Friday, November 7, 2008

Coney Island, Part 1: Kitten gets into the chicken hut; chickens unruffled

As the late afternoon sun sank toward the Coney Island horizon, I knew that if I wanted to find a cat in this neighborhood of New York City, I had better get looking. So I left the beach and boardwalk, and strolled on into the town section. As I strolled, I looked at every door, every porch, every window; peeked inside every little shop and store and peered down allies and roadways, but saw no cat.

Then I came upon an unusual scene - in the midst of the surrounding buildings I found a lot filled with grass, tiny garden plots, and a host of miniature statuary, ranging from donkeys to a life sized toy soldier. 

At first, I thought I had happened upon a miniature golf course, but I had not. It was a garden of some kind. 

Then I saw the above statue of a cat, in the middle of a tiny garden plot. "Well," I thought to myself. "If someone likes cats enough to put a statue like this in their garden, then it stands to reason that they might like them enough to invite real, flesh and blood cats to live with them."
So I walked slowly along the outside of the fence, studying the strange menagerie of artificial animals on the other side of the fence. Soon, I came to a second ceramic cat. It was white, and in the plot with it was a chicken, also white. Taking pictures through the heavy wire of the black, chain-link fence was most difficult. It required me to bring the lens right up to the little diamond shaped openings formed by the wire links, but these gaps were too small to fit the lens barrel through.

So I had to position the camera so that the edges of the barrel rested against the black-painted metal of the chain link, but the glass peered through unobstructed. This left me with a very limited field of view and little maneuverability. None-the-less, in this manner I photographed the hen and the statue.

If you click on a few of these pictures, you will see that there are all kinds of interesting objects in the background.

I continued my stroll along the fence and spotted two effigies - one of a gorilla, the other an orangutan, dangling by the arms from a tree. Beneath the tree was a chicken hut. I thought about taking a photograph, just because the scene was so strange, but the light was dimming, I could see neither cat nor human within the fenced in area, and so I decided that if I was to find a cat, I had just better move on.

Just as I walked beyond the compound, I heard the voice of a woman: "Did you photograph the roosters, too?" I turned, and saw an elderly black woman addressing me.

"Did you photograph the roosters, too?" she asked again. "I saw you photographing the hens. You should photograph the roosters, too. Come back. I'll show you the roosters."

I followed her back to the above scene. She pointed to the hut. "Can you see the roosters?" she asked.

"Yes," I answered, as I took a picture to be polite. "But what I really want to photograph is a cat. Do you know if there is a cat anywhere in there?"

"Oh, yes!" she said. "Of course! He keeps cats." She then peered intently at the chicken hut. "Look!" she exclaimed. "There's a cat in there right now! A kitten. That kitten is not supposed to be in with the chickens! Santos won't like that. That kitten is being naughty."

Look closely through the wire front of the chicken hut. Do you see a kitten?

Now can you see it? Dimly, almost like a little feline wraith, just before Halloween? And look! There's a rooster in front of it.

"Oh, Santos is not going to be happy about this!" the woman said. "That kitten is not supposed to be in with the roosters. I wonder where Santos is? He's usually nearby. Well, I've got to go. Good luck, getting your picture. If he comes while you are here, Santos will let you inside."

She left.

I wondered if the kitten might come out of the chicken coop if I called out to it. "Kitty!" I trilled. "Kitty! Kitty! Here, kitteee, kitty!" The kitten perked up, and came trotting out, all excited. He trotted right past a couple of roosters.

Not withstanding the fact that it was I whose call had excited him to come, the kitty completely ignored me. He did not ignore this hen, however. He studied her intently.

As I continued to try to call him to the fence, the kitten sat down, and studied his surroundings.

Then the kitten went off to explore, as a rooster observed. I followed, struggling to take pictures through the link openings in the fence.

The kitten suddenly leaped into the air, and landed right beside the rooster. This antic ruffled the rooster's feathers.

The kitten then marched past the feet of the toy soldier, back in the direction of the chicken hut. I followed.

Soon, the kitten turned around, and headed back in the other direction.

Again he passed the toy soldier.

He passed a white tiger, entered a walkway, and then turned toward the fence. Yes, I followed.

And then, suddenly, he stopped. He had brought me to another kitten and both sat looking at me from the other side of the fence.

It was as if the first kitten had intentionally led me to the second, and now that he had introduced us, he left, so that I could turn my camera onto the second kitten, and he could get some peace.

This is a mistake. I had meant for the camera to focus on the kitten, but instead it focused upon the scene behind the kitten. As it turned out, it was a very appropriate mistake for, even as I took this picture, behind one of those windows in the background a set of human eyes looked out, and studied me.

Hoping that Santos might come, I lingered with the kitten for several minutes and struggled to photograph him through the fence. People passing by on the sidewalk said nothing, but I could imagine what kind of thoughts were taking place in their heads.

Finally, I concluded that Santos was not going to appear, I stood up, and turned to walk away.

"Would you like to go inside, and meet Buttons?" I was surprised to hear a voice behind me, just as I began to walk away. I turned around and saw a man who wore a beret cap. His skin was dark and leathery. He had been around awhile.

"I'm Santos," he introduced himself. He pointed through a link in the fence. "That's button. And look! There's Luther." The first kitten came trotting back.

"Here, let me open the gate. You can come inside."

Next up: How Santos fought City Hall to save his garden for his cats


Mickey said...

What sweet kittens!!! I cannot wait for the next part of the story :)
Some of those chickens look very floofy!!(The white one)
Purrs Mickey

Daisy said...

What a cool garden! It seems kind of surreal. I am looking forward to the next part of the story.

Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

Wow, what a great place for a cat in the middle of Coney Island...

heidi said...

Really cool garden

Black Cat said...

Oh, this is such a good story! I think your life is so enriched by the cats you find to photograph! I’ve given you an award, maybe it's the one you gave me which I never found, haha! Love ya:)

Standtall said...

Ah interesting! Then and the cat part 1. That my title for this post. Where did u find your reading glasses?

Grahamn Kracker said...

Mickey - Thanks, and me too - I cannot wait to tell it, but Blogger isn't letting me! I have tried and tried and tried to upload the photos and Blogger will not upload them. I will keep trying.

Daisy - yes, very surreal. And you will see more surreal in Part 2 - if blogger ever lets me put it up. Cats seem to do well in surreal.

zss: Yes. Wish I could have spent more time there.

Heidi - Yes, very cool - worth fighting for, as you will see.

Thank you, Black cat! Awards all around. We swap them back and forth!

Standtall: I could not find my reading glasses, but I bought some more. I will lose them, too.