Winter time means snow, it’s early January and we’re getting lots of it.
The arrival of the white stuff also means its time to grab a shovel and go to work. I’m not feeling the snow-blowers people use.
Someone pissed off Mother Nature, she is hitting us hard.
Back in the day I grew up in a railroad apartment, 228A Prospect Park West, corner of Windsor Place, third floor over Bob’s Hardware Store. I never had to shovel the sidewalk in front of the apartment. Our landlord, Fanny Hyman had the workers in her store shovel. Even if she asked me to shovel, there was no way I was doing it. She once gave me a part-time job in the store when I was a teen; that lasted about a week.
An easy way to make some cold cash was to shovel snow. A lot of kids in the neighborhood went from house to house asking if they could shovel. Some homeowners would hire them and within minutes their sidewalk was cleared. The stores on ninth avenue did the same thing. I remember seeing the same fucking kid hustling from store to store shoveling, getting paid and moving on to the next store. Today, that kid is probably a successful business owner somewhere.
These past few days I have snatched the shovel from our garage and gone to work. To tell the truth I actually enjoy shoveling. It’s a great workout and most of all, I get a feeling of accomplishment after seeing my work. I like it so much, when the neighbors are out-of-town, I do their sidewalk too.
As a teen, when they actually played ball in the boys schoolyard on Howard Place, if we wanted to play ball in the yard, we had to shovel. Danny P., our fantastic coach would make us shovel the court for practice. Holy Name never had a gym.
On a cold night in January of 1978, I left my apartment after dinner carrying my basketball. My mother must have thought I was crazy; I mean there was snow all over the place. I’m sure residents of the neighborhood that saw me crossing ninth avenue and walking down Windsor Place with a basketball in my hands must have thought I was nuts.
I walked into the yard and saw Edgar De La Rosa and Gammie shoveling the middle court. Edgar was one of the best point guards from the neighborhood and played his ball at Bishop Ford and later at St. Francis College. Gammie was a slick ball-handler who ran the point at John Jay. The snow blanketed every part of the yard except for one long, narrow path that they had shoveled. These two dedicated ball players cleared a path from the Howard Place baseline to the church wall.
I was mesmerized by the discipline these two displayed. I watched them go up and down the court working on their dribbling skills; it’s no wonder they were so good. Watching Edgar and Gammie for a few minutes, their drive and desire to improve enticed me to join them; which I did and they welcomed me with open arms, as long as I shovelled a bit.
“Yo Red, get that spot over there in the corner,” Gammie shouted out as he worked on his behind-the-back dribble. I did as I was told grabbing the shovel and scooping up some slush that must have been in their way.
After working on our dribbling for about an hour Edgar and Gammie left. I now had the entire yard for myself. It was my paved paradise. I noticed they had left the shovel behind so I stopped dribbling and walked over and grabbed it to shovel some more. I cleared the snow from around the basket on the Howard Place side and began to get some shots up. (Do kids today still shovel the court?)
That night in the yard the hard work paid off. Watching Edgar and Gammie work on their game was contagious. These two showed that if you put the time in, you can accomplish anything.