Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thinking Outside of the Box

It’s the little contributions to one’s own neighborhood that really matter. If everybody tended to his or her little piece of earth, the uplifting multiplier effect of this would redound to a happier and healthier planet and existence.

This is wishful thinking on my part, I know, as all too many folks do a rather poor job at tending to what is theirs and give very little thought, or no thought at all, to their neighbors and the community at large. In my neck of woods, it never ceases to amaze me how some people plunk down a half-million dollars and more for homes, do a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of interior improvements, but allow their exterior properties to become woeful eyesores. Imagine 1313 Mockingbird Lane here, but with inhabitants decidedly less warm and fuzzy.

Playing stickball at John F. Kennedy High School a few blocks from home—in the simpler times of my youth—our athletic ensemble sometimes drew home plate “H” boxes with chalk. Other practitioners of the stickball art spray-painted the very same boxes, which were transient and perpetually painted over by the city fathers. A little ingenuity—and compromise—was in order. Stickball in the Bronx was, after all, a storied tradition. However, we didn’t have to perform a cheesy act of vandalism to keep the game alive. Our chalk boxes could be scrubbed away rather effortlessly. A couple of heavy rains would also do the trick. But why not a removable masking-taped home plate box? Ultimate ingenuity and one small step for humankind—a tiny one but with a broader message: a neighborhood without needless graffiti and fewer slob homeowners and selfish landlords is always a better place to live in. Before it was fashionable, we were literally thinking outside of the box.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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