Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why the Concrete Jungle is Quite Literally a Jungle…

Since arriving in New York City two months ago I have witnessed (or been involved in) a handful of odd animal encounters… No joke.

I’m not talking about the family of subway rats I see every morning at the Union Square station. Nor am I talking about the man who walks down 3rd Avenue with all five of his white poodles at the same time. No, I am talking about exotic creatures that, while seemingly out of place in Manhattan, somehow blend in perfectly well with the assortment of fascinating human inhabitants of the island. I gotta hand it to Jay Z and Alicia Keys, because they sure hit it right on the mark when they referred to New York City as a “concrete jungle” in Empire State of Mind. Below are the top four strangest animal encounters I’ve had thus far in the Big Apple.

1.Attack of the asp
The first was with a killer caterpillar. My father was stung by an asp within three hours of arriving to fit me in New York City. When I hear the word “asp” I picture an exotic, creepy bug squirming around somewhere deep within a South American rainforest. Let me tell you, this is most definitely not the case. It all started when my family decided to begin their Big Apple summer vacation by taking a stroll in the ever-verdant Washington Square Park. It was a gorgeous day—the sun was shining, floral scents filled the air and the comforting sounds of a jazz trio echoed throughout the park. It seemed like the NYC weather gods were smiling down upon us. While resting on a bench, a small yellow caterpillar landed on my dad’s neck, which he quickly brushed off. Little did he know that this admittedly very cute caterpillar would be causing him hours of pain and hives. 
Jungle: 1 Dad: 0.

2. Feisty Ferrets
The second took place underground, because it’s normal to bring ferrets on the subway, right? 
Especially wrong when the owner is sweetly singing to the animal and stroking its fur with fierce admiration. Or when the ferret looks as if it could leap out of its keeper's loving embrace and straight into your not-as-receptive arms. But MOST especially when this is all taking place within three feet of you. Because you’re on your way to work and it’s a crowded subway and you literally cannot budge an inch. I was a little disturbed and a lot terrified. 

3. Pigeon Hole'd 
The third encounter occurred at the magical Coney Island. After passing through the turnstile of the subway station, my roommate leaned in and whispered to me, “There’s a guy with a bird right next to you.” I quickly turned my head to discover that there was indeed a man with a large pigeon resting on his shoulder immediately to my right. A pigeon that happened to be looking directly at me from only a few inches away. Admittedly, I screamed for about 5 seconds. Normal reaction, I know.

4. An Urban Pig Pen
The fourth took place in Lincoln Center. While perusing the Metropolitan Opera's gift shop goods, we passed two men carrying a wicker basket with a fuzzy pink blanket inside. Except, on second glance, it wasn’t a blanket at all. Inside that basket was a pig. Inside the Metropolitan Opera House.  

I cannot say I am surprised by any of these occurrences. It is New York City, after all. Anything and everything can happen here, the city is chockfull of the strange and unexpected. But that’s what makes it the greatest city in the world. 

Manhattan truly is a “concrete jungle." 

--Written by Rose Minutaglio, Sports Illustrated, Trinity University  
--Edited by Emma Weissmann, National Geographic Magazine, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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