The Bronx--or, more precisely, The Jewish West Bronx-- retains for me something of the poignancy James Agee reserved for Knoxville. Save for reduced, aging pockets and a few scattered co-op enclaves, by all accounts its heart has shriveled. It is a seedless husk. I had not daily pressed the chipped, round 4 to rise in the elevator of the six-story building on Morris Avenue, for 15 years my boyhood home, since 1958, the year I graduated from college. Nor had I visited since 1970, a short while before my parents took off, as most of their friends were taking off, for warmer, whiter climes. The building, the neighborhood, the times they were a-changin'. Upbeat, no-slouch, D-train Jews beat it out. Turtle-dumb in the face of more ominous peril, once sniffing out this imminent threat, we Jews can jump jackrabbit-quick.
The Florida coastal span where my parents now live is a transmogrified dream-vision of former Bronx ways and days. Not merely a thinned-out network of cousins and acquaintances from the gin rummy, mah-jongg North, it is, as my mother pleasurably puts it, a whole graying world gone "brown as a berry: Here's the butcher shop that used to be on 167th Street, on the next mall is Ralph, the appetizing man from Tremont Avenue, but wait, right there on the Plaza is the deli from Kingsbridge Road." North Miami Beach, Hallandale, and right on two counties up, the well-heeled, condo coast exudes the wondrous redolence of a Bronx that is no more. It is a velvet fabric of familiarities, confortable and comforting, Byzantium cum sauna, indeed, all of olam ha-ba its senior residents--about whose sun-filled lives from my half-a-planet's