Tag Archives: urban

Where Did the Monkeys Go?!

12 Apr

A couple of days ago, Cincinnati Police received several 911 calls about monkeys loose in an area just northwest of downtown. No monkeys were found. So what was moving so fast? And why did local residents think they were monkeys?

Cincinnati, being at the edge of what we call “the South,” is not known for its monkey population. Before I get too snarky, the Cincinnati Zoo is not far from the area that the police got a call in from. Or there are several yahoos who probably own monkeys in Cincy… whether legally or illegally. Just being in an urban area is not necessarily a disqualification. The monkeys of Delhi are very adept at living off humans–just trying to get a burger at McDonalds in Connaught Place can be tricky. So what was the culprit?

The best guess anyone can come up with is wild turkeys. Now I could go many directions with this post, humorous with some reference to Wild Turkey Whiskey, or historical with Ben Franklin’s suggestion that it, and not the bald eagle, should be the national symbol. (The actual story is more complicated.) But let’s go with the fact–that I didn’t know until today–that wild turkeys nest in trees.

We’re so used to thinking of turkeys as these large ponderous birds that can fly, but not very far, because their bulk makes that difficulty. The problem is that those are domesticated turkeys. Wild turkeys are leaner, meaner, and… well, they’re big birds, well-adapted to the ground for feeding, but can still fly. So of course they would be nesting in trees. However, at night, if you’re walking your dog next to the woods near a cemetery, you don’t know what the heck those crawling things going up and down the tree is. My mind would probably jump to monkey first, and try to figure out how you got a monkey in Cincinnati second.

There’s actually footage of this that some people took and… yeah, in the dark, zoomed in on a phone camera, with this strange hissing noise, that’s a frickin’ monkey. Three reporters who did their homework on this story actually figured out that the Ohio Department of Agriculture says you can legally own marmosets, capuchins, lemurs, and squirrel monkeys… just don’t breed them and have adequate housing.

So why does the average Cincinnatian think monkeys first and wild turkeys a far, far second? Simple–they have more experience with the monkeys. Considering wild turkeys are native to that part of Ohio, that shouldn’t be the case, but as city dwellers, we are divorced from our environment. I used to live in Cincinnati, so I’m a lot more forgiving of my former neighbors than most. Now I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and just outside my window, I’m seeing trees and grass and hearing the honking of Canadian geese. Apart from the fact that it’s 70 degrees at 7 am in April, there’s no reason I couldn’t see the same thing out my window in Ohio. The sheer amount of trees and grass create this illusion of the transplanted Midwest (this was done on purpose). But all I have to drive up 15 minutes to South Mountain park and… deep desert, geckos, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll see a coyote. Then I remember… oh, yeah, I live in a desert. Water has to be drained from the rest of the state (and several other states) to create this little oasis.

Coyotes are very clever and have adapted to urban life well, but wild turkeys? They prefer to stay on the margins–in forested areas–and in Ohio, there’s a lot less of them than they’re used to be. So when we create these parks that have more trees than most of the surrounding farmland, yeah, those turkeys are going to plop there. My son has more experience reading Curious George than hunting wild turkeys. People saw monkeys because (they think) they know monkeys, whereas they don’t know turkeys. It’s a perception problem, not an optical illusion.

On a side note I should explore later, I lived in India for three years, and I can tell you from personal experience that monkeys are not cute. They are mean pack animals that will run you down in the market for your ice cream. However, your mileage may vary–what’s your experience with monkeys? Have you see an alien in the distance and it turned out to be a deer? Let me know in the comments below! And if you want a weirder story, check our my books. However, if $1.99 is too weird, go ahead and download one of my stories for free, that should just be weird enough. 🙂

The Neighborhood’s Gone Downhill

25 Feb

“Gentrification”–such a weird word. Taking a neighborhood, improving it, then making it too expensive for the original inhabitants to live in. The alternate is to let it rot that even the inhabitants don’t want to live there. Do you take the tradeoff?

I was thinking of Baltimore, because I’ve been reading The Expanse books, which one of the main characters actually faked his own death to get out of. Having worked in Baltimore for six months, I can sympathize. Where I worked was one of the snazziest, gentrified places in the city: Harbor East. Right on the waterfront, yachts, restaurants, walking paths, new buildings–absolutely gorgeous. But it didn’t take much to figure out that they had to demolish a bunch of really old houses in order to build this modern marvel.

In fact, I could walk about a quarter mile and see exactly what Harbor East replaced. Bad neighborhoods that you only dared walk through during the day. Murders every other night and plenty of lesser crimes in between. Downtown even looked shabby compared to Harbor East. This is not that unusual in the world. Even my town of Tempe, Arizona, Apache Boulevard which runs out of Arizona State University used to be where all the fraternities had their houses, liquor stores, and all the low-cost motels for the visitors. Not the nicest of places. Then then ran the light rail through there and poof! All those houses disappeared and got replaced with nicer apartments. Because now those with money could afford to live further away from campus.

The liquor stores shifted to lesser desired neighborhoods or renovated other buildings to fill that gap. The cheap motels were replaced by AirBnB years ago. The frats were moved to a consolidated block years before, anticipating the move. And the poor housing? Moved down the line; they could use the light rail, too, but less conveniently and a longer commute.

To quote one of my favorite movies, “We’re now a nice local bar none of the locals can afford.” Gentrification may be inevitable. You can only live in a new suburb as far out as you are willing to travel for it. Yes, you can take the commuter train from Harper’s Ferry, WV to Washington, DC, if you’re willing to ride for 2-3 hours. Which means it’s more convenient to live closer to where you work.

Or is it? The one good thing about the pandemic is that it finally made companies realize that you CAN work from home for most white collar jobs. So why should a company be based out of New York City when they can save money basing themselves out of Pigeon Forge, TN? You don’t fire anyone and save state income tax. And if the cities aren’t pulling in that income, how are they going to maintain this infrastructure? If the neighborhoods go downhill, why won’t those who can move to Pigeon Forge? We’re already seeing this in California.

Honestly, I’m not against gentrification, mostly because it’s not my neighborhood. I grew up in a small town where the lack of the factory means it’s slowly falling apart. So if a NYC company came to Morrison, started putting up their flat pizza stores and Starbucks, a lot of the locals would complain… but they’d still be local. Then again, I’m more of a gypsy, but what do you think? Is there a balance between gentrification and maintaining the local culture? Let me know in the comments below!

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