Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baby Made Boom Boom

I’ve heard New Year’s Eve described as “amateur night” many times over, referring to partiers who can’t handle being drunk and act buffoonish as a result. But when you think about it, every night is amateur night in bars everywhere, and a lot of those amateurs are alcoholics. I’ve never walked into a bar to find "a professional": some suave, middle-aged man in a cummerbund or cravat, sipping aged whiskey and putting forth like Oscar Wilde. If I did, I’d assume I’d stumbled into a gay bar, and one that specialized in old queens.

I’m sitting here, snug and warm in my apartment, after having a ragged-ass day at work because a few people are out next week and used today to gun out whatever they could. No intentions at all of going out. I work in the western part of midtown Manhattan; they’ve had the parade iron gates lining up each avenue the past two days so that you can’t jaywalk, not quite realizing things get dangerous when you have hordes of tourists making it impossible for sane people to get around them. It’s been a bad scene all week with people who really ought to go the hell home instead of coming here, not quite realizing it still isn’t Disneyland despite Guilliani’s efforts in the 90s to make it so.

And I wasn’t spared my one amateur. Got on the train about 4:00 pm, just beating that undefined time when the cops lockdown midtown and start putting those metal gates all over the place and guiding people away from subway stations. As I did, a twentyish guy, long and lanky, got on at the Times Square stop with me. Seemed normal. Stood by the door. Train wasn't crowded at all. Two stops later, we found ourselves sitting next to each other, albeit with a long bar in the middle of the subway car between us.

He was drunk off his ass, listening to hiphop on his iPod. I could tell because he had earphones that rested on top of his ears, and I could hear the sound bleeding out. The paper bag in his hand turned out to be a beer … which was such a throwback to the “old” days of New York when it was easy to walk around in public with a can of beer and not get hassled. (You now will for breaking open container laws.) I could respect the guy for being so brazen, but that’s where it ended. Like so many dickheads listening to hiphop, he was gesturing with his arms while he listened, you know, the phony jabbing of fingers, the hand signals and swaying of shoulders, like a five-year-old emulating his take of bloated adulthood.

He was drunk, no need to bust his chops or get weird, so long as he kept it relatively under control. About all he did was rub up against me by accident a little too much, not enough to act offended and make a scene, but enough to make me think, “Get off the train, you drunken prick.” Every time the train hit a turn or quicker stop, he’d lean too far against me, like someone does when he falls asleep on the train. Again, the key to surviving in New York is quietly riding out situations like that. If it gets too weird, find some way to walk away, or act out, quickly and decisively. I surely had him in the corner of my eye.

But then, this smell … he shit his pants! I know he did. I suspect he knows I know he did. The smell just sort of came at me in a small wave, but I’ve been around enough homeless people to know – if I had kids in diapers, I could assure you, it would be the same smell. Not a full-on dump. He probably squeezed out a small turd by accident on one of those sharp turns. You couldn’t see it. Man, you could smell it. Again, not an over-powering stench, but enough to let me know baby made boom boom. I know after that smell, he stopped futzing around with his “white rapper representin’, yo” routine he had been putting on. That tends to be the case when you have a load in your pants!

He made it past Roosevelt Plaza, the first above-ground stop in Queens. But, luckily, he shuffled, and I mean shuffled, like a penguin, towards the door at 39th Avenue, the next stop and leaned off the train. He was so drunk he stumbled towards the subway wall and crouched against it, with his back to it, leaned over. I assume he was getting ready to puke to go along with his boo-boo.

But the doors shut, and the train pulled away. Man, what a New Year’s that guy must be having. Who knows, maybe his girlfriend dumped him, he lost his job, one of his parents passed on, D, all of the above, who knows. He wasn’t a happy, kazoo-blurting party drunk in a plastic hat tossing confetti. He was a drunk, lonely kid on the train who shit his pants, getting off on a train stop that’s still a bit dicey in terms of safety. Happy New Year! I hope his day got better once he got off at 39th, but who knows. He seemed harmless enough, but it’s my firm belief that anyone listening to an iPod and “acting out” the music, whatever kind of music, has to be a horse’s ass on some deep, abiding level that I don’t want to contemplate. Paths cross, assholes fade like tail lights in the dark, life goes on.

Such is life in the big city. The night before, my old friend Fred came into the city for a visit while staying with his extended family in a Jersey town this week. (This is the same guy from this post detailing our crazy “NYC in our 20s” days.) I haven’t seen Fred in years, maybe a decade? It’s been a long time. The dude hasn’t changed physically one iota since his college days. Maybe his pants size are up a notch or two (unlike six or seven like mine!), but he still looks physically healthy, hasn’t gone gray or lost his hair, and despite a high-pressure job in a major city, doesn’t have that sort of stress he must feel routinely showing at all in his face. I’ve seen this way of life age people in dog years. Fred must be a vampire, drinking blood in the dead of night to maintain this Dorian Gray personage. I don’t know what he’s doing, but it’s working.

We had some dinner and drinks down in the East Village, Alphabet City to be exact, one of Fred’s last stops before he moved out to Staten Island, met his wife and eventually left New York. If you’re unfamiliar with New York, this is an area on the Lower East Side that has changed drastically in the last 20 years, going from a rundown, anarchistic squatters paradise with burned-out buildings and a thriving drug trade … to an obscenely-expensive, highly-exclusive residential area that, I guess, must have started as geared towards the young and hip, but you can’t be too young and hip these days and still afford the sky-high rents and real-estate values down there. That goes for all of white Manhattan. Parts of it used to be a genuinely intriguing mix of people across all social strata. Now, you’re going to find smatterings of projects housing the very poor, or people with A LOT of money, with very few social classes in between. No struggling writers, artists, or poets, or musicians. Most of them have gone out to Brooklyn and are in the process of being priced out of most of those neighborhoods, too.

I don’t know who lives down there now. I do know you still have sizable projects when you get over to Avenues C and D (this area is called Alphabet City because it’s a large, rectangular block of a neighborhood intersected north/south by Avenues A through D). So things can still feel hairy down there depending on where you walk. But, man, nothing like in the 70s and 80s, surely up through the mid-90s when things changed rapidly along Avenues A and B. When Fred and I sat down for dinner at a nice “American” style restaurant (with prices better than what I find in my neighborhood in Astoria!), it was nearly empty just after six, but filled up fast, most of them a younger crowd. No way on earth could they have lived around there. They were probably like me – in the city for a night of hanging out. I neglected to mention to Fred, who had been asking what happened to all the old clubs and great places to see bands we knew and frequented, there still are a few places like that around, like The Living Room, Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge just south of where we were. But not many.

That was our main draw to hanging out downtown back then, the allure of seeing good music in a small club, which we did dozens of times, at places like the old Ritz on 11th between 3rd and 4th Avenues, and The Knitting Factory when it was on Houston Street. A bomb has gone off in Manhattan though in terms of night clubs, and most bands now, when they come to New York, head out to various small clubs in Brooklyn to make their small legends. You saw people like us wandering around downtown, most of the time we were out to see bands. Those days are just about gone in Manhattan.

It was a kick to later walk the streets of Fred’s old neighborhood and gawk in disbelief at what it had become in the past 20 years. Understand that before I moved to New York, the two or three times I visited Fred in his cramped/shared apartment just west of Times Square, whoever was up for it, we’d all get on the subway down to the East Village, get cans of beer in paper bags at the nearest bodega (much like the dude noted above on the train today!) and just walk in the night. Man, just walking around New York in the 80s, you could still feel “that vibe” – a wonderful feeling, like sparks. The place felt so alive and vibrant. Run-down as hell, sure, but that was part of it. I’m sure part of it was being a bit of a rube and feeding off the different kind of energy a major city provides after dark, but with New York, it was something else, too, something much larger. And I should point out we weren’t acting like “frat boys” or in any way kicking up a fuss. Just walking and taking it all in. Pass a bar? Man, let’s go in and have one. The night would piece itself together like that until we got back on the train, exhausted, and went back uptown to sleep fitfully on hardwood living-room floors.

I guess Fred and I did roughly the same last night, save we had our beers in the restaurant and just walked, particularly down the block that was his last living space down there, a dumpy apartment building on 13th Street between A and B. I remembered that place. Every time I went down there to see him, someone on the first floor would be wailing away on a drum set and sounding terrible. Fred noted that his most vivid memory was the night there was a fire in the building, and everyone filed in their pajamas and blankets, huddled in the water and smoke-filled street in front of the apartment building, dazed and half asleep, not being able to go back in until later the next morning and the whole place smelling like smoke.

It still looked dumpy, as some apartment building always will. But just across the street was a palace, a very nice-looking building with arty lanterns and such hanging from awnings and immaculate brickface on a building that looked like a grand old hotel that had been there for centuries. Well, Fred informed me, that was a squat back in 1989. A burned-out hulk of a building with no windows, graffiti-covered, runaway kids and older boho artist types making a stand there because whoever owned the building had let it rot, so these people moved in and made a go of it without any heat or running water. They’d tap into electricity from street lights in front of the building. This was the urban version of “off the grid” people you’ll find out west living on the edges of deserts and in the deep woods. Some good people, some crazy and lost, all trying to make lives for themselves outside the rule book.

Who knows when that particular squat shut down, but they all did down there, and there were surely dozens, as that whole neighborhood changed in the early 90s. The Tompkins Square Park Riot of 1988 was probably the last hurrah of the rebel side of the neighborhood, where the various forces at play in the neighborhood came to a head, and “law and order” prevailed, thus paving the way for gentrification. Surely, when Fred lived there circa 1990, it was still rough, but I’m sure signs of the impending changes were taking root right then. It blew his mind to look across the street from his old building in 2009 and see this beautiful art-deco apartment building standing where what you might call a black hole of hope once stood.

As Fred noted last night, what the hell, you can piss on gentrification all you want, and for good reason, but by the same token, drugs, squalor, shootings and general mayhem going on all up and down the block at all hours is hardly an ideal living situation, even for a young guy looking for a grittier alternative to wherever he’d just been. I don’t like gentrification at all – in fact, find it horrifying in some senses now that I’m actually living in a neighborhood where I can see how insidiously it works – but when you see the end results, years later, you do get that deep “what the fuck” moment and realize you, as a small person in a set place and time, are more like a cork bobbing on a wave in the ocean than anything else. Shit happens in place and time, and you move along with it, sometimes rolling along nicely for years, other times being swept away for various reasons, in best cases, of your own choice.

And I guess that applies to our lives, too, which is I what I got from walking around with Fred last night. You just roll with the waves and see where they take you. At least that’s how I’ve lived my life. Which must sound like a nightmare to a go-getter with everything that’s going to happen in his life laid out in outline format. Well, outline formats always come up with unanticipated sub-numbers that tend to spread out the broadly-stroked Roman Numerals of Big Shit Happening. You roll with things. And as I told Fred, last night, like a grumpy old man laying out the mystery of life while I clutched my newspaper and harrumphed: sane, healthy and solvent … the rest takes care of itself. You just take whatever shit rolls your way – good, bad or indifferent – and improvise to the best of your abilities. I think I realized this walking around last night, and the vibe was virtually no different from the one we had back in 198X roaming around as kids looking for sparks, as opposed to middle-aged guys who had found them in some sense, and watched some of them die, others go on glowing in the night.

I think the key to life is to simply not shit your pants on a subway train in New York!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Ball

The trip back to PA last week was pretty tolerable, especially considering it was two days before Christmas, and the bus was full of the usual suspects who make that once-a-year trip. What made it nice was the sun was out, and it looked like they got a lot less snow than we did in NYC – a few inches as opposed to a foot. The fields and farms between Easton and Lehighton were coated a perfect white and put me in the right frame of mind. And my morning run on Christmas Eve was the same: sunny, brisk and unbroken white fields everywhere I went along the backroads.

Of course, it pissed a cold, cold rain the next two days, I ate like a hog, and the cat hair drove me so nuts in the dead of winter that I had to leave a day early. Of course, it’s all gravy compared to the Christmas of 2004 when Dad passed on. But a real mixed bag nonetheless. One thing that struck me, with that small patch of nice weather, and the sight of so many unattended basketball rims in schoolyards and driveways, was how much I used to play basketball as a kid.

Basketball came in on the tail end of football in our neighborhood sports world, which meant early December. We’d all just put down the football and spend more time getting into basketball games in the local schoolyard next to our house. Football, after a certain point, would only occur if it snowed, and we could indulge in those much-loved “snow games” which were fun. (I really didn’t enjoy playing football after awhile – I could see we were all getting too big to be doing this shit without supervision or protection, and didn’t see the point of getting my head kicked in to prove what a bad-ass I was in the neighborhood.)

I loved basketball simply because I was good at it. Football and baseball, I’d usually get picked just above or middle of the pack. We were all reasonably good players. If a kid wasn’t, he simply stopped playing after awhile. Thus, there wasn’t that “last guy picked” vibe so many disgruntled adults complain about regarding their youth. Basketball, I was the one. I either picked the team or was the first picked. For one reason only: my set shot was literally about 80% accurate, some days closer to 90%. Sounds outrageous? It was. I could score from anywhere on the court – the farther away, the better. Put two guys on me, and I’d still score. It was a rare game where I’d screw the pooch and make my team lose by errant hot-dogging. And we’d normally play to 50 or 100, by ones, depending on how much time we had. These games would get nutty, like a board game that drags on for hours and finds the fortune of the players changing dramatically over time. One team would be down 75-40 and end up winning 100-97. Just crazy shit sometimes.

Did this prowess on the court transfer to high-school ball? No, despite the fact that the coaches I had in junior high and freshman year saw I could put the ball in from all over the court. We’d have free-throw practice at the end of each practice, the object being keep going until you miss a shot. I’d normally go through 30 shots or so before missing. When I got into games, again, I could hit from anywhere.

The problems? Defensively, I was a pretty average player, surely nothing special. And I didn’t understand plays, as we never used them in neighborhood ball. Plus, the plays always seemed designed to get the ball as close to the rim as possible – I wasn’t nearly as good inside as I was out. Still, my specialty was swishing the ball from the side court just outside the three-point line. Another thing I had to realize was there were other guys in the school who were just better than I was, this guy Nick in particular, a great guy who’s now a state cop, just a great all-around player who was an even better long shooter than I was, too. I would back him up after the coach toyed with starting me, but put me down when he saw I wasn’t fitting into the other roles – too short to be a center, not quick enough for guard, and the other forward was a great defender, if nothing special offensively.

So, I said fuck it after freshman year and stopped playing for the high-school team. What do I remember most about that season? This time of year. Steamed-up school buses driving through the snow, to cramped rural gyms, wearing our uniforms under our clothes, so we could strip off like Superman and be ready for the court. And Billy Joel’s album The Stranger. One of the kids had it on eight-track and played it incessantly. (Think it came out in the fall of 1977, but rest assured, it was still being played to death a year later.) The album is burned into my mind for that reason. Every time I hear the title track, I feel like it’s the winter of ’78 and I’m on my way to a game in Tamaqua or Mahanoy City. We even nicknamed the cute cheerleader/starting guard couple “Brenda and Eddie” after the characters in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”

Another thing that occurred to me later: I was simply more geared towards the rim, type and height, of the backboard in the schoolyard, which was a rusting old hunk of metal on an uphill incline. It was probably about three inches or so shorter than a regulation rim, and bent down in front. Understand that I’d spend hundreds of hours practicing on this rim. So my touch was geared towards that very specific type of shooting, which does make a difference when playing on a regulation-length basket on a flat wood surface. I was still a pretty good shot, but not the dead-eye I was on that shitty schoolyard court.

When I say I played day and night, I’m not joking. Many times, I’d be up there alone, sometimes in the dark, shooting by the light of the moon, and making it. I learned to judge my shots by the feel of the ball leaving my fingers, not what I was seeing, and I’d be just as accurate at night. That wasn’t such an abnormal thing in winter. We wouldn’t play after dark, meaning after 5:00 or so in December and January, but there was nothing wrong with shooting baskets after dark, and it wasn’t like I was out there until midnight. Most nights, I’d wrap it up and 7:00. My neighbor, Pat S., who was also a pretty good player who did well on the local Catholic-school team, would come down and join me some nights.

If it snowed, I was the first one out there to shovel out the court after clearing out our cars and walkways. This is what I was thinking about most on that drive home a few days ago. None of the kids along the way loved the game enough to shovel out the court, which I did routinely back then. Just enough to have a foot or two outside the normal lines of play. And we found that the concept of showing up dressed for the tundra was ludicrous. We had rubber balls for days like this, as opposed to leather, so they’d bounce in cold weather, and we’d start playing, and surely be sweating our asses off after about 20 points on either side. The play along the lines could be intense and often ended up with guys splayed out in the snow along the sides, which was a kick if one wasn’t too embarrassed over how he ended up there.

The best nights, though, were me alone out there, shooting under a full moon, court freshly shoveled, I could see my breath in the dark, feel the cold air in my lungs, and pumping in shot after shot from way outside. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Before high-school ball, I surely thought I was going to be a star, as we all do with various sports when we were kids. I’d get the same vibe playing tennis a few years later, and would become a good player, but nothing like a professional, or even great amateur. After I gave up on the high-school version, it occurred to me that I simply liked playing the game, this way, with no designed plays and no player set to be the star of each play. Whoever had the hot hand, feed him the ball and let him do his thing – and that was usually me in the schoolyard. When I was by myself, it was simply a good way to get out of the house, get some fresh air and do something constructive, even if it had no net effect that I could use in the “real world.” A waste of time? Sure, but I wasn’t hurting anybody, and my “alone” time as a kid was severely curtailed by seven people in a house meant for four. And a neighborhood full of howling, tail-end baby boomers who were always up to some kind of semi-evil shit or another. It was a pleasure to be able to do something I was good at, by myself, on a winter’s night.

That rusty, old, cast-iron backboard came down years ago … I can’t even recall. Maybe in the late 80s or early 90s? There’s a day-care center in that old school now next door to the house back there, and that whole area where we once played all our neighborhood sports has been replaced with a playground for toddlers. In warmer months when I go back there, those kids come out every hour on the hour, running around doing their kid things, teasing each other, laughing, weeping, stirring up shit, making friends and enemies. So not much has really changed back there. I haven't touched a basketball in years and have no inclination to do so. Adult leagues seem a bit half-assed to me, and from what I've seen, most of the guys play like apes anyway, all bad fouls and mediocre hot-dogging.

Still, I can’t help but think on some winter’s night, the ghost of my teenage self is back there, in his ragged hand-me-down clothes, hooded sweatshirt and kelly-green Philadelphia Eagles knit cap, bouncing the ball, throwing it in the air, satisfying swoosh and snap of ball hitting nothing but net, ball bounces, repeat about 150 times, maybe humming an Alan Parsons Project song every now and then, coming in for some hot chocolate and a night of bad TV. I guess anything seemed possible on those nights in the middle of nowhere, even if nothing ever happened.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowy Weekend before Christmas

Well, New York got pounded with a blizzard this past weekend. Woke up Sunday to find about a 12 inch base with drifts up to 20 inches on the landlord’s sidewalk. I know most adults are supposed to hate the snow. But, man, I love shoveling it: a great workout. Nothing like pushing yourself hard with that cold, clean air and silence.

Of course, if I had a car, I’d be pissed, as every one I’ve seen on the streets has been ploughed in on one side or the other. Not everything to do with a snow storm is pleasant. Like the supermarket on Saturday. I normally grocery shop in between laundry loads at the laundromat on the end of my block ... on Saturday morning. A block north and west, there’s a big, nice suburban-style supermarket that, I’ve found, allows me to hustle over there, get all my groceries and get back in time for the 40-minute dryer load coming out. I know where everything’s at in there, so I can always make a quick sweep. And the music fucking rocks … they had Otis Redding playing this time.

But I should have know, through previous experience and all the cars in the strip-mall parking lot, that the place would be a madhouse. Most of the actual aisles weren’t bad, save the last … which featured a long line of people, I’m talking at least 30 deep, waiting their turn at the registers. I don’t know what’s with people, supermarkets and snowstorms. Your average American at any given moment has more food in his house than most third-world people will eat in a month. He has enough food to last a few weeks, probably, unless he’s living like a college kid on ramen. He surely has enough food to last the day or two a major snow storm might inconvenience his travel.

So why do these obnoxious jackasses ALWAYS flood into supermarkets on the eve of major snow storms? I know the answer … they’re shitheads … but why the overbearing bad manners and sense of panic? They’re in the supermarket. The food is in their carts. They have the money to pay for their food. So, the line is a little longer this time. They will be served. They will take their food and go home, self-satisfied that they have all the meat, bread and milk they could possibly need for the next 12 hours of snow fall. Knowing, in their heart of hearts, that the Dark Lord of Blizzards will, within minutes, sweep down on that particular supermarket and turn everyone inside into ice statues, laughing maniacally all the while at all these people who would have survived His Frigid Wrath had they just gotten there and bought all their shit 15 minutes earlier.

The problem in the supermarket came when it became clear that all these people waiting in that huge serpentine line were getting screwed by your usual suspects … the tunnel-vision pigs who jump lines. There was no store manager or employee ensuring this wouldn’t happen. So you had all these patient, relatively sane people on this huge line to the left slowly noticing that monstrous pricks were wheeling right up to the cash registers and completing ignoring this clear-as-day/a-blind-man-could-see huge line. After a few minutes, people started cursing, shouting and breaking line. An Italian guy and his girlfriend wheeled in front of everybody and explained what was happening, and that we should all free-for-all mad dash to the registers. God bless the Queens douche bag two people in front of me, in her fake fur coat and spray-on tan who, up to that point, had been annoying the hell out of me with her cellphone brayings. She barked out, in that thick, horrible accent: “Look, you sweet-talking dago, if you really feel that way, why don’t you get the fuck behind us and let us go first to the other registers?”

The guy just stood there sort of slack-jawed and didn’t move. But he eventually pretended he never heard her and hustled in front of everyone with his embarrassed girlfriend and their cart. Assholes, like so many of the others. It was at that point where I calmly took my cart, which had about 15 items, and put them back in their places on the shelves, and I later ditched my empty cart in a corner of the supermarket. While I could hear screaming and “fuck yous” and such in that garbage Long Island accent at the front of the store while I quietly slipped out through the in door.

The next day, I went back at 11:00 am after shoveling snow and found myself the only person in the whole place with the aisles perfectly stocked with all the food I could ever want.

Saturday was a weird day like that, with all the gray, cold, humid anticipation of an impending blizzard. Like a low-humming electricity. After the supermarket fiasco, I had some lunch, took a nap, then headed south to the gym, and to get a haircut before Christmas as I was getting shaggy. I was also hoping to snag a free bottle of wine, which the Russian barber I go to down near 30th Avenue has given me the past two years when I’ve gone there just before the holidays. No wine this time … guess things are tight for the old barber. But he was glad to see me, as he always is, calling out “Hello, ult friendt” and waving. He has a younger Asian guy working with him now on Saturdays in place of his son, he of the 80s metal mullet. But I always let the old man cut my hair if no one else is there, and the place was empty.

I’ve never owned a small business in a city, so I guess this happens all time, but a guy walked in off the street selling shit. Previously, I’ve seen two different guys come in with a suitcase filled with porn DVDs, which the mulleted son waded through and came out with a handful each time. This guy was selling scissors – barber’s scissors in particular, which are a lot more expensive than I thought. The guy was asking $90.00 for a particular pair, with the old man barking out, “Eh, I can get those for $50 from my normal guy, go on, get out.” The younger Asian guy seemed more open to this guy’s wares, as the salesman was Asian, too, but not much of a salesman. After about 15 minutes, the old guy told him he’d go as high as $55 or nothing, so the guy said, $70 is as low as I can go, and the barber just waved his hands and said, “Be gone.” He had tried those $90 clippers on me and said, “Not bad, but no better than what I already got for $50.”

So, the old guy finished me off. I always feel his belly pressing against my shoulder, a rotund older guy who likes being rotund, and laughing. I could somehow sense that small sadness that he couldn’t give me a free bottle of wine after the cut – I didn’t ask because I knew it could be embarrassing for him. So I said, see you in February, which I will, and left him to wait out the day while everyone hid because of the flurries just then starting. Man, that place is just a good-sized room with three barber chairs, a full-length wall mirror, a sink to wash hair, and a bathroom for the workers and patrons. The guy’s made his living there! Years, kids, grandkids … all made possible by this little room he’s had going since the 70s.

I had a sick iPod all weekend. Don’t even ask. When those things fuck up, they make your life a living hell. I won’t get into specifics, but let’s just say it’s another instance of “never take the advice of internet nerds who make out that Methodology X is easy as pie and the obvious solution to all your problems.” My bad. I basically had to wipe my iPod clean, take it back to factory settings (i.e., going from nearly 18,000 tracks to none) and rebuild it from the iTunes library on my hard drive. Losing the Playlists, too, which I use constantly, but I’ve had a surprisingly easy time rebuilding those, so all was not lost. Just made hellish for a good few hours Friday through Sunday. As I tried to finish off the last vestiges of a very bad sinus problem that had me stoned on Dayquil the whole time, feeling like a methadone addict. Shit, what a weekend.

About the only good part was shoveling snow, which, like mowing lawn, raking leaves or just sweeping up, I take some simple, deep pleasure in that I can’t fully explain. Enjoyed the hell out of it, even with my landlord banging on the window and instructing me to only cut a foot-wide path on the sidewalk for people to pass. I do a lot of walking in New York. The only thing worse than those lazy pricks who cut the foot-wide path on their sidewalks after a snowstorm are the pricks who don’t shovel at all. I just can’t do that. I knew all she was going to do was bang on the window and carp. That she wouldn’t rush out and stop me, wouldn’t even open up the door and yell, so I just did what I always do, the right thing, which was to shovel out as much of the sidewalk as I could, including the long path down the side, which she was motioning not to do at all. Christ … makes me wonder what went on before I moved here, and how much people must have cursed her after a snowstorm if this is how her property was handled.

You got to put out for people after a storm. No two ways around it. I know I feel good when I go down a sidewalk when someone has done what I do, which is wipe it clean and make it seem like nothing ever happened here, and the hour or two of work was something you need not worry about. You won’t win any medals, but sane people will remember.

Of course, I say all this knowing some bastard let his dog shit on the clean sidewalk this morning, and another bastard shoveled a few feet of snow onto the sidewalk along the side of the house while cleaning out his four-wheel drive piece of shit that technically shouldn’t need any sort of shoveling done around it. But such is life in Queens, in New York City in general. The bastards will always be here, and you do what you can to negate their influence.