There’s always something to ruin your day

By Alan S. Chartock | March 2, 2023

Of course, the weather is a downer.

When it snows after a long winter, we are naturally let down. We may have had enough of the cold weather but there is little we can do about it. So we accept that which we can’t control and move on. There is only so much we can control in our environment and that doesn’t include the weather. The key word here is “control.” When I walk and my toes feel frozen, it’s a question of mind over matter. Having cold feet is one of those things you just have to accept if you make your home in the northeast.

Of course, there are some things that you can do about cold feet. It almost always comes down to shoes and socks. Good shoes can make all the difference, but they can be very expensive. Warm socks can make a huge difference in how our feet feel. When I was a kid, we had a shoe store on the upper West Side called Tom McCan, my father would take his twins there and the salesman would take out this formidable instrument to measure our feet and determine what we needed. The fact that the shoe guy measured your feet was very important. He would kneel and you would put your foot in the measuring device. Then he would get the shoe boxes out from the back and help you try on the shoes.

I know that my feet are small. Right now, I have a 7-1/2 foot size. That’s pretty incredible considering the fact that so many of my friends wear size 11 and 11-1/2. Since I spent summers on Fire Island, I did not wear shoes all summer. Each of the approximately ten block separate communities (Ocean Beach, Seaview, Ocean Bay Park, Saltaire, Kismit) had different walking surfaces. Some were made out of wood while others were constructed out of cement. Since practically everyone in the various communities walked barefoot it was not unusual to arrive home with bloody, stubbed toes. At the end of the summer when you went back to school in “The City,” it sometimes took considerable doing to get used to wearing regular, old- fashioned shoes.”

Many years ago, Fire Island was named a “National Seashore” and part of that process involved allowing wildlife to roam as they liked. Deer, for example, would frequently hop out in front of you on one of the walk ways. Of course, there were many rumors of the down sides of free range deer. One of these, of course, was that these very same deer were often covered with blood sucking ticks. I distinctly remember feeling this lump on my neck and recall trying to dislodge this uncomfortable bump. I was amazed when I got it free and it turned out to be a tick. Now we know that these ticks could lead to health disasters.

In addition, since dogs and other animals would leave unhealthy deposits of feces it was not uncommon for an individual to step into these leavings. To put it mildly, once you had stepped into this fecal matter there was more than a little chance that you would bring it into your home.

So, between the deer and the dogs and the free roaming cats, the beauty of the island beach could be significantly marred for those of us who choose to walk barefoot. I also remember that there were snakes that scared the hell out of me when I would step on one as it slithered across the road. There’s always something to ruin your day.


Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].