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February 15, 2008

lawrence and the flamingos – a Stockade Valentine mystery

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 5:32 pm

[Daily Gazette, Marc Schultz, larger photo]

Valentine stroll
neither lover mentions
the pink flamingos

…………. by dagosan

Did you get flocked on Valentine’s Day? If you live in The Stockade, a tiny historic district in Schenectady, New York, it’s really hard not to get flocked by a flamboyance of pink flamingos on February 14 — and (virtually) no one knows who’s doing the flocking. As described in today’s Schenectady Daily Gazette, fourteen pink flamingos appeared overnight within the small traffic circle monument to Lawrence the Indian, and were gone when the sun set. See “Pink flamingos make annual appearance: Stockade residents have grown fond of Valentine’s Day tradition” (February 15, 2008). Reporter Kathleen Moore explains:

“Welcome to the Stockade’s Valentine’s Day mystery.

“For nearly a decade, someone has decorated Lawrence the Indian with pink flamingos on Feb. 14. Most have no idea who does it or why the day of love is being celebrated with one of the tackiest decorations available in stores today.”

At the Gazette Online website, you’ll find more details and some humorous speculation, but you will not learn the identity of the impish Mohawk-flockers. The only clue is cryptic: “The covert decorators are actually two middle-aged men, who asked for anonymity since they’ve kept their identities a secret for so long.” [Indeed, although he was recently sighted lurking in and around the Stockade with another middle-aged gent, and he has demonstrated a rather warped attitude about Valentine’s Day at his weblog, the mysteriously anonymous Editor of Blawg Review denies planting the pink plastic fowl, but wishes he had thought of it first.] As to their motives, one of the aging delinquent flamingo herders says:

“The goal was to show residents that change could be good,” . . . .

And, his cohort in crime said, “It was sort of a hoot.”

Currently, you can find quite a few additional pictures of the 2008 Stockade flamingo episode at the homepage of the Stockade Neighborhood Association.

follow-up-dates (February 13, 2009): See our post “Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade,” which has many new photos; and see more coverage, with lots of photos, of the 2011 Stockade Flamingos and the 2010 Stockade Flamingos, at our sister weblog “suns along the Mohawk.”

Why make Valentine’s Day into Flamingo Day? We get no satisfactory explanation in the Gazette. However, as a dateless denizen of the Stockade, I can appreciate the reaction of two interviewed Stockadians, when asked by the Gazette reporter:

Newcomer Katy Nestor, who came upon the flamingos on her way to Arthur’s Market, said the birds could be the last resort for the dateless. “If you can, you spend Valentine’s with the ones you love … if you have nobody, come be with the flamingos,” she said. “It’s great. They’re cute.”

Joyce Wachala, co-owner of Arthur’s Market, said the flamingos are particularly welcomed by single residents. “A lot of people down here are single. Valentine’s Day is so hard for people — and this is so nice,” she said. “I think it’s adorable.”

winter sunset
in the shrimp boat’s wake
pink pelicans

spring rain the cat’s pink nipples

……. by Carolyn Hall –
“spring rain” – 2003 Henderson Haiku Competition, Hon. Men.; Frogpond XXVII: 1
“winter sunset” – The Heron’s Nest (II:5, May 2000)

follow-up-date (February 13, 2009): See our post “Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade,” which has many new photos.

With the subject-matter vacuum left at f/k/a by our no-politics and no-legal-ethics pledge, Your Editor decided to dig deeper into the whole flamingo and pink theme. It seems that getting flocked by pink flamingos is not merely a Schenectady activity, although it has not apparently been associated with Valentine’s Day nor reached the level of “tradition” elsewhere. The folks at Get explain:

“Flocks of Flamingos are a great way to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Flamingo Flocking is a great way to raise funds for your church, group, or organization. By the pair or by the flock… Flamingos are just fun.”

Of course, Get Flocked only sells the Genuine “Don Featherstone” design pink flamingo. Much like my own Valentine date situation, this demand for classic quality has caused a large availability problem. You see, the Union Products Co., which produced Featherstone’s pink plastic icons for almost half a century, closed in 2006. (See “RIP: Pink Flamingo, 1957-2006” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 20, 2006; listen to NPR coverage, Oct. 31, 2006) As a result, they’re even Out of Stock at Get Flocked (but you can settle for a substitute at eBay).

Nevertheless, do not despair. The f/k/a Gang has some suggestions for anyone still hoping to get flocked by pink flamingos in the afterglow of Valentine’s Day.

at the tip of her swizzle stick
pink flamingo

visit home
the pink flamingo’s
cracked wing

……………………………. by Roberta Bearyspecially commissioned by f/k/a

  • (Feb. 16, 2008 update/insert): Our Honored Guest and friend Ed Markowski swooped in overnight with his own flock of flamingo poems for our Lawrence Flamingo Celebration. Here are a trio; check our Comments section below for more:

mobile home park
apple blossoms settle
on a pink flamingo

[Ed. Note: one poem temporarily removed.]

two pink flamingos
& a waitress named Sally…
summer begins

  • If money is no object, we sighted a pair of genuine Featherstone flamingos (along with a warning against fake signature versions from China), at for over $100; but another pair of knockoffs for $12.

For the more intellectual and history-oriented flamingo buffs, we suggest the book “The Original Pink Flamingos: Splendor on the Grass” (Schiffer Publishing, 1999, 98 pp., Paperback), which is co-authored by Don Featherstone, the designer of the most famous lawn ornament of our times (with apologies to the Virgin in a Bathtub). The book’s description notes:

“In 1957, Don Featherstone sculptured the first three-dimensional pink plastic flamingo, thereby making affordable bad taste accessible to the American public” –from Pink Flamingos. This is the tale of a wonderful bird, named by his creator phoenicopteris ruber plasticus; a new avian species, now known to all as “Pink Plastic Flamingo.”

“. . . If you’re a believer, or even a skeptic, take a look, see for yourself. This book is one of a kind, the documentation of American genius, homage to an icon, or, perhaps, a rare opportunity to observe a culturally tolerated symbol of taste gone awry. It’s great fun!”

Kitsch collectors should click this link for Pink Flamingos Gift Set (Running Press Mini Kits), for a pair of desktop mini flamingos with their own patch of lawn, and “a book celebrating America’s beloved bauble of bad taste as a symbol of kitschy fun in the sun.”

Also, from Get Flocked get a cap, t-shirt or other apparel.

pink mitten
at the curb –
warming one small red hand

historic district —
an old sidewalk trips up
the blossom gazer

another year
without learning their names –
trees with pink blossoms

………………………….. by dagosan

Or, perhaps this pair in flamingo pink [formerly] at Target is more up your alley (or, another flamingo bikini beauty from SwimHut).

parting her pink robe

……………… by Yu Chang, from A New Resonance (1999).

And, last but — certainly around here — not least, enjoy a flock of poems by our Honored Guest Poets, and dagosan, bathed in the hue of pink:

new lover
pink light sleeps
Amsterdam awakens

….. by pamela miller ness – from pink light, sleeping (chapbook, 24 p, Small Poetry Press, Concord, CA, 1998)

new pink sneakers –
grandma’s porch step
still creaks

………… by Laryalee Fraser – clouds peak #2

pink clouds
between the boulders

…….. by Yu Chang – from Upstate Dim Sum

pink begonias
the grey fall

…………………….. by Barry George at simply haiku

country stop sign–
the pink glow of sunset
through .22 holes

…………. by Lee Gurga from Fresh Scent (Brooks Books, 1998)

st. patrick’s day
the foreman hands out
pink slips

………….. by ed markowski

in the pink dusk
with pimples

…….. by David G. Lanoue from Dewdrop World (2005)

trespassing –
three pink tulips
in an unkempt yard

pink clouds in the crotch
of the bare oak
the street-walker stares

white to pink–
clouds repainted
while we sip our wine

………………………. by dagosan

breathing space—
the deepening pink
of alpenglow

sunny morning —
pink tulips in bloom
on the preschool’s walls

……………………… by Billie Wilson – The Haiku Society of America Newsletter XIX:1 (2004)

easter brunch sunglassesR
his daughter’s hair
a new shade of pink

……………………… by Roberta Beary, The Unworn Necklace (2007)

a present, a present
a New Year’s present!
her pink cheeks

…………….. by Kobayashi Issa,
translated by David G. Lanoue

it’s pink! it’s purple!
sunset inspires
more bickering

……………….. by david giacalone, Frogpond Vol. XXVIII, #2 (2005)
[haiga photo: Arthur Giacalone; see the haiga here]

faint pink lips
where someone kissed
the window

…………….. by David G. Lanoue from Haiku Guy: a novel

update (Feb. 24, 2008): In a Letter to the Editor in today’s Sunday Gazette (reprinted at in Reply 1), Michael Iacobucci complains, as the headline explains, that “Tacky pink flamingos don’t fit in Stockade.” Mike is worried that “there seems to be a group of people who are out to change the Stockade ambience.” Mike, a former Schenectady County Legislator famous as the owner of the now-defunct, but quite tasteful, Mike’s Pizza Adobe restaurant, has played Lawrence the Indian in historic re-enactments. He would rather see Valentine’s Day celebrated with “standards, like hearts and flowers,” and maybe a singles’ dance. I wish I could tell whether he’s trying to be ironic.   I’d like to think that Lawrence and typical modern Stockadians have a sense of humor.

follow-up-date (February 13, 2009): See our post “Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade,” which has many new photos.

Flamingos2dEdCover 2016 Flamingo Follow-up: Click the following link for a preview of the 2nd edition of my very first photobook: “Valentine Flamingos in the Schenectady Stockade: whimsy and mystery at Lawrence Circle” (2016, 2nd Edition). The 20-page book follows seven years of the pink flamingo Valentine tradition and mystery at Lawrence Circle in the Stockade.

after-words: Many Stockadians are unaware that their beloved statue of Lawrence the Indian “was originally a carving done by wood carver Samuel Anderson Robb about 1860 for William Demuth who was the leading cigar store Indian peddler. Demuth published a catalog of his wares and in 1872 Lawrence is listed as ‘No. 53 Indian Chief.’ In 1873, the J.L.Mott Iron Works purchased the design and listed him for $500 in their catalog of statuary. The Schenectady statue was purchased in 1887. There are others like him still extant in Tilton, New Hampshire; Barberton, Ohio; and Cusco, Peru.” See “Fargo, North Dakota: The Indian Statue,” put together by the Institute for Regional Studies at North Dakota State University [ed. note: sorry that link is broken];See this Queen City Survey weblog post from 2008 about Cincinnati’s “Tecumsheh”; and Barberton High School’s retelling of the story in their tribute to Chief Hopocan, the local incarnation of No. 53 Indian Chief.)

In addition to our Lawrence the Indian, the J.L. Mott Iron Works model “#53 Indian Chief” statuary has had quite a few identities; the names and legends include:

  • Chief Hopocan in New Portage Park, at the intersection of Norton Avenue and Wooster Road, in Barberton, Ohio.
  • Tecumseh at the J. Fitzhugh Thornton Memorial, Thornton Triangle park in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Hiawatha [scroll down this webpost for discussion and photo] at the Forest Glen Annex to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dewitt Circle & Linden Lane, in the Washington DC suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland [not Bethesda, MD, as stated in the Queen City Survey weblog]
  • the Kisco Indian, at the Gorham Fountain, Mt. Kisco, New York
  • a Cherokee named Sequoia, in Calhoun, Georgia
  • an Indian unidentified by name or tribe in Fargo, North Dakota,

The Indian chief that graced Fargo, North Dakota, is now defunct, as is one in Point Richmond, California.  For more close-up photographs of Lawrence the Indian, see “Looking for Lawrence” at suns along the Mohawk.

1 Comment

  1. Here are a few more poems penned by Ed Markowski especially for this posting.

    pink flamingos
    the rusty black ten wide
    they stand before


    the faded pink
    of a fiberglass flamingo


    “flamingo mallets?”
    sales clerk

    Many thanks, Ed. I’m sorry that my current weblog software won’t let me present the spacing format that Ed used in writing these haiku and senryu.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 16, 2008 @ 8:35 am

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