I’m meeting the head of our sanitation district. Turns out, if you call NYC’s information hotline 311 and ask the right questions, you can get almost anyone’s number.
There’s an abandoned lot a block down that was once a beautiful secret garden. It must have been: hydrangea grows there between the black bags of trash, and hydrangea doesn’t grow wild in the Bronx.
The secret garden is a hotbed of broken glass, dog poop, empty wrappers, and Fancy Feast cans left for the feral cats. Every time I come home, shaking off the insanity of the subway, carrying 20 pounds of baby, I wade through the trash pit. If there’s a breeze, the foil wrappers fly up like stinking confetti. I stomp past, growling Who owns this? We LIVE here. Doesn’t anyone care?? Haven’t you read Malcolm Gladwell? Anyone, anyone?? No. Cool, just keep chopping down that sidewalk tree for your Voodoo ritual, then.
The buildings around are generally well-kept. There’s a church that sells cake on Saturdays; there’s an apartment building with domino players out front. But the secret garden is total anarchy, where cats govern on broken plastic chairs. By the time I reach my building, I’m ready to stomp on a kitten or rip up someone else’s mail.
So I’ve been doing some neighborhood fact-finding, and it turns out, the secret garden is actually the back lot of a synagogue. If you are between sixty and seventy and grew up along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, you’re probably saying, “I know that synagogue. That’s where Danny and his brother used to go. We lived up on 171st. Do you remember when our sister, Bridgit, started going with Danny’s little brother?”
I know this, because I’ve met a lot of you. You also live on Long Island now, or possibly New Jersey. In the time since your sister dated Danny’s little brother (which did not go well), the synagogue has gone to hell in a hand basket. The plaster around the menorah is falling down. No one goes there any more and it’s for sale.
Well, Long-Islanders, do you remember who owned the synagogue? Because I need to find him. He clearly doesn’t observe the Sabbath in the Bronx anymore. In the meantime, I’m meeting with James Collins: Superintendent of our sanitation district. Mr. Collins lives on Staten Island, where he “doesn’t have to deal with this kind of thing.” (Staten Islanders are probably just dealing with Angelina from Jersey Shore. Which does not entirely excuse them from the trash scene….)
But Mr. Collins is more than happy to help us out. Apparently, the Sanitation Department can get a permit to cut through the chain link fence and clean up the cat republic at the owner’s expense. I would like to drive the backhoe that pushes through the fence. I think K-Pants would enjoy that.