I grew up in a Philadelphia neighborhood of post-WW2 row houses. My childhood experience of natural wildlife was limited to sparrows, pigeons, robins, earthworms, insects, and stray dogs.
The Hollywood neighborhood in which I live now is one I would have considered “suburban” back then — single 1-story houses surrounded on all sides by lawn. Quire a difference in lifestyle in number of bathrooms alone. But the real change is the wildlife. South Florida is a jungle where any time of year you can have a real-life close encounter with a page out of National Geographic.
We’ve all got our stories featuring iguanas, snakes, bald eagles, giant grasshoppers, and occasional alligators. My favorite is the monkey I saw off US-1in Dania Beach. Good thing it was broad daylight, and I was sober.
Which brings me to the scene yesterday. The vultures gathered at the end of my back alley are picking apart the fly-infested carcass of a rather large raccoon, struck, I suppose, by a vehicle. The first seating was attended by a lone diner, but within 20 minutes he was joined by eager companions who circled for a while before swooping down — very impressive display — to start gnawing.
We didn’t have this sort of carrion-feasting back in Mt. Airy. The vultures up there wore cheap suits and came door to door, pimping for votes.
I call the Wildlife Center. “If the vultures are already there, don’t worry about it,” fellow says to me. “You could call animal control, but I doubt they’ll come out for a dead animal. Besides, they’ll have it cleaned up in a couple hours. It may be unsettling, but it’s actually a good thing.”
Should I put out some wine for them?
“If you like. I believe red goes best with coon. Never tried it myself.”
“No, red wine. I’m strictly a beer drinker.”
We talk about beer for a few minutes, and hang up.
The big birds went about their business with efficiency and relatively little bickering. Their manners were commendable, much more so than what you see on display in many local restaurants, especially on the beach during tourist season. Better yet, none of the guests appeared to be foodies, that supremely irritating specimen of pretentious bloat that abuses its gifted status at the pinnacle of the food chain by presiding with unappreciative hauteur.
I despise foodies. I’d rather eat with the vultures, despite the stench. And what a stench it was — downwind smelled like Paterson NJ, which is also populated by rotting corpses.
There’s nothing left this morning but some bloody fur. Life goes on.