Rear Window 2: Courtyard Capers

I’m looking at a bird. A red one- I don’t know birds- a Red Cardinal? Red Baron? Scarlet Pimpernel? At some point every day I find myself gazing out my bathroom window at what could charitably be called my courtyard: a patchwork of broken pavers obscured by discarded building materials, surrounded by 6-foot cinderblock walls, and one sagging chain-link fence. It’s not a particularly inspiring vista. My courtyard doesn’t dare dream, like other courtyards, of lavish garden parties, or even weekend barbecues. It wouldn’t know what to do with a fire pit or recessed lighting, and it has no time for a sundial. It has embraced the word ”neglected,” and wears it with appropriately downtrodden acceptance. I, however, have detailed fantasies about turning it into a garden- I imagine flower beds and herbs in pots. Maybe even a modest veggie patch. When my fancy is particularly flighty, I even see a few chickens strutting and scratching out there. But because my neighbour’s courtyard is an abandoned forest, the place is a daylight discotheque for the birds. I stand at the window and stare at them; they sit on the fence and stare back. Naturally I make silly faces at them which, to my eyes, are never reciprocated, but maybe avian gurning is too subtle for me to register. Immensely pleasurable as these encounters are, from the outset I know that the bird will get bored before I do. Hardly surprising really: it has the whole world to explore; I have 300 square feet. Of the two of us, I truly am the caged one. This blog is my plaintive song.


 I rarely venture out there. Access involves a long drop out a window and navigating a trash-strewn passageway. The garbage is tossed from an as yet unidentified upstairs window in the next door block of apartments, and while it’s repellent to me, it’s a positive magnet for visiting wildlife. Returning home from a gig in the early morning, sitting by the window with a nightcap, I might be graced with the company of an opossum, or maybe a family of raccoons; once I had a visit from a small, but very menacing skunk. They snuffle around happily out there, unconcerned by the flashlight I rudely obtrude upon them, and go about their midnight creeping.  

 A winter afternoon is the best time for mooning out my bathroom window. That doesn’t sound right. A winter afternoon is the best time for staring out my bathroom window. Glowering skies loom low over bare trees, their grasping claws ushering the wind into eddies of dead leaves and plastic bags. Later an icy moon climbs over the rooftops, deepening shadows into ominous figures in corners. It’s brilliantly bleak and dramatic.  If I’ve thrown caution to the wind and turned on the heat, and there’s something cooking on the stove, chez Hempton is almost pleasant.

 In recent days, I’ve realized what my courtyard really looks like: a prison exercise yard. And considering our current confinement, it may fulfill its destiny. I only hope the Aryan Brotherhood will adhere to the social distancing rules. The only other inmate is my 80 year old neighbour Eddie. Eddie’s wife won’t let him smoke cigars in the house, so he likes to sit out there in a folding chair, contentedly drawing on baseball-bat-sized stogies. If this imprisonment continues much further, I see this story ending with either me or Eddie going the other with a shiv.

 One day I’ll tidy it up. I’ll clear the trash from the passageway, haul the giant PVC pipes away, scrub down the pavers, construct some beds for flowers and veggies. I’ll plant climbing vines to hide the brutal walls. Maybe a trellis. A weber grill and some outdoor furniture. I’ll ask the Aryans to rig up some cheerful lights, and maybe the Mexican Mafia will help me put in a birdbath so my red buddy will visit again. Then I’ll invite them and the Black Guerrillas to a barbecue. Put an end to all this silly stabbing.

7 thoughts on “Rear Window 2: Courtyard Capers

  1. Oh Nick thank you for the chuckles. You certainly paint a picture. I can imagine you mooning out the window and poor shived Eddie, a cigar hanging out of his mouth.

    Good luck with the vegetables, lawn chairs, BBQ, etc. I think a hot tub is in order.

    Cheers Laura

    On Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 3:54 PM Nick Hempton’s Catch and Release Experiment wrote:

    > nickhemptonband posted: “I’m looking at a bird. A red one- I don’t know > birds- a Red Cardinal? Red Baron? Scarlet Pimpernel? At some point every > day I find myself gazing out my bathroom window at what could charitably be > called my courtyard: a patchwork of broken pavers obscured ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The phrase that begins;a winter afternoon is up there with prosaic Frosts and poetic Updikes. Okay, here’s the go. “New Jersey Sketches » with Saxophone improvs. Start with a tabula rasa (aka a Joe Biden) and then sketch whimsically such as you did in the aforementioned paragraph. Allow slight éléments of positivité to peep like the embittered morning sun through your detritus filled trees. Walk your instrument around the perimeter of the park and communicate with the wretched lonely squirrels who might come to your cornucopia for comfort. Show how NJ is doin’ it…play it tough. Your literary skills can make you a smokin’ Joe instead of a sleepy Joe. Improvise as intermezzi or double track and wind your subterranean blues beneath the verbal riffs. Get out there and get famous.. NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ps. Having done capers this week you could move on to all the other fruit and vegetables growing in your inspiring vista. But it might be a short series.


  3. Nick, I love reading your posts. I’m not sure what you do better, write or play your sax. In any case both are a pleasure. Keep safe,

    Bob and Randi


  4. Nick, you are as entertaining, onstage, as you are offstage. Maybe you want to class up the joint with a koi pond? Those birds need food fish!


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