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February 01, 2003
Pet shop

There was a little framing store between the butcher and the ยข99 store two blocks uptown from here on Broadway. I would walk in there sometimes just to look at the selection of posters and prints. I remember an old man bringing his little paintings and leaving them with the store owner so they could be sold on commission. When the old man left, they became the paintings of a little child. The many times I came to visit again, they remained there, next to the counter on the floor. They did not sell at all. The store owner told me that what sold were the photographs made by a couple who took pictures of the city. There was New York in the wintertime, in the summer, autumn in . The shots were very familiar and looked like poster sized postcards.
The framing store was recently replaced by a pet supply store. It was as if the switch happened over night. Gone were all the prints and views of New York, all the little old man's paintings. No more owner behind a carpet covered counter, no more frame corner covered walls.
Now there is a large empty fish tank in the window, packages with food for various animals in front of it. Inside a very tight space. Shelf space is used very efficiently. Little packages with pictures of cute pets hide behind leashes and between activity toys. There is this smell of wet straw and dried meat. There was even a lage parrot placed oddly on eye level on a tiny branch right in the middle of the space. Amazing.
I was not aware that the store had a downstairs. It never occurred to me that a store could have a basement. I guess they all do. I walked down the pet shop stairs for the first time today. The basement seemed much larger than the upstairs. There were several cages with various kinds of birds happily displaying their personalities. Below, little dinosaurs, reptiles, snakes, lizards. Next to them little rabbits, mice, rats, hamsters engaged in some quite intimate looking dance.
The fish-tanks are probably the most amazing environments in that space. There seemed to be a larger variety of species than I have seen in a zoological collection. There were tiny golden swarms of excited fish next to a tank with a very focused looking foot long predator. There were fish that looked like pieces of a picasso painting and there were little shrimp with antennae as thin but much longer than the whiskers of a cat. There were crabs eating with both hands, and there were star fish devouring a meal. Large water plants turned out to be slowly moving colonies of seemingly highly intelligent tentacles. Some animals were so well camouflaged that their only presence in the tank was indicated by their price, taped into the upper left corner of the glass.


As I was leaving the place the large parrot said "hello" imitating the voices of a woman and a man. I could not hold back my own "hello". I will be back there.
New York outside is muggy and cold today. Tiny droplets of rain make the city appear darker than it is.
I wonder when they will take the s off that Christmas tree on 96th and Broadway.


the one fish doesn't look so sure ;)

Posted by: em!ly on February 1, 2003 11:20 PM

ahem, some of the fish not shown in the picture were actually asleep... or at least I hope so.
I actually also saw a starfish eat a fish. Who would have thought that they do that.

Posted by: witold on February 2, 2003 12:25 AM
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