Paean to Stairs

(2/5/20)- Recently, I had written about the stairs that appeared in the movie "The Joker" .The theme of the article stressed the way the stairs lead to my reading haven, the library. 

The brain is wonderful in the way it can bring up all sorts of relationships with present and past events. Recently, as I reflected more about the stairs in that movie, my thoughts conjectured all sorts of encounters I have had with stairs and the part they have played in my life..

I am the oldest of two sons, born to Nina and Sam Rubin, 21 months apart. Living in a six floor walk-up in those early years (no elevators), I had to learn to climb stairs at an early age. Simply, they lead to the comforts of our two bedroom apartment and a reward. You held on to the railing and climbed, climbed, climbed six flights. No excuses could help you avoid this activity. A cookie awaited you. What could be better than a black and white or a mallomar cookie.

Then in my teen years came the now famous Bronx stairs off Edward L. Grant Highway, all 132 steps. Racing up the stairs was a challenge, but done with ease. The synergy of early stair climbing and youthful energy and of course they led to the library and Zane Gray. 

The next set of important stairs pertained to  my higher education. These were the stairs that lead to NYU Heights, Arts and Science University also located at that time in the Bronx. These steps, still in existence as part of Bronx Community College, located off Burnside Avenue, were climbed every weekday for four years. I do not remember how many steps were involved. Maybe some reader who climbs them can inform me. Then there was the #4 train to get to the college. You climbed the stairs at 167th Street and on the way home it was the stairs at Burnside Avenue stop.

Then in my adult years came the three flights of stairs climbed in the early years of my marriage as a way of keeping myself in shape. This stair climbing lead to my summer resort climbing the 4000 feet mountain trails (no stair climbing) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I spent 7 summers in the month of August 

Alas, climbing stairs as I enter the 89th year of my life has become a challenge that is hard to accomplish due to the ravages of aging. Elevators and escalators have become new friends.  I have developed COPD and the 44 stairs to get out of the subway means that I need a measured inhaler to open my lungs and move slowly up into the street. This task is accomplished almost daily (some parallel to my early Bronx stairs ), but who knows how long it will be before stairs become an improbable part of my daily life yet  full of  warm feelings.. Nostalgia is a wonderful palliative in many ways but still fails to negate the ravages of aging..

Yes, there is still joy in climbing stairs. A physical activity that has mental ramifications.

Harold Rubin


by Harold Rubin
posted February 5, 2020

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