Shoveling snow after eight years of leisure

We made our move in 2005. Josh was gone, Ben was going, the wood playground we’d assembled in the backyard had rotted away, unused for at least a decade. We needed a new roof, a new sewer line, a major repair of a leaking wall in the basement . . .

Clearly, the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath Dutch colonial on a third of an acre in Upper Nyack had outlived its purpose. Let somebody else deal with all that stuff.

And what was more … I’d had it up to here with shoveling the driveway and the walk and the steps in the winter and mowing the grass in the summer and, because we had dozens of trees on the property, raking the leaves in the fall. Or, more often, paying people to do all of the above. 

And I’d had it up to here with finding people to deal with the inevitable problems of owning a home – the guy to clean the gutters, the guy to clear the branches overhanging the house, the guy to replace the bushes that were destroyed when a kid under the influence plowed his car through them and wound up dazed from alcohol and exploding air bags, sitting in a stupor at 2 a.m. in our front yard. Not once, but twice.

So Linda and I decided to do what empty-nesters in situations like that do: Sell the lawnmower, toss the snow shovel and get out of Dodge.

A developer was building a new townhouse/condo complex in Haverstraw, about eight miles to the north, and it sounded perfect for us. There would be workers to cut the grass and plant the flowers in the summers and plow out the drives and parking areas and shovel the sidewalks in the winters. And — added bonus!!! — I would have a mere four-minute walk to a ferry that would take me across the Hudson to the Metro-North station in Ossining, where I could catch a train to Grand Central Terminal, which was a mere 10-minute walk to my office.

What kind of suburban commuter doesn’t get into a car Monday through Friday, if for no other reason than to drive to the park-and-ride?

This kind.

So we moved to a lovely two-bedroom, four-floor townhouse in a brand-new townhouse/condo development that would quickly be filled with empty-nesters and young, first-home couples who would all proceed to have lots of babies and who would help create a wonderfully vibrant place to live.

And Linda and I could just sit back and enjoy. I’d even have time to sit on my mid-level balcony and play my guitar.

Eight years in, I have very, VERY fond memories of lying awake one Saturday night during our first winter in our new neighborhood, listening to snowplows going back and forth at 3 in the morning, clearing the streets and the parking lots, clearing the small driveway to our garage, and even shoveling the walkway from the sidewalk to our front door. The sound of a snow shovel that didn’t have my hand at the handle was the sweetest sound on earth.

What’s more . . . One day that same first winter we had a particularly wet, heavy snow, and it brought down a rain gutter alongside our home. And a few hours later the property managers sent a team over to fix it. I didn’t have to make a phone call. I didn’t have to find a gutter guy. I didn’t have to wait days or weeks. I didn’t get an invoice.  How great was that?

There were more enticements: Two outdoor pools, an indoor half-court for basketball and a really nice gym with six treadmills, four Cybex arc-trainers, several stationary bikes and elliptical machines, free weights and lots of those torture contraptions designed to build the biceps, triceps, groin, hammies, quads, abs and other body parts I didn’t know had even been invented. Seriously, who has a trapezius?

I’d belonged to a few gyms over the years, but they were a real pain. You had to get in the car and drive to them, you had to shower after your workout in a smelly, steamy bathroom, you had to bring along a gym bag containing clothing that you’d change into in a humid locker room that reeked of sweat. And so I did exactly what those places depend on . . . I signed up, went several times a week for a month or two, and then dropped out because I had better ways to waste several hours.

But now, in my new home, my gym would be across the street, and even on the coldest day I could change into my polyester shorts and t-shirt, throw my winter coat over them and walk 75 yards or so to get there. I could work up a good sweat, walk home soaking wet under my winter coat and shower in my own bathroom. No gym bag necessary. No threat of athlete’s foot. I had lost all reasons not to get in shape.

But once I’d moved in, before I embarked on my ambitious plan to have an Adonis body for the first time in my life — I’m still working on it, I swear — I figured I should get my 55-year-old ticker checked out. So I went to see a cardiologist.

She asked me why I was there, what was the problem — they always presume that, if you’re there, there’s a problem — and I told her no problem, I just want to get in shape and would really like to hear from you that I’m not going to drop dead on the treadmill.

So she hooked me up to an EKG machine, listened to all my assorted body parts through her stethoscope, checked my pulse in places I didn’t know I even had a pulse, and then she put me on a treadmill to see if I’d drop dead.

I didn’t, and her verdict was: Go ahead, knock yourself out. Your heart’s in better shape than the rest of your wretched, flabby body.

There was one caveat, she said.

Wait. Take that back. She didn’t “say.” She WARNED, and very sternly:

No. Snow. Shoveling.


Nobody, she said – ABSOLUTELY NOBODY – over the age of 40 should shovel snow. Ever.

Heyyyyy, I said . . . NO PROBLEM!!!!!

Until yesterday.

You may have heard that we had a little snow in these parts on Thursday. And by a little, I mean about two feet, give or take an inch. And it was a very, very wet and heavy snow, followed by heavy rain, followed by sleet, followed by more wet and heavy snow. We had a delightful nor’easter with a light and sound show – thunder and lightning – thrown in for your entertainment needs. This was one motherbleeping storm, my friends.

But heyyyyy . . . no problem. Linda and I stayed inside, watched the Grammys Beatles Tribute on our DVR and loved every minute of the storm, because it looked beautiful outside the window, and when it was over we’d get to hear that sweet sound of snowplows and shovels digging us out all night.

And that’s how it all went down.

Until, on Friday, came the memo:


HarborTown 1 and Harbor Pointe Homeowners
REMINDER:  As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to remove any snow that is on your rooftop deck and mid-level balcony to prevent an ice dam. The ice dam will cause a leak in to your unit which left unattended, can cause damage in your unit.

Ummmm . . . Say what?!?!?!

Behold our mid-level balcony . . .


And behold the rooftop deck . . .


And that’s not light, fluffy snow. That’s two feet of seriously wet and heavy snow.

And what’s more . . . I couldn’t even get to the rooftop deck, because the door to it opens OUT, and there was a drift of about three feet of heavy snow and ice pushed up against it. I could crack that door open about two inches, no more.

But if I didn’t clear that snow, it surely would create an ice dam that would cause a leak in my unit. And did I mention that the upstairs deck, the one I couldn’t even open the door to, sits right above our bedroom?

So Linda and I did what any self-respecting empty-nest homeowners do in a situation like this:

We went out for lunch. A lovely place called Mezza in Westwood, N.J., if you’re in the neighborhood. And then we went to Trader Joe’s.

But I digress.

It was a fairly warm day by this winter’s standards, and when we got home from lunch and shopping the mess had warmed up enough and the snow had sunk sufficiently so that I could now push the door open about seven inches. And since I’m a newly skinny guy thanks to the gym across the street, I was able to squeeze through that door with, of all things, a snow shovel that I’d borrowed from my neighbors Steve and Kristen, who own a few of them for some unimaginable and unfathomable reason, since we are not supposed to worry about mundane things like shoveling snow in this development. (I sprained my sacroiliac doing a celebratory dance when I threw my shovel in the garbage eight years ago.)

So there we were, Steve’s snow shovel and I, ready to do battle eight years after my cardiologist told a 55-year-old me that nobody over 40 should shovel snow.

Suddenly, it was no longer looking beautiful. It looked, instead, like a wet and heavy challenge to every muscle, tendon, ligament and organ in my body. It was seriously wet, and terribly heavy. And beneath it, once I’d cleared about a foot and a half of the stuff, I discovered that there was about four inches or so of ice at the bottom, which was even heavier. What’s more, I had to lift that shovel about four-and-a-half feet every time, so I could dump the stuff over the wall.

The fun part was listening to the snow and ice hit the ground four stories below.

Linda poked her head out once or twice to see if I was still alive. You’ll have to ask her which way she was rooting.

It took a while – a very long while – but I got it done. And I’m hurting today in places that I didn’t know existed.

Please don’t tell my cardiologist.

And HEY!!!! This just in!!!! 





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3 thoughts on “Shoveling snow after eight years of leisure

  1. Cool place. I like to shovel snow–at least our walk–but after hearing your cardiologist’s warning, I’m thinking I should go to the gym instead.


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