Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Yes, Thonx.

Some dead things according to someone.

If you want to piss me off, and it seems like 17/18th of the world does, just tell me, or write an article or shout from the mountaintops that something is dead, or over, or changed irrevocably or gone and will never come back. 

Such proclamations are a blatant display of hubris. As is proclaiming something "future-proof." They're assertions that you know what will happen tomorrow, that you are some sort of oracle.

You see such statements, if you're watching, about 63,000 times a day or an hour.

Some technology will change everything.

Some environmental threat will change everything.

Some change in habits will change everything.

Some something means everything and will therefore change everything.

We see it in every sphere of our lives. From work, to sports, to entertainment, to toys, to cars, to currency, to pathogens. And so on.

This weekend I traveled up to the Bronx, "the benighted borough™" with my wife's young cousin and his wife. They're brilliant, 27, and new to New York. We thought we'd show them some of the places that, in the words of Yogi Berra, are so crowded no one goes there anymore.

I pulled my 1966 Simca 1500 in front of my apartment house and everyone piled in. We set off up the FDR, formerly known as the East River Drive, and over the concrete labyrinth to the only borough of New York City that's attached to the Amerikan mainland. 

It's also the only borough whose name is preceded by an article. You don't say The Brooklyn, or The Queens, but you say The Bronx. I explained why to anyone who cared, which was exactly no one.

"It's called 'The Bronx,' I said "because it was the farm of a Dutchman, four centuries ago, Jakob Broncks. So like you'd say, 'I'm going to the Katz's, we say I'm going to the Bronx.'"

"I see," they snored. And we twisted north, around potholes larger than some Congressional districts and roads as orderly as a skein of chicken wire.

"When I was your age," I began my pedagogy, "the Bronx was written off as dead. Something like half of the census tracts in this part of the borough (the Southern part) were burnt out. And you could go literally miles without seeing a store, an in-tact building, a person not out to kill you, or a city service--like a lamp-post or fire hydrant.

"I'd drive through here," I continued, "but you sure as shit didn't want to break-down. Now, there's a new city rising here. And people, and stores, and restaurants."

My wife chirped from the back seat. "You're going a different way," she said. 

"Your cousins aren't worth the Triboro toll," I jibed. I think the toll now could pay for a starting point guard for an NBA-team.

We streamed up the Bruckner and took an exit from the left lane that used to be an exit from the right lane before they rerouted 287 just to make things interesting. I merged onto 95S, the Cross Bronx Expressway, and bumper-car'd my way to Third Avenue.

"This is the highway," I continued on my exegesis, "that they said would kill the borough. Robert Moses didn't believe in cities and built highways through neighborhoods--usually lower-middle-class neighborhoods where the people paid their rent and their taxes and obeyed the laws, but who had no political influence. 

"He ripped a highway right through the city. The exhaust, the noise, the displacement. Tremont Avenue was working-class Jewish. And 40,000 people were de-housed. Those people and their spending and jobs left and drugs and poverty moved in. Then the fires and pillage came in."

That's as good a hundred-word synopsis of the 70s as you're likely to get.

We got off the highway and onto a resurgent Third Avenue. Everywhere, new buildings were rising and new businesses were opening, and despite the cruddy weather, the streets were teeming with people and kids and families and strollers.

We swung onto Crescent Avenue and arrived at Arthur Avenue, the Bronx's Little Italy--an enclave of about 100 food stores and restaurants abutting Fordham University, not far from the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens and Crotona Park. I dropped my wife and her cousins off at Roberto's and began my Quixote-like quest to find a parking space. 

After about ten-minutes of desultory-searching I found a corner spot on 187th and Hoffman Avenue. It was such a good spot, I figured it was a scam and I would fall into something like a Vietnamese tiger-pit.

I locked my car, walked toward the restaurant, walked back to the car to make sure it was locked and finally sat down to eat some of the best food in the world. When we left Roberto's a couple of hours later, the streets were still narrowed by triple-parked SUVs.

The Bronx is not dead. It is not burning. It is not perfect. But it is alive.

None of what experts said was happening fifty-years ago actually happened. The Bronx is different from the Bronx I grew up with, but it is alive.

Most of what the experts say is dead, from print, to radio, to legal tender, to humans who can think without machines, will likely behave Bronx-like. 

They'll endure.
They'll change.
But they'll endure.

But the food won't be as good.

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