Monday, February 27, 2006
Wilder Los Angeles
One of the reasons I love Los Angeles is that it contains all the modern conveniences (and inconveniences) and yet remains touched by the wild. In my neighborhood in Hollywood, tree roots turn sidewalks into obstacle courses, snakes slither through the dead leaves at the bottom of the Wattles gardens, and raccoons come to my back door for a snack.
That's Rachel baring her teeth at me as I poked my head out from behind my screen door to get a better photo. (Don't ever try to photograph raccoons at night through a screen -- they look like gray furry blobs with red, glowing eyes.) Her buddy, Rocky, was far less intimidated and just kept an eye on me as he used his little black paws to scoop cat food out of the bowl and into his mouth.
See, I feed a couple of feral cats on my back porch nearly every day. My neighbors, though sometimes noisy, are nice enough to also put out kibble and tuna on occasion. The main recipient is the oh-so-creatively named Miss Kitty, the mother of my own cat Lucy. I rescued Lucy and kept her for my own, but Miss Kitty is far too scaredy to tame. I did, however, manage to trap her once and get her spayed, so at the very least there will be no more kittens to find homes for.
Anyway, Miss Kitty knows to come by when she hears my car pull into the garage. She meows quite demandingly as I approach my back door to remind me of my duty. I keep an old blue plastic bowl out back so my neighbors and I can just pour food in it whenever we hear the call.
But Hollywood lies at the foot of the Hollywood hills, and wilder creatures than cats roam these parts. I've seen coyotes on several occasions, trotting with that lean and hungry look right down the center of my street. Deer are too cautious to come down this far, but skunks make free of the hedges and yards, and I've seen them and several opossums help themselves to Miss Kitty's food stash on my back porch.
One thing these photos do not convey is just how LARGE these raccoons are. They are closer to the size of a Beagle than a cat. Their fur is thick, their eyes behind those black masks sharp and clever. The first time I saw Rocky he was sitting up like a person with the blue bowl between his legs, using his right paw to shovel the kibble into his mouth. He looked right at me when I said, rather startled, "Oh, hello." But he never stopped eating.