Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Ahead

Once upon a time my brothers, playmates, and I went sleigh riding in a nearby empty lot—down a small hill into what had been, a half century or so earlier, the meandering, above-ground Tibbetts Brook. Empty lots in the Bronx are hard to come by nowadays, and so is winter merriment as far as I’m concerned. Happily, said season is officially over. Good riddance!

Tomorrow, in fact, marks a week since the big-bad blizzard that didn’t quite live up to its billing. In my neck of the woods, I’d estimate we accumulated anywhere between six and eight inches of snow and ice, which was a whole lot better than the anticipated twelve to eighteen. Still, this week’s been a real pain in the butt. It got bitterly cold in the snow’s aftermath, creating treacherous obstacle courses—for several days—in getting from point A to point B.

I’ve touched on this sore subject before. One of the biggest differences between now and when I was a callow youth on the back of a sleigh is neighborliness—plain and simple. In this day and age there is a palpable lack of consideration in the ether—on numerous fronts. Many street corners remained blocked with snow mounds and ice for days. Certain storekeepers, too, did the bare minimum in shoveling their sidewalks—enough, I guess, to avoid a summons from the Department of Sanitation. These self-interested retailers and absentee commercial property owners, who ply their trades in heavily foot-trafficked areas, made the tiniest, one-way pathways with their snow blowers. God forbid they had taken an extra ten or fifteen minutes to clear the way so that two people could walk in opposite directions, without one of them stepping up onto slippery snow and ice to let the other pass.

When I was a boy, homeowners, building supers, and storeowners not only thoroughly shoveled their own walkways, but corner passes into the street as well. Folks from the old country had a certain code back then, which is less in evidence today. I’m painting with a broad brush—perhaps—but most men and women gave thought to their neighbors who might have difficulty ascending ice walls and navigating extended stretches of slush.

Fortunately, Mother Nature has done the jobs that all too many of these inconsiderate oafs—interested in making money above all else—neglected to do. We’re now left with piles of filthy snow in the streets and puddles—lots of them—everywhere. Snowy sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in week old snow is not a pleasing visual. Canines’ calling cards are ubiquitous in the snowmelt. And garbage hasn’t been picked up all week. Whenever I spy a week’s worth of garbage piling up, it amazes me that we aren’t buried in it.

Hope springs eternal, however. On the eve of spring, the New York City bus and transit fare confusingly went up with miscellaneous MetroCard changes, including a quarter spike for a one-way fare, but most of us won't pay more, I think. These kinds of moves used to be both straightforward and big news. Ditto when the post office raised the price of a first-class stamp. But when you get right down to it, forty-nine cents to mail a letter and even three dollars to ride a bus or train isn’t highway robbery. On the other hand, the tolls at New York City bridges and tunnels are—very literally—that. I’ll leave you with a spring proverb: Avoid, for peace of mind, interactions of any kind with men and women who went to the School of Hard Knocks.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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