Clearly at some point I pissed off the NYC apartment gods.  Why is it that each and every apartment I’ve lived in has tortured me in its own unique and special way.  My first apartment was located on 74th and York. I moved there in September of 1987. It was an old railroad flat that I paid $750 a month for.  I remember seeing several apartments with a rental broker who looked like he had lived in the city since the Civil War. He was nice enough, but given my limited budget, he had little desire to spend a lot of time with me. I met him at his office and he asked me where I wanted to live.  “Anywhere but the Upper East Side” was my reply.  He proceeded to take me to three apartments. While I don’t remember the details, I do know that even the excitement of moving into Manhattan could not overcome the horror of these living spaces! 

We returned to his office with me being slightly deflated not having found the perfect NY apt in a span of 90 minutes.  On the way in I noticed a cardboard sign in the window that read “3 rooms $750”  I asked him why we didn’t see that one?  He replied “It’s on 74th and York and that’s the Upper East side”  Well, three whole rooms for $750, I couldn’t just dismiss that without at least taking a look could I.  So off we went.  The building was your typical tenement house, 6 floors, 4 apartments to a floor.  My new apartment was 2FE (Front East) it sounded very fancy to me back then.  I moved  all my “stuff” in and made it home, some peel and stick tiles on the floor, roller shades, a couch, chairs and coffee table from my dad’s office, a couple of air conditioners and the highriser bed from childhood. That was not my first choice,  a single bed, but that’s all that fit in the bedroom.

There I was living the high life on the Upper East side, until the pigeons moved in.  The bed, window and air conditioner shared a physical proximity of about 2 feet. It was my first experience of what goes on in a NYC apt building airshaft.  Do you know how noisy pigeons are when they’re cooing 18 inches from your head?  Then their relatives moved into the pigeon window ledge condo outside the bathroom which faced the back of the airshaft.  Now we were really having fun, pigeons cooing in stereo. Well this just wouldn’t do for my fancy UES pad.  I headed off to the hardware store in search of a solution, I figured I’d buy a board, some nails and a hammer, with which I would construct something so frightening that the pigeons would flee in terror.  Yeah, not so much, these where hearty Manhattan pigeons.  They positioned themselves in-between the nails and I’m pretty sure they used them to scratch their asses.  My trap turned into a pigeon ass-scratching spa.  They were mocking me.  Another trip to the hardware store and the guy at the register suggested I try bird glue traps. This was obviously an urban warrior who knew about this stuff, I had every confidence my problem was about to be solved. 

I opened the window to the bedroom and removed the board now covered in nails, pigeons feathers and I’m sure hunks of pigeon butt and replaced it with a new board that I had lathered with pigeon glue. Ha, I’m ready for you bitches now–bring it. I hid behind the shade peering out to see what would happen when the first unsuspecting flying rodent landed. He or she moved  his or her feet around clearly not happy with what was going on and flew off. This was repeated several times.  Smugly, I went into the living room to watch TV, convinced I was bird-free.  Well about an hour later I heard what sounded like a pterodactyl stuck in a tar pit outside the window. I could not imagine the horror that was about to reveal itself. As I lifted the shade to see what was going on, a pigeon, laying on its side had managed to get its face, body and one wing stuck to the glue and was beating the other wing frantically trying to free itself, it was horrifying.  What should I do?  If I lifted the window and tried to free the trapped creature it would surely scratch, bite, peck or do who knows what other horrible things to me thus infecting me with bird pestilence (luckily there was no such thing as bird flu back then).  The sound was awful and as much as I didn’t want to cohabitate with these horrid creatures, I certainly didn’t want to see them suffer either.  So I came up with the brilliant idea of covering my bed in plastic and throwing a pot of not-that-hot water at the bird so it would loosen the glue and it would be free.  In hindsight, not the best idea I ever had. I think I realized that just as the water was leaving the pot.  The pigeon was not happy, at all.  The flapping got worse and so did the screeching, clearly I was out of my league and retreated to seek out reinforcements.

I went to find the super, who as anyone that has lived in NY knows, is nowhere to be found when you need them, but always around asking annoying questions when you don’t.  I came back upstairs to survey the current situation, when I lifted the shade, I found my pigeon friend dead. To this day I don’t know whether he drowned or had a heart attack, but it was not a pleasant end for him no matter how you look at it. I thought about burying him, but realized that wasn’t going to work, so I got a broom, opened the window and pushed the entire mess off the ledge to the bottom of the airshaft.  I was not proud of myself, it was a hollow victory.  Poor Mr. pigeon, covered in glue and water, left to decompose at the bottom of an airshaft–it was a true NYC murder scene. 

I lived in that apartment for five years and never quite defeated the pigeons, maybe they were seeking revenge for their fallen brethren.  The window ledge outside the bathroom, became the pigeon nursery and no matter how many times I thought about pushing that nest off the ledge and sending those baby pigeons hurtling to their death, I could never actually do it, maybe I was honoring their fallen comrade, who died a hideous death at my hand.  So the pigeons and I co-habitated together for half a decade, I would bang on the window in the morning and chase them away, they would come back shortly thereafter.  Now when I look back, I remember a time in NYC when the worst thing you had to think about was a garden-variety mugging or annoying pigeons outside your window, my how the world has changed.  Next up Apt #2–entitled “Ass slapping through the bedroom wall and other noises of the night. Till then, may you sleep well and be bird free. 

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