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.

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