The Bronx ate my postings

Sam Smith

Your editor’s casual inattention to duty over the past few days is in part the result of an unpredictable pleasure of parenthood: being swept into the migratory path of one’s children – in this case from Long Island to the Bronx.

For the past eight years I have been an occasional visitor to Suffolk County, discarding stereotypes in favor of a view based on innumerable random experiences ranging from the pleasures of the Montauk coastline to the less pleasurable experience of being imprisoned with my wife and a crew member for 45 minutes aboard the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry on a 85 degree day.

I have come to learn that Long Island does indeed have more shopping malls per square mile than just about any place on earth, but that not far behind is the acreage devoted to farming, some of the most productive in the state, that no one had bothered to mention to me. I have learned to expect to drive within blocks from a corner dominated by a futon discount store to a revolutionary era post road whose buildings and trees still remind one of what once happened here.

It is a place where the past and present have been dumped together, a place that can spawn both Walt Whitman and Bill O’Reilly, and where patriotic icons of post-constitutional America sprawl about the landscape like exhausted geese unable to reach their destination, yet where you can attend a Unitarian church and hear a guitar backed choir singing about Joe Hill.

Except when out on the battlefield known as the Long Island Expressway, the residents seem quite content with their inconsistencies. They neither brag about them nor even seem to notice them. It is the stranger, arriving with misapprehensions, who finds it all extraordinary.

But now, as uncontrollably as a tie-up at exit 47, it is time to leave Long Island and make friends with North Bronx, site of my daughter-in-law’s next adventure with the medical profession. From a little cottage within walking distance of Long Island Sound to the eighth floor of an apartment building overlooking a subway yard and distant Manhattan. From a landlord who happily enclosed a porch for our granddaughter to the complexities of getting a new rug in an old, large New York apartment building. To one who has always felt threatened by the negotiations of everyday New York life, I watched with amazement as my son and wife double-teamed the issue with the aid of a cleaning woman who said she had told the super “I wasn’t going to clean that rug because it was a waste of money. He was going to have to get a new one anyway.”

Even as this is written the apartment is being repainted and rerugged and I have turned my energies to other matters like checking out the stores within walking distance and finding some lights for under the kitchen cabinet. We also ate in a restaurant that offered cream cheese for your bagel in two varieties: full or schmeared.

I am already proud of my new proxy neighborhood and am making secret plans to run my granddaughter for lieutenant government based on her connections with both Suffolk County and the Bronx. She walks with the self-assurance of a New Yorker so the rest shouldn’t be difficult.

Meanwhile, I apologize for the dilatory postings and expect things to be back to normal by Tuesday.


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