Two turkeys in New York City

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange recently traveled to the Big Apple for the first time in decades, and found another country-dweller there, too.

(Lange) My first trip to New York City in 34 years. But the first time ever I heard of a wild turkey perched on a high-rise.

I’m fairly certain my outward mien displayed a mature self-confidence, but inwardly I was twisted with anxiety. So I was delighted to be met by an old college friend. He runs tours of the jazz scene from the Village to Harlem. There’s not much about the city that he doesn’t know. We got downtown in an hour, with time for me to check in, change, and walk uptown to 59th Street.

Those of us here in the sticks fancy ourselves the physical superiors of city dwellers, who in our imagination ride everywhere. But urbanites walk more, climb more stairs, and do it faster, than any of us bush-dwellers. I started my hike a geriatric stroll, but soon I was up to the twelve-minute-mile pace of the throng around me.

It seemed prudent to observe the DON’T WALK signs at each street crossing. But before I’d gone ten blocks I found myself calculating the odds of making it across against the lights – the urban equivalent of crossing a pasture with a bull in it. It wasn’t as much pure physical pleasure as it had been when I’d lived here back in 1958, because I don’t have a passing gear anymore. But the space/time calculations were even more delicate.

I was early, so I sat for a while on the rim of a granite planter and took in the sights. That’s a pleasure we can’t enjoy back home: of being anonymous, even mysterious. I tried to imagine the lives of the people passing the planter: the old man with two layers of torn trousers and his belongings in plastic bags. A vacant-faced man in black suit and topcoat, carrying a slim briefcase with the tips of his fingers.

Next morning at breakfast, a nice touch – a free New York Times. On the front page of the Metro section was a photograph of a wild hen turkey. With the skyline of Manhattan behind her, she was perched on the railing of Art Lindenauer’s 28th-floor balcony on West 70th Street. “The thing scared me to death,” said Mr. Lindenauer, who snapped several pictures before she took off and dropped out of sight. How she got to the 28th floor nobody knows; as a rule, turkeys don’t fly that well or that high. An ornithologist said she probably flew from balcony to balcony all the way up.

She looked pretty healthy and well-fed, though the constant attention must keep her on the jump. I wished her well, and hoped she flew safely home, wherever that was. At least she wouldn’t have to ask directions to the airport bus stop, or take off her shoes at Security.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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