Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bye Bye Bakery

This past Sunday marked the final day of operation for a bakery that had been in business for sixty-one years. It was located in the Bronx neighborhood Riverdale, which is not too far from where I call home. The bakery was something of an institution—a mom-and-pop business that seemed like it would always be there. The reason for the shuttering of its doors: exorbitant rent that was too high for a bakery—even a popular one—to pay and realize a profit. A longstanding area fish store right next-door to the bakery closed earlier this year for the very same reason. Both businesses were dealing with a “fairer,” less greedy landlord—it has been reported—than the notorious conglomerate that owns a wealth of commercial property in this rather upscale neighborhood in New York City.

Having run out many mom-and-pops, that aforementioned notorious landlord’s “Store for Rent” signs are ubiquitous in windows, with many of the storefront’s remaining empty for years. I guess it pays—in some instances—to raise rents beyond what individuals can afford. I guess it pays—in some instances—to keep the spaces unoccupied, too. Now that doesn’t sound like very good public policy to me. And it is certainly a recipe for destroying the heart and soul—the uniqueness and diversity—of neighborhoods. But then that’s why landlords are so civic-minded and contribute in a big way to the politicians who make our laws.

The times are very definitely changing. And it’s not only the ridiculous rents. In the case of a neighborhood bakery, it’s harder to compete now for a whole host of reasons. When I was a kid, supermarkets didn’t have bakeries on the premises. We weren’t traveling to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Other small businesses are competing with the Internet and the likes of Wal-Mart and Target. Ten and twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that tony Riverdale would have a Subway, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts a hop, skip, and a jump from one another. But such is life, I guess—ever evolving and ever devolving.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Facebook Folks Say the Darndest Things

On a pleasant April afternoon almost three decades ago, I sat in front of my bedroom television set watching my beloved New York Mets on WOR-TV, Channel 9. The Mets were playing their chief rival at the time, the Cardinals, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And at some point during that spirited game of baseball, Mets’ catcher Barry Lyons found himself chasing a foul ball into the opposing team’s dugout. While in pursuit, the burly Lyons crashed like a ton of bricks into John Tudor, the ace of the Card’s staff, who was not—interestingly enough—pitching that day. When the Met’s second-string catcher unexpectedly slammed into him, Tudor was merely chilling out—resting between starts. He suffered a pretty serious injury that day—a broken leg, if memory serves. In the heat of the moment, my immediate reaction to this turn of events was less than sportsmanlike. I viewed the injury as a boon for my team—period and end of story. You know: All’s fair in love, war, and baseball.

However, after giving the matter some thought, I felt somewhat chagrined. I concluded then and there that deriving pleasure from another human being’s misfortune—generally speaking—fosters bad karma. Fast forward to the present and this thing called Facebook—Bad Karma City. 

Seriously, what is life coming to? When I got wind of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past week, the first thing that popped into my head was the vitriol  I would most assuredly encounter when I next logged on to Facebook—friends of friends of friends caught up in celebrating a man’s death and saying all kinds of nasty things. I don’t wish death upon men and women with whom I disagree politically. That’s a recipe for some serious bad karma in my book. Let the dead rest in peace—for at least a few days. But now there’s a never-ending story—every day and always—of unadulterated insanity that knows no boundaries. And the entire political spectrum of peeps is equally culpable. The rage against the machine, as well as the rage against those raging against the machine, is a 24/7/365 thing and, if you ask me, rather unbecoming—it’s even scary on occasion.
It’s quite a spectacle watching Facebook friends—who are sometimes actually friends in real life—brutally attacking one another over political personages and the issues of the day. Is it worth torpedoing friendships over such things?  Real friends: definitely not; Facebook friends: perhaps. I fear it’s going to be a very, very long year; a very, very long year after that; and very, very long one after that one, too. And politicians will come and go—Supreme Court justices as well. But the fury, foolish memes, and recurring hysteria—it would appear—are eternal now, just like death and taxes.