Wandering Eye: The story behind black squirrels, Frank O'Hara's New York School, and more

About a decade ago, when City Paper was still at 812 Park Ave. in Mount Vernon, one day a black squirrel just up and died in the parking lot behind the building. An unmolested specimen, it seemed to have gone lifeless spontaneously, its nose touching against one of the lot's concrete parking stops. Sensing something unusual and possibly newsworthy, its corpse was scooped up, wrapped up, sealed up in a Tyvek mailing envelope, and stuffed into the freezer in the basement, just in case someone would find it useful for science and journalism. Turned out, after consulting with the city's biologist at Cylburn Arboretum, it was indeed unusual in Baltimore City to find a black squirrel, which is formally deemed a melanistic grey squirrel, a genetic mutation. Its discovery, however, was deemed not to be news, so the deceased was transferred to the freezer at a staffer's home, where, when the power later went off while away, it thawed and decomposed and was unceremoniously tossed in the trash. But ever since, some here at CP have been quite fascinated with black squirrels, so it's with great delight that this appeared in the Village Voice, a wonderfully complete treatment of the Big Apple's black squirrels, including not just science but history. No mention, though, of possibly the most sensational black-squirrel story ever: that a hungry pack of them attacked and killed a large dog in Lazo, Russia, in 2005. (Van Smith)


This week's Kirby Delauter Award goes to Carson, California City Councilman Albert Robles, who penned two resolutions directing the city to cancel its subscriptions to a local newspaper called the Daily Breeze, end all advertising in the paper that is not "legally required," and urge city residents to boycott the scurrilous rag. As the LA Times reports, the resolutions (which the council tabled) were prompted by "published accounts of homicides, other crimes and negative stories" that were reported as "misleadingly located 'near Carson,'" according to the draft resolutions. Robles told the Times that the Breeze's stories too often accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive, to turn a phrase backward. "Carson is becoming a destination city," Robles told The Times. "We cannot afford for Carson's image to be negative." (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Until City Lights released a 50th anniversary edition of Frank O'Hara's seminal "Lunch Poems" this year, we'd forgotten that the great New York School poet was born in Baltimore. "New York School Painters and Poets: Neon in Daylight," a new book, takes its subtitle from an O'Hara poem and paints him as the center of that intensely social world of collaboration, drinking, gossip, and sex. The painter Larry Rivers said of O'Hara: "There were at least 60 people in New York who thought Frank O’Hara was their best friend . . . At one time or another he was everyone's greatest and most loyal audience." And most of those 60 people were important in their own right. (Baynard Woods)

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