Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gone for the long holiday weekend

2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, August 30, 2012. A lovely warm, sunny Summer day, yesterday in New York. I went down to Michael’s for lunch, and although most tables were occupied, it felt like the clientele had already left for the long holiday weekend.

Last night's Blue Moon. Photo: JH.
Last night I went with a friend to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park to see the Public Theater’s production of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” We’re not allowed to take photos in the amphitheatre – unfortunately – so I cannot show you the intriguing set of wood and trees (with the orchestra concealed right behind iti).

It was a perfect night – with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees and an almost full moon rising – as the show got underway. This moon, the second within the same month, is  known as the Blue Moon. It is a rare occurrence (hence the name – as in “Once in a blue moon ...”) that will not occur again until July 2015.

Shakespeare in the Park is free although it's "first come, first served": you have to go and wait in line for your seats. By eight o’clock the theater was full with a large contingent of twenty-somethings in the crowd, which is generally unusual for New York theater, although these theater-goers are just as serious and maybe even more receptive. Also in the crowd last night was Mr. Sondheim himself.
The cast of the Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods. Photo: JOAN MARCUS.
I’d never seen the show before. A musical of classic fairy tales resonated with the audience the same way these tales resonated with us when we were children. Of course it was for adults with its bawdy wit and references, and the audience was old enough to get it.

“Into the Woods” has two more performances – tonight and Saturday night. If you’re going to be in the area, give it a try (getting a ticket). Every seat is a good one, the environment is a peaceful and beautiful one and everything about the evening will buoy your spirits. To learn more visit
Palemale over Fifth Avenue, Wednesday, August 28th.
Other faces, other rooms. Yesterday our friend Penny Bianchi out in Santa Barbara sent us an email introducing us to the web site of a photographer named Lincoln Karim. Mr. Karim is not famous per se but he is very well known to a special part of the population all over the planet. Because he has been following, with his camera, the saga of the hawk Palemale since the bird and his partner came into our consciousness several years ago. As you can see, Lincoln Karim’s photographs are beautiful and majestic. But this particular posting of Mr. Karim’s blog ( has to do with another part of the forest, far from beauty and rigid with horror.

Lincoln Karim tells this story, his story, better than I could convey it:

The man we called SUIT. On Friday morning, August 24, 2012 a man shot and killed another man on the sidewalk at the foot of the Empire State Building in New York City. The killer’s name was Jeff Johnson. Soon after that murder took place Jeff Johnson was killed by police.

Jeff Johnson began writing me in early 2007 and had continued to write up until recently.

Palemale (left) and his 8th mate perched on the windows of 965 Fifth Avenue, Sunday, August 26th.
His letters were so overly complimentary that I got in the habit of deleting many of them as I read the first few lines. I did this because I didn’t feel comfortable with a person who only knew me through my website getting to the point of almost worshiping. Compliments like that serve to stagnate one’s work whereas healthy criticism makes you grow. I thought Jeff Johnson was out of state I had no idea that he lived in Manhattan.

He began showing up at the Model Sailboat Pond when Palemale & Zena’s babies had fledged and were spending a lot of time near the ground. That is when I first noticed the photographer in the avocado suit but I never knew that was the Jeff Johnson who had been writing me all this time.

Soon after June 23rd this year, I intervened with one of the babies when it came too close to the traffic on Fifth Avenue. Someone told me that a man had written a long narrative which was posted on Marie Winn’s website on how I handled the baby hawk that day. The woman who told me this said the man’s name was Jeff Johnson. Being such a generic sounding name I still didn’t make a connection with my email-admirer.
At some point thereafter, I came to the conclusion that this was the Jeff Johnson who wrote me so often. There was something very odd this person who wrote me with such admiration yet was the same taciturn man who never took the time to introduce himself when he was in my presence. Since he was such a frequent visitor, I tried on one occasion to acknowledge him, but he sharply turned away from my greeting. To be quite honest, this behavior suited me just fine since I do not like to have too much acquaintance with ‘the crowd‘.

I am known to be aloof myself, and two people with similar characteristics keeping their distance is understandable. However I soon learned that none of the other regular hawk watchers, who are far more social than I, had been able to communicate with this man either. He began to be referred to as ’Suit’--the man who wore what appeared to be the same suit every day even in the worst summer heat.
Palemale hunting rats in Central Park, Saturday, August 25th.
Jeff Johnson’s strange behavior did not compliment him at the sites where photographers and hawk watchers gathered. Compounding his taciturn character was his lurking, his abrupt movement, his foolish photography style, such as engaging the pop-up flash on his camera and then cupping it with his hand.

I'll take some blame for Jeff's inability to fall into the little group that watched the hawks, since it was quite obvious that he admired me a great deal. He followed me and embraced many, if not all, the issues which I pursued, from providing little artificial watering vessels for the hawks, to campaigning to rid the city of rat poison.

Had I, of all people, made a better effort to communicate to him I am sure that it would have sufficiently diffused many of the sinister designs he harbored.
Palemale in Central Park, Friday, August 24th.
Palemale hunting in Central Park, Friday, August 24th.
I see now that following the hawks may have been his therapy and when that pastime did not work out, regardless of who is to be blamed for that, he decided to drop it completely and in one single day hopped back onto the path he may have been veering away from for almost a year.

I have to tell you that it most likely was I who may have been ‘the last straw’ which pushed him to this; On Wednesday evening, two days before the tragedy, he stood a few feet away from me photographing Palemale near the MET when I admonished him for using his camera flash. He took my words with silent anger and formed a grim facial expression on his characteristically cold face. He didn’t stop photographing immediately but left the area that evening and didn’t show up at all the next day (Thursday).

The following day he carried out his murderous plan and I will forever wonder if his own slaying had forestalled any further plans he had for retribution against anyone he believed to be responsible for his terrible situation in life.

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