Wednesday, September 28, 2016

That Time in September

Yesterday morning a house blew up not too far from me—in the Bronx neighborhood of Kingsbridge where I grew up. When I heard and indeed felt the blast at approximately 7:30 a.m., I feared it might have occurred in the building I called home—an instinctive first reaction that I have experienced in the past. Distant sounding car alarms, however, told me otherwise. When I eventually opened my front door to have a look around, I spied fire trucks nearby, never imagining the horror of what transpired only moments before: a mammoth gas explosion in a residence—once owned by “Aunt Bee” and “the dentist”—that, very tragically, killed one of New York’s Bravest.

It happened on a patch of earth very familiar to me. And Aunt Bee’s been gone for some twenty years now. She suffered from a terminal form of cancer at the end of her life. I remember her telling my mother—who was friendly with her—how she hoped to, at the very least, live long enough to witness the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. For like countless Americans at the time, Aunt Bee was riveted by the antics of—to name just a few—Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, and Judge Lance Ito. I can’t recall whether or not she was granted her last wish, but I can say with certainty that it’s very fortunate she and her dentist husband—who owned that modest corner house for many, many years—weren’t on this earthly plane to see it become a smoldering pile of rubble.

In recent years, Aunt Bee’s former abode had become one among many sorry signs of the times. That is, Aunt Bee-esque homeowners residing on the properties with their families have been sadly replaced—in all too many instances—with absentee owners renting to everyone and anyone. Everyone and anyone, it should be noted, who can fork over their exorbitant asking prices. Unsurprisingly, this is a recipe for high turnover and, too, shenanigans and unlawful activities. 

It appears from news reports that Aunt Bee’s old place had become a drug lab of some kind—growing marijuana plants—and the unsavory tenants may have illegally tapped into a gas line or employed another such dangerous maneuver. The owner of the house says he knew absolutely nothing about the renters. I’m inclined to believe him. Apparently, this man owns multiple homes in a neighborhood that means absolutely nothing to him. One thing and one thing only drives him—making money and the more the merrier. The drug lab operators—low lives all—could obviously afford paying the piper. And this is the sad end-result.

(Photos two and three from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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