Licking Public Ice Blocks Used To Be A Thing


July 6, 1911. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s New York. Hygiene is sorely lacking. There’s no chilled Coke. No frosty A&W. No Slurpees available. So why don’t we stick some blocks of ice on the hot asphalt of a dirty city street and invite some unvaccinated urchins to come lick it? It’s not like it’s a bat or anything.

New Yorkers Flee Big City Life

Norman Parkinson, 1955

Over three days in late July, a three-bedroom house in East Orange, N.J., was listed for sale for $285,000, had 97 showings, received 24 offers and went under contract for 21 percent over that price.

Last month’s New York Times article on the Big Apple’s mass exodus only told us what we’d been hearing for months; many Yankees want out. And who could blame them? The thought of quarantining without a back yard sounds confining, restrictive. Living in close quarters in small boxes, sans rolling hills with fresh air, offices still shut down after all this time, the germs of cabs and subways. Ick. And can you imagine how stir crazy kids must be? In addition, the divorce rate has skyrocketed. As some spouses shoved together for six months now are able to return to work, instead of enjoying the reprieve from one other, one fears for the safety of their families, now more than ever exposed to the virus by a spouse daily coming into contact with all that death and tragedy. Arguments ensue. Spouses separate. Mom packs up the kids and flees to the ‘burbs.

And in the midst of this often-applauded “freedom” to terrorize and slap and shove and spit upon others who don’t share your views all across big cities, it’s easy to give in to the allure of the suburbs, not only for the hope for folks to remain civil, but for a home that doesn’t share walls with thoughtlessly loud neighbors, not to mention lower taxes and lower crime and available parking and more quiet and even grass and trees. Less gunshots. NYC is strong and resilient, but it’s losing out to the housing market in Jersey, where moving vans cannot keep up with demand. Homes list one day, and sell the next at thousands over list price. And if in fact, many folks, continue to work remotely for years, why not do it in a 3-2-2? Or maybe make the move upstate?

J-Lo Spotted In 1936 New Yorker

I realize J-Lo is about to turn 50 in a few days, same age as the first moon landing. That’s what they want you to think. But how do you explain this cartoon rendering of her from a 1936 New Yorker magazine? Same hat, same halter top, same flared pants and ample posterior, surrounded by a diverse group of creatives, as they now say. I mean, she IS Jenny from the block, and that block was The Bronx.

See what I mean?

(Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images)
daily mail

Central Park “Hooverville”

Illustrated History of US-Central Park, NY
Illustrated History of US-Central Park, NY

“During the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted approximately a decade, shantytowns appeared across the U.S. as unemployed people were evicted from their homes. As the Depression worsened in the 1930s, causing severe hardships for millions of Americans, many looked to the federal government for assistance. When the government failed to provide relief, President Herbert Hoover was blamed for the intolerable economic and social conditions, and the shantytowns that cropped up across the nation, primarily on the outskirts of major cities, became known as Hoovervilles.”–

Don’t Eat The Apple; Don’t Visit The Big One

In my youth, Pace Picante Sauce commercials were on high rotation, showing incensed cowboys riled up after Cookie attempts to serve them a salsa made in “New York City.”  One of them goes so far as to suggest they “get a rope,” presumably to hang Cookie for his offense.  From these commercials, I learned that New Yorkers did not know squat about Mexican food.  And that meant something was wrong with them.  I presume they didn’t show this ad in NYC itself, but from what I’d learned on TV about the city, they were too busy getting beaten up on dirty subways and mugged in littered streets filled with apathetic people dressed only in neutrals.

I watched the Sweathogs on Welcome Back, Kotter, and they always seemed in need of a good scrubbing.  They lived in a land called Brooklyn, but I knew it must have been close to New York City, because there were no trees around.   Where were the pine trees and the live oaks?  Did they all live in ghettos and tall buildings with no yards?  Where did they learn to ride bikes and rollerskate?  Where was the laundry blowing on the clothesline in the sun?  Oh, wait, there it is.


I’d stayed up past eleven by elementary age, so I knew the funny comedians lived on the east coast and yelled, “Live from New York” each Saturday night.  But I also knew Johnny Carson was in Burbank, and he was happy and funny.  The mean, bitter guy with the gap in his teeth and the bald keyboardist lived in New York.  Something just wasn’t right with that town.

Movies depicted a congested mecca of highrises and brash, fast-talking businessmen in Wall Street and The Secret of My Success, as well as a decadent drug-infused nightlife in Bright LIghts, Big City.   New York was a city where Ninja turtles lived in the sewer, where dirty, grimey homeless people begged for money in Trading Places, and ghosts infested grand hotels in Ghostbusters.  Even the muppets had a hard time taking Manhattan and finding work.  And it was in NYC where Kramer battled Kramer, the first time that it had occurred to me that a mother would ever conceive of leaving her child to find herself.  What kind of sick place was that?

Nevermind the Civil War, Yankees were odd.  They talked funny.  Their accent was nearly incomprehensible.  They said “youse guys,” an abomination of grammar, when we used “y’all,” a contraction of “you” and “all,” which made perfect sense.   And we’d heard tale of the Yankee reputation for callousness and poor manners.  Not only did they not smile and shake hands with strangers, they ignored them altogether.  What kind of hospitality is that?

Consequently, I never had a desire to go to New York, no matter how cool and funky Monica and Rachel’s apartment was on Friends.  I knew the truth; a one bedroom could cost a THOUSAND DOLLARS a month, and they had rats!!  Yuck!

Then the Twin Towers fell, and we all watched in horror.  Our hearts went out to New York City; people in Texas wore “I (heart) New York” shirts and Yankee baseball caps.  The whole country rallied around the fallen and felt the devastation.  But it just made it even more clear:  I never, ever want to go to New York.  No matter how good the bagels or the reuben sandwiches, no matter how pretty the trees in Central Park, I never needed to visit that place.

Then in 2005, the Discovery Channel gave me a reason to want to visit The Big Apple.  Cash cab.  Now that looked fun!  Getting inside a taxicab is far from desirable, whatwith the Hep C and polio virus inevitably covering all of the upholstery (is there any regulation as far as when to wipe those with Clorox wipes?), but that would pale in comparison to having Ben Bailey crane his giant bald head around to invite me to get paid (PAID!) to show off my incredible talent for trivia.  Oh, glorious day (or night, when winnings were doubled) to ride and play, answering questions about general knowledge.

I still get mad when I watch the episode in which two men risked all their earnings on a video bonus round, which required them to identify the rodent-like animal roaming about.  The question even referred to the Captain & Tenille song, but they still got it wrong.  How does one not know about a MUSKRAT?  “Muskrat Love!!” I wanted to yell through the TV set.  I wanted to shake those Guidos, who weren’t even born when the song came out.  Well, that’s what you get for not knowing your pop music!  Out of the cab.  Kick ’em to the curb, Ben.  I couldn’t live in a city where people cannot properly identify muskrats.  I won’t even visit.