Issue 169, Spring 2004
Norman Mailer is my fighting cock, Truman Capote my shih tzu. George and Ira Gershwin are songbirds, Lenny Bruce a mockingbird, Enrico Caruso a white-breasted booby. Andy Warhol is my chameleon. Like the ark at Ararat, I contain all kinds, but I have them in greater multiples than Noah ever dreamed possible.
Al Smith is my ram, Robert Moses my beaver, Donald Trump my ass. Bella Abzug is my porcupine, Frederick Law Olmsted my sheep, Lillian Russell and Lillie Langtry my swans, Martha Graham my Komodo dragon, Jackson Pollock my lobster, Gypsy Rose Lee my oyster.
Rowland H. Macy and F. W. Woolworth are my magpies, Thelonious Monk my grizzly bear, Dorothy Day, benevolent and orderly, an elk. Ward McAllister is my housefly, Fernando Wood my blue heron.
Abbie Hoffman is my hyena, Jimmy Cagney my cockatoo, Leo Castelli my hawk, Gloria Vanderbilt my butterfly. Toots Shor is my happy hippopotamus in his—and everyone else’s— watering hole.
Weegee is my lightning bug, Diamond Jim Brady my water buffalo, Adam Clayton Powell my falcon. Mean, mean Hetty Green is my nanny goat, Bernard Bamch my owl, Walter Cronkite, too.
Ethel Merman is my goose, Peter Cooper my pelican, Marm Mendlebaum my lynx, John Dewey my bookworm, J. Walter Thompson my sweet-voiced nightingale, Tallulah Bankhead my squawky, gaudy parrot, Casey Stengel my wild turkey, Reginald Marsh and Albert Pinkham Ryder my nocturnal, ash-can-ransacking raccoons.
Allen Ginsberg is my hedgehog, Delmore Schwartz and Dawn Powell both moths, Jimmy Breslin my bear cub, Edith Wharton my egret.
John Lennon is my sweetly meowing Angora cat, Mark David Chapman my feral dog.
David Dinkins is my hamster, Woody Allen my mouse, Joe Lewis my moose. Mae West is my octopus, Hannah Arendt my sturgeon, Herman Melville my barnacle, Samuel F.B.
Morse my woodpecker.
Margaret Sanger is my panda, Malcolm X my barracuda, Rudolf Nureyev my gazelle, Groucho Marx my anteater, Murray Kemp ton my crane, Clare Boothe Luce my boa.
Billy Rose is my spider, Evelyn Nesbit my mink—or minx.
Take me to the Garden. I’ll sit with Spike Lee my fly, and Meyer Lansky my wolf, and lupine-named Tom Wolfe my albino peacock. Look, there in the red seats, there’s Helena Rubinstein my ocelot, Nikola Tesla my moray eel, Damon Runyan my basset hound, Ed Sullivan my sphinx, Jackie Onassis my ladybug, John Lindsay my caribou, Teddy Roosevelt my, no not my, teddy, he’s my mastiff, Willie Mays my golden retriever.
Lucky Luciano is my tarantula, Son of Sam my poisonous jellyfish. Judge Crater is my missing link.
I’ve only mentioned the epitomes, the pure breeds, but I also house mongrels and mutations, fanged sloths and flying wart hogs, Siamese mules and talking crabs. And for each that’s attained a level of renown there are innumerable others with similar traits, similar markings, that make them the cheetah of Gramercy, the chipmunk of Soho, hep cats of Hell’s Kitchen, the gnat next door. How can anyone keep track? What’s a city to do? I’ve got whales and guppies, carnivores, omnivores, creatures of the farm and field and stream and veldt and tundra. Name it, imagine it, it’s mine.