Thursday, March 08, 2012
Catch the Worm
It was the late 1960s, and I needed a summer job. Unemployment was at record highs, and there were no jobs. So my father was able to arrange a summer job with his construction company. There was, however, a small hitch. It was located nearly 20 miles from home, he worked nights, and I had no vehicle. We were able to find someone in town who was traveling to work in the mornings to one of the companies' other facilities. So, this meant 3 rides - the first to the man's home, then a ride with him to one company location, and finally, a ride with a truck driver going to my final destination. This series of rides required getting up early. Real early.
My ride with the older man was torturous. I tried to nap, which he found comical and amusing. His need to lecture prevented me from sleeping. I was a captive audience with no options but to listen, struggling to keep my eyes open. The only thing I remember is his admonition that EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM. But I was not an early bird, saw no value in being one, and had no interest in worms. Let others have the worms. Please, TAKE ALL THE WORMS AND LET ME SLEEP.
Much later in life, I came to learn the value of being an early riser and the joy in that quiet time before the morning rush. Although in a city like New York, there are certainly different styles, I also began to see rising early as one of the traits of the aggressor and as one key to many's success.
Growing up in New England, I was certainly blessed with an array of bird species. However, the aggressors made themselves most well-known - crows, starlings, sparrows, and bluejays. But in New York City, in the harsh, competitive environment, the aggressors and survivors dominate.
Here, many of the birds which I see most commonly are the aggressors that I saw growing up in the countryside: starlings, sparrows, pigeons, and the occasional crow. However, today is the first time I recall ever seeing a bluejay in New York City. Bluejays are noisy and notorious trouble makers. They are aggressive to humans and other birds, which they have been known to attack or kill. They also have a reputation as thieves, stealing the eggs, chicks, and nests of other birds. Sounds like the character traits of many New Yorkers.
Diligent birders keep logbooks of their sightings. My logbook is one of aggressors and survivors and includes salesmen making cold calls, lawyers, real estate brokers, investment bankers, street hustlers, businessmen, rats, pigeons, squirrels, cockroaches, and those who look well -uited and/or have adapted for city life. Today, I round out my collection of sightings with the bluejay.
Be it birds, plants, animals, or people, the meek do not inherit New York's earth, only the aggressors and survivors. On April 9, 2006, I wrote New York Survivor about the London Planetree, a good example of a survivor in New York City's Sieve of Darwin. It was, appropriately, on a London Planetree, that this morning I sighted my first bluejay and that he, like New York's other aggressors, was up early, ready to Catch the Worm :)
It's hard, but worth it. Read more of my take on city life in Unforgiving, Ye Who Enter Here, Steaming Masses of New York, I Know, Jungle Lovers, and Dwanna.