A winter tale

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brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

For a good day the snow had settled in, been pushed into piles by shovelers and plows, coalesced into slurry crystals and packed into ice. And yet, after more than a day, and two-thirds of the 7-hour Godfather Epic, we felt the desire — the need — to get out of the house.

And so it was that the wife and I made our way down a well-plowed South Elm-Eugene Street to the TCB offices where I would answer my compulsion to check the mail and she, a fellow small-business owner, would indulge me.

Sometimes I call this stretch the Public Housing District, though any reader should be quick to remind me of the difference between low-income housing and straight-up projects. Still, the neighborhoods on the west side of the road are places where the infirm, the underemployed and the socially insecure can still afford shelter in Greensboro.

There are more pedestrians out here, though very few sidewalks and crosswalks to accommodate them. Almost every night on the way home from work I see someone waiting to make the dash across the street to one of the two gas stations that serve as the only places of commerce in the walkable radius.

There’s some crime happening here — more than 100 arrests have been made within two miles of my desk in the last three months, according to the Greensboro Police Department’s website. But also about a dozen churches conduct services; hundreds of workers fill factories, plants and mills; thousands of families make their lives here. In its way, this neighborhood is as important as the coliseum or the performing arts center. Every city has an underclass, and this is where much of it lives.

There’s no shame in crossing the street at night on South Elm-Eugene, and people understand that sometimes we’ve got to lean on each other, because each other is sometimes all we’ve got.

The roads were pretty good out this way by midafternoon. The main road was clear, though inroads remained treacherous. I saw that fresh snow still covered the Nussbaum Center lot, so I sped up to make it over the hump of icy snow created at the entrance by a north-moving plow. I bashed through the barrier, and that’s where I stayed: stranded in the ice, tires spinning like seaside pinwheels, kicking up snow and grit.

The plan was to push the car over the ice back onto South Elm-Eugene, but before I could plant my hands on the hood and my feet in the slush, a minivan pulled to the side of the road and a dude in Pittsburgh Steelers gear bent in to help, his kids peeping at us out the back window.

Another minute brought another family, three generations of men in church gear, to the cause — by the time we loosed the Hyundai we had three men on the hood, one scouting traffic and another working the tires. It didn’t take but another minute, this task that would have been near impossible for us to do alone, a moment of warmth on a cold, cold day.