler Ave. I read the National Geographic articles below and wonder if the Venice crows first, have been accepted into the new clan, and second, is a newcomer required to start at the bottom of the social ladder? I’m gob smacked by Agrippa’s loyalty and bond. I have to admit though, shit used to be worse on the day to day.

Henry sends up the alarm
Henry and Bella

www.nationalgeographic.com 2018

www.nationalgeographic.com 2017

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.