Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pohlease Hoarse

At least once in your life, consider spending a few days before Christmas in New York City.  The department store windows are all dressed up for the season and flocked with sometimes more than just a wisp of snow from the brisk air.  Of course, adding to the fun are the holiday happenings, like skating the ice rink at Rockefeller Center or enjoying the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.  At the risk of reading much like a promotional brochure, in New York City during Christmastime there are glorious sights to see and a myriad of festive things to do. 

We rode to New York City by train from Washington, D.C., and arrived one cold evening at Penn Station to do it up right.  It was just like a picture postcard and exactly how I imagined the town would be.  We ate dinner at Le Cirque, a meal that included real goose pate in our first course, for heaven’s sakes.  If our hotel room was less than glorious, we didn’t spend much time there, so that was okay. 

Taking a taxi, the subway or just walking through the city was how we spent our time. Before heading up there, I’d read extensively how the Mayor and his administration devoted a specific effort to reduce crime and it showed.  Streets were clean and we felt ‘safe’ everywhere we went.  One day we walked all the way down to the financial district and along Wall Street, which was really small surprisingly enough. We ate lunch, a Reuben on rye, at a real New York Deli. 

Of course, like tourists do, after dinner one evening we had our taxi drop us at Rockefeller Center.  The entire area was ‘merry and bright’ and filled with people skating, walking together and enjoying a crisp, clear night.  Standing at the edge of the large square, we soaked in the scene. And up from our side came the slow, methodical “clip, clop” of horse hooves. 

Two mounted police officers were on their nightly patrols.  I’m sure they were there for the PR value of it all.  As we stood beside them they were swarmed by families with kids asking “can I pet your horse, officer?” As if the horses knew the questions by heart, they bent their heads down a little for an earnest pet-n-hug from the season’s littlest revelers. 

I smiled up at one of the officers who despite not saying a word had more than just a bit of mischief playing around his face.  He enjoyed the moment as much as the kids.  We caught each other’s eyes and so I ventured a brief ‘hello.’

“What kind of horse is he?” I ventured conversation by opening with a polite question.

“He’s a Pohlease Hoarse,” came his quick reply in a thick, almost surreal Brooklyn accent; his partner just about falling off his own horse in laughter.  Obviously, the question had been asked and answered many, many times over.  Boy, did I walk into that one!  I laughed too and got the joke right away.  Ah, tourists.  We’re so predictable.

“Well, he may ‘ave a little dawnkey in ‘im,” he followed, still playing the straight man and his partner snorting and guffawing at all the right moments.  Even the horses got into it.  Pohlease Hoarse numero uno shook out his mane and snorted while the other stamped his foot and offered up a noted tail swish.  I swear, the comedians Buddy Abbott and Lou Costello would have been proud. 

“Thank you for being here officer,” said a parent. Others chimed in.  It was a Pohlease Hoarse love fest right there in the middle of Rockefeller Center.  I imagine that for all the times those mounted officers had to work an unruly Times Square crowd on New Year’s eve or some protest at the United Nation’s Building, this was their ‘pay off’ – working for a grateful crowd.  We were all glad they were there. 

Later in the week, we had dinner at Windows on the World, at the very top of the World Trade Center.

I remember savoring our appetizers and drinks while watching the jets landing, late sunset, at New York’s La Guardia Airport.  They came so close to the buildings in the financial district I swear I could see the faces of the pilots.  Little did I know just over two years later I would wake to see on the news that someone else had the same thought, only with a much more destructive agenda.  Terrorists.  That beautiful restaurant, filled with elegantly dressed people gazing onto a sweeping view of New York Harbor.  All of it wiped out with two planes flown straight into the world trade center. 

When I saw the second plane hit the building on TV my first thought was of the pohlease hoarse and his mounted officer.  I wondered what they were doing and prayed for their safety and that of the countless other ‘first responders’ who would be going into the world trade center as the victims were streaming out. 

On September 11, 2001 the terrorists did just what they set out to do, striking fear, panic and chaos in the moment.  However, it did not last long.  And it included the help of both human and animal partners to restore order where it had been stolen.  Whether it was the pohlease hoarses, the sniffer dogs or the ‘comfort’ animals brought to the rescue and salvage sites to soothe the workers, I saw countless stories of animals that inspired many and brought a calming presence to an otherwise grievous situation.

There’s a song that quotes Matthew 18:20.  “Whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name, there is love.”  Sometimes the other that gathers alongside us is an animal. It’s unexpected and yet, just what is needed in the moment. 

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