Monday, October 31, 2016

A day in New York.

As I do nearly every weekend, we drove up to the half-mile long horseshoe of white sand called Playland beach and frolicked with Whiskey and thirty or so other dogs in the still warm surf.

Whiskey galloped out of the Simca, ran across a parking lot or two, then across the boardwalk, then waited for me to shove open the door in the green wrought iron fence.

She hustled down the ramp to the sand and waited for me to hurl her duck into the sea. I grabbed the rubber avian toy and gave it a good chuck, torn rotator cuff notwithstanding.

The canard splashed ten yards out into the clear surf and Whiskey hopped the waves like a California beach boy and swam back and dropped the quacker at my feet.

We walked along the beach, half-mile after half-mile tossing and fetching and tossing and fetching for a good 90 minutes. Along the way, there was this dog or that who tried to steal from Whiskey her duck, but she was having none of it.

What Whiskey lacks in aggressiveness, she makes up in persistence. If a dog stole her decoy, she would stalk him like James Comey after a stray email or Chris Christie after a donut or Donald Trump after a can of spray tan.

Eventually, Whiskey's adversaries would tire of their stolen toy, and Whiskey would dart in and once again reclaim her hegemony over her mallard. We would then begin again the never-ending (I hope) play of tossing and fetching.

When Whiskey was fully fatigued and my right wing's rotator and accompanying arthritis was burning like a coke oven, I toweled Whiskey off and piled her into the back seat of my 50 year old machine. I buckled her into a seatbelt in the back, a precaution against crazy drivers in an age where no one any longer uses turn signals or expresses even a modicum of driving courtesy. No, the world, almost every aspect of it has become every man for himself. There's only one person who matters, most people seem to say, and that person is me.

If you are occupying asphalt where I'd like to be, well, damn you, I am going there, and you best get out of the way. The worse the driver, I've found, the more behemoth their vehicles. And as much as I love my Simca 1600, she will not fare well against a kiss, even a peck from a 5,000-pound Chevrolet Suburban that is larger than approximately 17% of all New York City apartments.

We headed south back toward the city, switching from the New England Thruway south on exit 14 to the Hutch, also south. We skirted the swamps, the giant bus parking lots and the towering co-ops of grey, industrial Co-op City, then exited at 3W onto Pelham Parkway, making our way west through middle-class New York.

Old Italians were decorating already their small neat homes with lights enough to illuminate Times Square. Though it was nearly 70-degrees out, well, November was almost upon us, and that meant Christmas lights had to be lit.

We headed east to west, then turned south onto Arthur Avenue and into the heart of the Bronx's Little Italy--a bit of the borough that hasn't changed a whit since the 1950s. 

I pulled like a TV cop right into a space right in front of the deli I was ordering sandwiches from. After a lifetime of living in New York, paying my taxes and being a generally good human being, I have acquired perhaps that most valuable of New York assets: I have good parking karma. I can go virtually anywhere in the city and find a space within two minutes.

My wife hustled into Tino's and ordered some heroes for lunch and Whiskey and I walked around the block so she could attend her matutinal ablutions. In minutes, we were reunited and my wife stowed all order of mozzarella drenched sandwiches in the trunk of our small, well-parked automobile.

We then walked down the block to New York's best bread bakery, Madonia, and ordered everything they had that was topped with sesame seeds, about four loaves worth and some Italian cookies for my daughter who is heading west today to visit some friends in LA. God forbid she arrive empty-handed.

Back in the Simca, we headed home, south on Hughes Avenue, past East Tremont, skirting Crotona Park. Thirty years ago, this was ground zero for urban terror, with hundreds of burnt out buildings and thousands of drug addicts. This was the neighborhood eviscerated and ruined by Robert Moses and his Cross Bronx Expressway that destroyed homes and lives and a goodly portion of New York's most blighted borough. 

The Bronx lost 20% of its population from 1970 to 1980, going from about 1.4 million Bronxites to just over 1.1 million. Today, however, the sweat stained borough seems to be coming back. Its population is now 1.455 million, the highest in its history.

We made our way east on the Cross Bronx, America's filthiest highway, and veered onto the Sheridan, then the Bruckner onto the Triboro and on our way home.

It is a function of the residual fear still in some dark recessess of my limbic brain that I breathe a sigh of relief when I exit the Bronx, alive and back home in Manhattan. There was a time, not long ago, when a flat-tire could be a death sentence.

We made it home. Classical music was on the radio. A touch of old Vienna.

Like Whiskey, I needed a nap.

No comments: