For a third day in a row the thermometer surpassed ninety degrees in New York City. We’ve now had six ninety-degrees—or higher—days this spring, which overall has been much colder than normal. And so in this curious spring, it’s only fitting that I experienced a peculiar first. There is a first time for everything, I guess, including a fist bump. In my limited circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, the old-fashioned handshake has always been sufficient. There’s not a fist bumper in the bunch. But the moral of this story is to expect the unexpected and never rule out anything in life, including a fist bump.
On this June “scorcher,” I bumped—pun intended—into a neighbor. I don’t know him well, but he’s a friendly fellow who likes to talk—loudly and sometimes a little too much. While his English isn’t especially good, he makes up for it with gushing enthusiasm. On multiple occasions now, the man has called me “George,” confusing me with another local with whom he has conversed. I don’t resemble or sound anything like George, but it would seem we’re all Georges to him.
Anyway, on this sultry morn, he was his bubbly self, shaking my hand in greeting and making small talk about the hot weather. “You are George, right?” he subsequently said. I hadn’t bothered correcting him up to that point—two corrections in previous encounters was my limit. Nevertheless, in response to the direction question, I replied, “No, I’m Nick.” It was this answer of mine that inspired the fist bump—the sweaty fist bump—that I couldn’t ignore. I really thought that I would get through life without giving or receiving one, but I was wrong.
I see where a scientific study concluded that the fist bump is actually more sanitary than a handshake and less apt to spread illness and disease. Speaking of scientific studies, I ran across another one this week that deemed the French fry bad for our health. Now, that is something I’ve heard before. Considering that they are typically fried in oil and often smothered in ketchup, why should we be surprised?
At my favorite diner last week, I ordered a side of French fries and thought about how many I must have consumed over the years. My father used to pick up a fifty-pound bag from a fruit-and-vegetable seller in the Arthur Avenue Market in “Little Italy in the Bronx.” With Manhattan’s Little Italy a mere shadow of its former self—gentrified beyond recognition—the Bronx’s is in truth the only Little Italy remaining in New York. That big bag of potatoes, by the way, didn’t last very long in a family of seven. Depending on what was the main course, the potatoes were baked, mashed, boiled, or fried. But French fries ruled on our dinner table in a time and place that knew no fist bumps.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)