Monday, February 11, 2013

No More Perfect Storms

My hometown dodged the worst of this recent epic snowstorm. I’d estimate we received eight or nine inches in total, which is more than enough when you have to shovel it—but at least it wasn’t two or three feet. Once upon a time, believe it or not, I used to love snow and snowstorms—the bigger the better as a matter of fact. I was a kid then and wrongfully assumed this heartfelt love would last forever. After all, what wasn’t there to love about snow and its pristine blanket of white? I couldn't imagine a man or woman alive who could not appreciate the unique hush that big snows engendered—for one brief shining moment at least—when virtually everything and anything came to a standstill.

Actually, a part of me still enjoys watching snow fall from the sky and gazing upon its sprawling, blanket of white aftermath. But it’s an increasingly smaller part of me. Nowadays, any uplifting snowfall moments are remarkably fleeting and cannot compete with the stark reality of shoveling it, driving in it, and—most importantly—walking in it (sometimes for multiple days after the fact).

As a school kid, a lot of snow meant a lot fun and frolic in the great outdoors—and, it should be noted, welcome snow days, too. The Monday, February 6, 1978 blizzard is, for me, my all-time favorite snowstorm. Snow actually began falling on Sunday night, the fifth, and continued through Tuesday morning, the seventh. The seventeen inches or so that fell in New York City amounted to three full days off from high school, which I loathed. So, this was the “Perfect Storm” in my book. As I recall, my high school re-opened its doors on Thursday of that week, but it was rather difficult getting there. Snow-cleanup technology and the New York City Sanitation Department just didn’t deal with snow removal in the 1970s as well as they do today. Our “special buses” didn’t show up that day and we had to find alternate means of getting from the Northwest Bronx to Northeast Bronx.

Fast forward thirty-plus years and here I am—a middle-aged man, still breathing thankfully, and shoveling snow with a weighty prosthetic right leg. I can still pull it off, which is reassuring—but for how long? There’s a guy up the street from me—an overweight senior citizen who smokes like a fiend, and has difficulty walking even in sunny, warm climes—who was shoveling snow right alongside me a couple of days ago. Several snow-shoveling entrepreneurs offered to help both him and me, but we declined—courteously. I, for one, cannot afford these contemporary snow shovelers' rates. Nobody is shoveling snow for five and ten bucks anymore; it’s more like fifty dollars (or more) for an average job—and I don't blame them. Five dollars buys two slices of pizza around here. Why break your back, or contribute to your chances of having a coronary thrombosis, for two slices of pizza in an over-priced metropolis and rotten, inflationary national economy?

I guess it isn’t just blizzards that aren’t what they used to be; it’s the world—both my personal world and the world at large. Perhaps dropping dead of a heart attack in a snow bank isn’t such a bad way to go. You know—in that beautiful blanket of white, virgin natural beauty, and clean, crisp, cold air. But not this year…some other time.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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