by Bruce A. Smith
One of today’s surprises is realizing how much I’m enjoying the epic Blizzard of ’16 that is engulfing the East Coast. It has awakened much nostalgia for life “back there” for many of us who live “out here” on the west coast.
I was born and raised on Long Island, NY and moved to Washington in 1990 when I was 40, so I know snow. I shoveled plenty of it as a kid to make money, and I learned how to ski on the slopes of the Garden City Golf Course. Later, I skied in the Catskills and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I loved the snow, and I was one of those who spouted the phrase, “Stamp Out Summer,” usually pictured with a fierce-looking ski boot crushing a tube of suntan lotion.
As an adult I skidded and slipped my way – to work, through parking lots and gas stations to get gas and groceries, and digging out a parking space on the street. Ug.
So here it is – The Big Snow. 27 inches in New York City as I write this, and more is coming. Mom’s eyesight isn’t sharp enough to tell me how much is piled outside her window, “but it sure looks pretty.”
There’s a hush that’s descended upon “Da Island” since there is a regional ban on driving. Plus, all public transportation has been shut down.
“It’s been very quiet all day,” Mom said. I haven’t even heard a snow plow. I guess they’re waiting until it gets close to being over – around midnight the TV says.”
As for entertainment, Mom is enjoying the Bonnie and Clyde movie on PBS, the only station that she watches – Channel 13 in NY.
But others are watching Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. The New York Times has published a viewers’ guide to the good stuff on these web streaming outlets, and I’m writing down their suggestions since most of them are unfamiliar to me. Top of the list is “What Happened, Miss Simone?” a Netflix special about singer Nina Simone. Hulu has something I had never heard of, “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and it seems to be a series.
I keep calling “The Ex” on Long Island to chat about the white stuff, but I keep getting bumped in favor of her kids calling in from Jersey, or neighbors wondering is they can stash their car in her empty driveway since her village placed a ban on street parking for the duration of the storm. But The Ex relocated her car yesterday to her grandkids’ apartment complex’ underground parking garage so the grandson will have unfettered access to the driveway when he comes in with his snow blower. I haven’t heard what the final decision was on the Snow Politics of Parking.
As for the blowers, it’s the only way to move snow these days on Long Island. When I was a kid, I made every nickel with a regular, straight-handled aluminum shovel, with a super big blade. It was a remarkable improvement over my father’s trusty shovel from his Brooklyn days – a hefty, solid steel curved blade that could hurl slush to the side like a regular snow plow on the street. However, it was heavier than heck and proved useless in a blizzard.
But kids these days are all using snow blowers they borrow from their dad. The pecking order goes like this:
Dad gets first pick of when he wants to blow his snow – late morning when the sun comes out, or midnight when the last flake falls. He does his own home, and then the son can borrow the blower to do his pre-arranged gigs on the properties of his neighbors.
My Mom gets her walkways, sidewalks and driveway blown for fifty bucks. No tip. The patio areas are cleared with a more traditional shovel, but these days most of them have a curved handle to ease back strain when lifting a blade-full of fluff. Lastly, Mom provides the ice chipper, vintage 1950s steel, for the fine tuning of the steps.
My mom’s Number One guy, Brian, is off to college this year, so the “contract” has been passed to another teen, Matt, down the block. Brian was a sweetheart, so Matt has big shoes to fill. However, Mom just called to say that Brian is stuck at home because of the travel ban and can’t get back to his college, so there may have to be a peace treaty signed between old guy and new guy for snow removal.
The men in my mother’s neighborhood have become fanatical over their snow blowers. One of her nearest and dearest neighbors revealed to us that another neighbor borrowed his blower a few years back and damaged it, never apologizing or paying for repairs afterwards. That guy is now on the Official Shunned List of Jerks on my mother’s block, and I doubt if he could even borrow a shovel, and certainly not a lawn mower in the summer.
As for women and modern politics – forgetaboutit! I have never seen or heard about any girl shoveling snow for pay in my old neighborhood. It’s men’s work, and that’s just the way it is. Ladies who want to move snow are just going to have to join the Teamsters and drive an International Loadstar 6000 for the county if they want to get their deep snow thrills.
Of course, in the old days there were a few grannies in babushkas who cleared their “stoops” with a broom, but that doesn’t really count in the Snow Removal Wars.
The bigger problem with snow is not who moves it, but losing power during a storm. However, the Bliz of ’16 is so cold and windy that the only issues are on the coast, where things are getting dicey. The New York Times reported that a mast from a sailboat down on the Jersey shore got tangled up in some power lines and a whole town lost power. More troubling though are the full moon high tides that are flooding the lowlands, so people have to leave their coastal homes. Mom is worried about freaky stuff like that, and it is not without reason. She was without power – and heat – for 36 hours in Sandy, and was on the verge of being evacuated to a warming station.
During the day, other Back Easters are calling me for updates and schmoozing. Lisa is from PA and Tennessee, and both areas getting dumped. Her parent’s home in Pennsy has two feet on the ground, but even her old home down south had seven inches on the ground when she last spoke to her daughter. You have to realize that seven inches is a major disaster in the Southland, because there is only one snow plow in the entire state of Tennessee and everyone has to wait their turn. Bless their hearts…(Hey, I lived in Nashville for a year, so I know.)
Another friend out here who is also from Long Island – Yo Massapequa! (24 inches at 7 pm) – has been emailing us Easterners In the West a cute picture titled: “Help is on the Way for Back Easters,” which shows the Beatles from their Abbey Road album crossing the street with brooms and shovels. Thanks to whomever had a lot of time on their hands today. I’m glad to see they stayed off the roads.