Mad about town: Trucks and troubadours (not)

By Carolyn Marsh | Jul 10, 2009

I lived in New York City for nearly a quarter of a century, and for most of that time on the Upper West Side where 72nd Street debouches (more or less) onto the West Side Highway (which famously collapsed in 1973 after years of neglect, yet another example of the American habit of failing to maintain infrastructure until it is deadly and incredibly expensive). It was sometimes not a very pleasant place to be at rush hour, but at least the traffic kept moving (except on Friday afternoons, when it clotted and came to a massive halt).

After a little more than a month on the top floor of one of Camden’s highest buildings, I can tell you truthfully that even in New York I did not see as much truck traffic as I have here. That may be because it was spread out over 12-plus avenues and countless cross streets, and everything here funnels through Camden on Route 1, occasionally turning onto Bay View or Mechanic streets. I do not think more than a minute goes by without the sound of a truck shifting one of its innumerable gears as it comes up or down Elm Street assaulting my ears; on occasion mine eyes have seen a dozen trucks lined up from one end of town to the other. Perhaps the people who are so opposed to a bypass should spend an afternoon at my desk.

Then there are the reefers, who have to keep their refrigeration systems running all the time outside every restaurant in town. The only good thing I have to say about this is that the noise drowns out the sound that the miserable minstrels who sit on Camden’s sidewalks with guitars et alia making what they must believe is music to the ears. There is no law against this, except the law of good taste, and they are free to sing for their supper (I hope not; if they’re counting on tips to pay for a meal they’ll be getting rickets before too long), as long as they and their music cases, spread invitingly open, are not blocking pedestrian traffic. It occurs to me that a banjo and a washtub bass in the middle of the pedestrian path from Main Street down to the harbor are blocking pedestrian traffic, but never mind.

I wish I’d seen the tourist at Camden Custom Embroidery the other day who blustered in to tell Billy Dickey that he took exception to the T-shirt hanging in the doorway (and not blocking the sidewalk, by the way). You’ve seen the T-shirt, of course: something along the lines of “I support the Red Sox and any other team that beats the Yankees.” The tourist must have been a Yankee fan; even if he weren’t railing against the Red Sox, his manners would have given him away. (Although Yankee fans aren’t even in the same league with Rangers fans; once, at a Rangers-Islanders game at the Garden, several of the people sitting around me actually apologized for the other people sitting around me who did not appreciate my support, low-key though it was, for the Islanders.) Bill, wisely, said nothing and left the T-shirt where it was (and probably still is, I hope). I personally share part of that sentiment, though my T-shirt would support whoever beats the Yankees and the Red Sox, as I am a longtime (and long-suffering) fan of the Baltimore Orioles. You can guess who my National League favorites are: the Chicago Cubbies. In a game from which class departed long ago, both those teams had lots of it in their past.

I’ve been reading several books to try to figure out what happened to the economy over the last couple of years. (This keeps my mind off my so-called portfolio and 401(k).) Aside from my total inability to understand credit default swaps, financial instrument defaults, repos and a million other esoteric buzz-word concepts, I keep wondering what these authors mean when they talk about “the market” (not to be confused with the stock market). I thought I was the market. I thought marketing was about selling things to people like me. Turns out the market is mainly people in the financial industry who can make or break major companies merely by playing games so that when the can’t-fail companies actually do fail, the government rushes in with my money to save them and permit them, as Frank Rich said on Sunday, to come back and reap “a disproportionate share of what scant prosperity there is.” We appear to have computer models of literally everything in the financial world except the one that tells us what would happen if a company that ought to fail is allowed to fail. The excuse always seems to be that if we didn’t bail it out, no one knows what kind of havoc would ensue. Funny, really. Financial wizards seem to be able to foretell everything else.

I would point out that one other big operation that doesn’t appear to have its computer models under control is the weather. The less said about that, however, the better. I see the forecast this week is for one day, or maybe part of one day, of probable, or at least possible, sun. I’ll believe it when it happens, but I’m not planning any outdoor parties.

I had also vowed not to turn on the furnace in July until someone pointed out that I and my abode would be overtaken by the dreaded mildew in very short order. So I ran the furnace for a day. You just can’t win.
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Joseph Tassi | Jul 11, 2009 07:09

Failing N.Y.C. infrastructure, loud trucks, bad music, sports t- shirt controversy. Anything else? Oh confusion. thanks for sharing. Bill Monroe

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