Friday, May 31, 2013

He Said It Absorbed the Perspiration

With the weather turning so hot so quickly in the Bronx these past couple of days, I couldn’t help but recall the simpler times of my youth. Yes, when the neighborhood I grew up in had both character and characters—lots of them in fact. When perspiration streamed down my face while in the great outdoors today—rapidly and of a considerable magnitude—I realized something. The perspiration absorber that I once owned—a full head of hair—was no longer at my disposal, which explained a lot of things.

One thought led to another as my unprotected brain baked on this uncomfortable day in May. Heat-inspired memories of growing up in hot times—in a hot spot that is no more—consumed me. Mr. C lived up the street from me during my boyhood. And he had a perspiration absorber all his own. On my front stoop one warm summer’s eve a long time ago, Mrs. C revealed her husband’s secret to beating the heat at bedtime. No, it wasn’t an air conditioner. That contraption didn’t cool rooms; it only increased electric bills beyond the pale. Mrs. C let us all know that her husband—and she always referred to him as “my husband”—faithfully wore a T-shirt to bed, even on the hottest, most humid nights that Mother Nature had in her arsenal.

“He says it absorbs the perspiration,” Mrs. C went on to say, revealing her family’s equivalent of the Coca-Cola recipe. Fortunately, my younger brother and I happened to be in earshot when this sage advice on waging war against the worst that perspiration had to offer was uttered. In fact, we made it immortal and still quote Mrs. C to this day, although I kind of prefer letting perspiration have a go at me on an uncomfortably warm night without an absorbing tee.

It was a city neighborhood tradition once upon a time on sultry evenings—stoop sitting and sounding off. First, second, and third generations occasionally sat around in the same general vicinity. Verbal gems could therefore be absorbed—along with the perspiration—and be passed on to future generations. Unfortunately, first, second, and third generations spitting the breeze on front stoops are harder and harder to come by nowadays. Why sit out on the front stoop, anyway, when one can be inside in air conditioning staring at an iPad or laptop sans any perspiration at all? Why? I don’t know, but sometimes a little interaction and perspiration goes a long way…a long way.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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