Monday, January 15, 2018

Tis Bitter Cold and I Am Sick of January

January has long been my least favorite month. It's thirty-one days, on the cold side, and sometimes snowy. It's also the month when the Christmas decorations come down and countless sorry-looking trees end up at the curbside. Returning to school after the New Year and Christmas vacation was, as I recall, psychologically grueling. It was a powerful one-two punch: the party's over locking arms with an extended stretch of nothingness. The school year's "mid-winter recess" or "winter vacation" wasn't until mid-February, and that always seemed like a long way away in early January. As a youth, the snow possibility was about the only thing that recommended this time of year. But now an adult long removed from even a second childhood, snowfall is the stake through the heart of January. 
Blizzard-like conditions still supply a great visual. But I make that statement on a conditional basis.
After their time has come and gone, Christmas decorations are sad sights indeed.
Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of  delivering Amazon Prime packages.
For more than a quarter of a century, my father worked at the mega-post office with the unofficial postal motto emblazoned on its facade. He, in fact, worked the four-to-midnight shift, coming home on the subway in the "gloom of night."
I can't think of anyone more deserving of being a canine chew toy.
If you don't demand the best and will settle for okay, this is the place for you...
On Manhattan's other Restaurant Row...
In the vicinity of Times Square on New Year's Day, the garbage cans were closed but the barbershops were open.
If you can't throw your trash in a can, a telephone booth is the next best thing.
If you've ever wanted to visit a DVD, take down that address.
Price Harry's favorite place for a sandwich and a smoothie when he's in town.
Donald Trump has been wont to refer to 9-11 in speeches as "7-Eleven." This is perhaps why.
Yesterday I ate lunch at a place with this sign on the wall.
And here it is...
The January saga...a picture is worth a thousand words.
I wonder what the "souvenir" is?
An abandoned women's prison? No, a permanently locked subway bathroom.
As a kid I always associated New York City steam pipes with Christmastime and a good kind of cold. Times change.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It’s Frickin’ Freezing in Here, Mr. Bigglesworth

It was in the vicinity of zero degrees this morning in New York City, a culmination of sorts to an extended medley of unpleasant weather. The forecast for tomorrow has the thermometer approaching the freezing mark for the first time in nearly two weeks. My youthful exuberance that once welcomed snow with open arms and tolerated bone-chilling temps is a thing of the past—the distant past. Touch football in the white stuff isn’t in this winter’s crystal ball anymore.

This week’s unholy alliance of frigid cold, strong winds, and some snow got me thinking about a movie—one, in fact, that I hadn’t thought about in quite a while—Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery starring Mike Myers. While sitting at my desk in recent days—in my drafty, very chilly, ground-floor apartment—I have exclaimed on more than one occasion: “It’s frickin’ freezing in here!” And, from my perspective at least, it was. Of course, that apropos phrase paid homage to the aforementioned movie and, specifically, the character of Dr. Evil. For he uttered those infamous words to his faithful feline companion, the hairless Mr. Bigglesworth.

Austin Powers debuted in 1997, a snapshot in time that bears little resemblance to the world we presently call home. And based on my personal Laugh-Out-Loud meter, it was the funniest feature film I had ever seen to date. I actually saw the movie on five different occasions in the theater, paying the piper every time. Fortunately, the price of admission wasn’t fourteen and fifteen dollars a pop like it is now in many local theaters. Still, I’d never done anything like that before and haven’t done anything like it since. Austin Powers struck a remarkable funny nerve for both its day and my day, too.

A sequel premiered two years later. My recollection of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is that it was at best okay, but a far cry from the original. In 2002, Austin Powers in Goldmember saw the light of day. Writhing in my seat, I remember promptly consigning this addition to the franchise to the Gone to Well Once Too Often file. Pretty much like the sequel before it, I don’t recall much about the plot particulars. But I can say with absolute certainty that I didn’t laugh a single time. That’s unforgettable! I even offered my opinion to a couple of entertainment reporters—or whomever they were—outside the theater. They were querying individual moviegoers as to what he or she thought of the latest Austin Powers flick. The mighty had fallen that afternoon—I thought—and fast and furiously at that.

A postscript to this cold tale is that I have never watched an Austin Powers movie since. I don’t own any of the three movies on DVD and have no desire to—and that includes the real McCoy original, which had me in the silly parlance of today: LMAO. In my opinion—you know it didn’t take much to spell out that phrase—the sequels became increasingly parodies of a parody, with Mike Myers losing the critical subtlety that made characters like Austin Powers and Dr. Evil funny. This happens frequently in movies, television, and in real life as well. Sometimes it’s best to be a one-hit wonder. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery would be better off standing on its own. According to the IMDb, a rumor is floating around of a fourth movie in the works. Should it come to pass, I’ll take a pass. I know now that catching lightning in a bottle a second time—more than two decades later—just isn’t in the cards. And as I write these words, it’s still frickin’ freezing in here, but hope springs eternal. Now if I can only surf the Internet, peruse social media, and turn on the television without being “surrounded by frickin’ idiots,” I’d be a contented man. But I’m not holding my breath on that score.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Eve, I Can't Believe

Approximately forty-five years ago on the way to Sunday Mass with my younger brother and aunt, an elderly Italian woman from the next block uttered these apropos words: "Frosta...frosta." It was a bitterly cold morning when old Lizzy rather pithily summed up the weather situation. She is waddling now among the angels, I suspect. Yes, she waddled while earth-boundat least when I knew her. And I have no doubt if Lizzy were around on New Year's Eve 2017, she would repeat her chilly mantra. On this frigid final day of the year, permit me in words and pictures to reflect on an eclectic hodgepodge of recent moments.
On a snowy morn that I wasn't banking on, I took the Number 1 train into Manhattan yesterday. Instead of riding in the first carmy typical modus operandiI plopped down in the second. You see, the first was occupied by a passenger who looked more than a bit hung over. He even answered nature's call between one and two. (See above photo.) Apparently, the young man had started making merry early because on my return tripwhen the first car magically morphs into the last at South Ferryhe was unmoved and still sleeping it off. What better place than on the subway to visit the Land of Nod.
When it's "frosta...frosta," a trace of snow is enough to inspire bedlam.
Looks like a blizzard in the making, but the snow amounted to very little. But a dusting of the white stuff is all it takes to bring a never-ending series of ice melter pellets into my apartment.
In my adventures, I prefer a train with a booming and coherent conductor. My first attempt uptown found me in car with a malfunctioning PA system. I couldn't hear a word, which explains why I thought I was getting off at 28th Street when it was Penn Station. Had I not changed trains, though, I would have missed riding back with the drowsy reveler.
Gotta love a diner with a choice of six soups.
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Speaking of "gloom of night," I found my mail outside and on the ground in the gloom of the night before last. This happens sometimes on my trusty regular mailman's off day. 
The fuse has been lit.
When I first saw this bird perched like this for an extended period of time, I thought it might be a hawk or some such exotic feathery creature. A hawk by any other name is a pigeon.
When I grew up in the Bronx's Kingsbridge, shopping malls weren't in neighborhoods. They were islands unto themselves.
If one wants to survive in the diner business, attention must be GrubHub.
I wonder what Crack Head Rick is planning for New Year's Eve?
Next year's MTA Christmas card...
A window on the world...
My cable's "Sounds of the Season" channel is pretty awful. Some classics are in the mix, but most of the selection—from artists I've never heard ofis grating to one's ears.
I imported from Pennsylvania some A-Treat beverages this Christmas. Highly recommended for pop aficionados.
My commemorative New York Mets World Champions 1986 Christmas bulb. It's hard to believe that more than thirty years have passed. As Christopher Hitchens said in his memoirs; "It's more and more subtracted from less and less."
The frozen tundra that is Van Cortlandt Park.
The December sun meets the January thaw? One can dream.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Lots for Less

On January 1, 1971, New York City—as measured in Central Park—received over six inches of snow. Thanks to the wealth of information on the Internet, I was able to confirm my memory of that very snowfall. There was enough of the white stuff for my best friend and I to build a snowman in what we in the neighborhood affectionately called “the lot.” We got out the sled, too, and descended a hill into what was a filled-in portion of the once visible and meandering Tibbetts Brook. That swampy snapshot was before my time, but at least I got to experience the lot.

In the early 1970s, there were still some empty lots in the Bronx and the other boroughs of New York City. However, their days were numbered. Most of the remaining lots would be built upon—and sooner rather than later. In the name of progress, the lot and an adjoining victory garden were plowed under and fenced in several months after our snowman building. That snowman was therefore history in the making. For never again would a Frosty rise on that hallowed ground, which in due time would be a parking garage for a six-story building.

The snowman-building story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the neighborhood tough who materialized and assisted us with our task. My friend and I were on tenterhooks in the company of this uninvited visitor. With good reason, we feared he might cause trouble and—quite possibly—knock down our snowman. But life is full of surprises. Without an entourage to encourage destruction and mayhem, the punk from the next block pitched in and all went well in the fledgling moments of the New Year 1971.

Forty-seven years have since passed. My then best friend isn’t my friend anymore. No acrimonious breakup to report. Childhood friends aren’t always for keeps. The passage of time sees to that. I’ve seen the bully boy as an adult and we said hello to one another. I really should have thanked him for not knocking down the snowman. I don’t see him on Facebook, but see plenty of his kind from the past. In their adult incarnations, most of them relish recounting such tales of knocking down someone else’s snowman in their misspent youths, which, by the way, they think were peachy-keen.

A year ago—on New Year’s Day 2017—I visited Manhattan in the morning and waded through the remains of the previous night’s New Year’s Eve bash. There were concrete barriers everywhere and the area mailboxes were all padlocked. It’s not only going to be frigid when the ball drops at Times Square a couple of nights from now, but security will be even tighter than last year. I read where two million people are going to be in attendance. Being there on the last night of the year has never been on my to-do list. It’s not on my bucket list, either.

On January 1, 2017, I spied a sign in a shuttered Manhattan eatery window. It read: “We are closed for Happy New Year.” The Wishful Thinking Department, I daresay. In the waning days and hours of 2017, I can’t help but note the movie in the theaters about Winston Churchill called Darkest Hour. Mike Huckabee recently compared Donald Trump to Churchill. And Senator Orrin Hatch thinks the Trump presidency may be the “greatest ever.” Churchill, Washington, and Lincoln—to name just a few—are no doubt rolling over in their graves. When I was eight years old and building that snowman at the start of a new year, it was a simpler time—for me at least. It wasn’t so simple for those fighting in Vietnam or those receiving draft notices in the mail. Darkest hours are in the eyes of the beholder, I guess. So, what will 2018 bring? A happy new year? I can’t say. I can only say there won’t be any snowman building in the lot.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's Christmas in New York again. Wow, it seems like only yesterday that I visited the environs of Times Square after the New Year's Eve hoopla. A sign in a local eatery read: "We are closed for Happy New Year." In retrospect, I'd classify that sentiment as wishful thinking.
I pass by this sign in a local bodega's window quite often. It's never once made my mouth water. For some strange reason, though, it always makes me think of the Burgermeister Meisterburger.
Nearby building's holiday decor didn't survive a night. Time to replace the board.
Bought my tree here. On the pricey side this year.
The squirrels in these parts have obesity issues.
Once upon a time, watching nighttime snowfall with the aid of a street light was pretty exciting. Not so much anymore.
Old meets newer meets new. And the winner: Old!
Read a news account of a Manhattan tree seller asking for over two hundred dollars for a seven footer. He complained that business was down this year. I wonder why?
Before political correctness took hold, I would have said this photo was taken in the Bum Park North. But in the interest of PC, I won't.
Snow remnants always remind me of Frosty in the greenhouse. "Happy Birthday!"
Snow on subway tracks translates into lots of blue sparks. Very Christmassy.
These frozen pizzas always look good, but rarely taste good.
Gave proof through the night that our flag at Stew Leonard's Christmas Shop was still there.
"The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down."
My preferred kind of snowflake nowadays.
For the Three Wise Men, it's New Jersey or bust. Oh little town of Fort congested we see thee lie.
But they'll be a little late...bridge traffic. Hope it's not another traffic study.
Madison Avenue used to be able to sell snowflakes to Eskimos.
Henry Hudson Parkway...George Washington Bridge...say it ain't so...two dead white guys...
If you believe in yesterday, don't bother calling.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)