The Code of the Streets and Shoveling Snow in NYC

Recall the snowstorm from this week. How could we forget? If you turn on the news during any severe storm the coverage is equal to O.J. in the white bronco or 9/11 — you’d think coronavirus had been globally eradicated. OK, fine, it was 16 inches in Central Park — undoubtedly newsworthy — I even canceled my workday, something I can’t recall ever doing for weather. Unfortunately, the stories, true to news shows’ form, are generic reports of a superficial narrative, who in contrast to their claims, are never on the authentic street-level. They fail to capture the gritty microcosmic expressions of our macroscopic life events.

Lost in the storm, lost in their story of it, were heroes like my friend, MF in the Queens. In the morning after the storm MF came out to get his car, which he’d craftily parked the day before at the very last spot before the fire-hydrant’s periphery, knowing the storm was coming and he’d have a much easier time shoveling himself out if not sandwiched between two cars who didn’t have to go to work like he did. You see, inside of every New Yorker, no matter how dissimilar in image or personality, is at least a bit of George Costanza, imbued with a grinding ambition for miniature quality-of-life victories along their journey in the concrete jungle.

Unfortunately, a less law-abiding neighbor had an even craftier plan than. Instead of the last spot before the pump, he/she figured with over two feet of snow there’d be no chance of any cops walking the beat writing parking tickets, and blocked MF in, illegally close to the pump. A more arrogant victory, although our friendly neighbor failed to account for who MF is.

MF is one of my oldest and closest friends. He’s one of the sweetest, most thoughtful people I know. He’d do anything for a friend. He’d go to jail for you in a heartbeat, even take a bullet for you I’d bet, as he is also one of the toughest people I know. If we stood next to one another across from you, you’d probably choose to fight him over me based on physical stature, which would be the objectively wrong decision. MF is tough in a way that deep down all guys covet, no matter how much we mature and evolve. No matter how much we fancy ourselves a lover, a well-read intellectual, or spiritual being, correctly denouncing all forms of violence as toxic, low frequency ignorance, it remains an undeniably integral part of nature, our yang nature, that if given the choice we would all opt to excel at. MF excels at it, naturally. He’s got that gene. He’s also a funny guy, and comfort with aggression is not mutually exclusive to a capacity for passive aggression.

MF proceeded to do what he had to do, dig his car out — also what “he had to do,” reallocate the snow covering his car atop the car of his perceived transgressor, ensuring to bring it to the point of invisibility. Recall old-school mafia ethics: If you commit an unforgivable crime against the family you get killed; but if that crime is heinous, personally offensive to an elite member they’d make it a point to slaughter you beyond physical recognition. Fittingly in Queens, one could say MF applied these same principles to his car-blocker. If it’s inconspicuousness your decision was predicated on, then a heightened, pathological inconspicuousness we can provide, possibly even inconspicuous to YOU.

Would they find their car when they came out later that day, the next day, or whenever they next had to leave? Are they a big drinker, who might reasonably think twice about their parking location and genuinely forget where it was? The forecast is not for a temperature above freezing for the entire next week to come, indicating they might simply never see their car again. They could report it stolen, even while standing right next to it, furious, in a rage, prepared to do whatever to whomever dared take their property. We already know they’re someone who’s willing to push the envelope of the law, which recalls another important point.

There’s no way MF’s endeavor, so impressive in both physical stamina as well as insistence on vindication, took any less than an hour to complete. His worthwhile adversary could have come out at any time during this historically most New York example of snow-shoveling, and surely none of the following responses from MF would be convincing:

1. Oh snap, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t see your car there.

2. Yo! Look what the plows did to you.

3. You gotta be 3 squares from the hydrant, bro’. I’m saving you from a ticket! (the rule is obviously written as “10 feet” — not “3 squares” — but amongst the many ways you can recognize an old school New Yorker is one who defiantly shouts: “3 squares!” And cops writing tickets will surely not ‘spare a square’)

None such responses are believable. MF knew what would, or at least very well could happen if his neighbor came out at any time in what had to be the better part of the full morning it took to complete his work of street art — also that the later in the project it got, the more physically exhausted he’d be, and the less likely any of the above lies would be, all of which factors that reduce the probability of MF’s physical safety. While a few piles of snow on a car’s trunk could be fibbed about, a car almost entirely covered would more or less confirm guilt. This is still New York City, and although most people are generally non-violent, you never know. Whether consciously or not, MF determined it was worth it. He was unafraid, a quality that myself and most men in some way admire. In the mental ven diagram where George Costanza meets Vinny “The Chin” Gigante, is my man, MF, and the best New York story of our most recent Nor-Easter.

Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese medicine in NYC, but my first loves are writing, stand-up comedy, yoga and old-school hip hop.

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