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Buried In Snow, City Digs Its Way Out04:34
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A pedestrian, forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, passes piles of snow outside Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Thursday. (AP)
A pedestrian, forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, passes piles of snow outside Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Thursday. (AP)

Battered and bruised by a series of storms, Greater Boston residents and commuters are feeling a winter of discontent. And, thus far, they've only slogged through the first month of winter.

In Somerville, a man plodded through the piles of snow along the street. At the man's heels trotted a dog — the brute had its instinct — as if expecting the man to go into camp to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire.

Far from Jack London and the Yukon, Somerville residents experienced an urban version of "To Build A Fire."

I hiked the territory between Summer Street and Winter Hill, and found a guy who looked like a cross between a Klondiker and ZZ Top.

"I've had enough snow but I'm proud to be a resident of the best city in the world," the man said, "and I'll put up with the snow if it lets me live in the city of Somerville."

The All-American city and its All-American Department of Public Works plows entrenched, encrusted and entombed Mark Posner's car and a couple thousand others. The snowbanks run five- to six-feet high of dung-colored snow and ice, discarded Christmas trees and trash barrels lapped by lakes of brine and slush salty enough to pickle herring.

"It's only one side of the street parking, so all these people with all these cars, I don't even know what they do with them."

Bob Manfra, Somerville resident

All along the trail, even in the sunshine, the bleak mid-winter shades the soul of Somerville.

"The worse part about it is that there's nowhere to put it," Posner said. "No place to put it. Look it, it's started to pile up and I'm not a tall man, so it's hard for me to throw it."

For Jack London's northern traveler and his dog, the challenge to life was staying warm. For Bob Manfra and the drivers of Somerville, it's finding a place to park.

"It's only one side of the street parking, so all these people with all these cars, I don't even know what they do with them," Manfra said. "I ended up last night parking way, way down there. But you got to park where you got to park I guess."

Somerville may lean to the left, but you can only park your car to the right in a snow emergency.

Andrea Busdancer shoveled snow off of her car and onto the other side of the street. It looked strange, but when I asked her why she was moving around the snow, she said she had to do something in order to clear her car entrenched in huge drifts.

"Because the snow from the front of the car is going on that giant pile," she pointed, "and the snow from the back of the car is going on that giant pile, and the snow from the other side is going on that giant pile."

Busdancer spent another day with her friend, the plastic shovel.

"We've been getting dumped on with so much snow that even once everybody gets shoveled out you can't park on the other side cause you'll be in the middle of the street," Busdancer said.

So for the last two weeks, people have been laying on the horn — day and night — when they can't get by the cars parked toward the middle. And, when all else fails, the police cars come with a bullhorn.

"'The owner of the gray Toyota, move your car or it's going to be towed,' " Busdancer remembered hearing from the street.

Back in the old days in Somerville, when you, your parents and your grandparents all had the same neighbors and everybody knew each other, you could sort your problems out, and park your car in front of your house.

Now, Busdancer can't park her car in front of her house, she says, because of her neighbor.

"This guy's been slowly filling in the parking spot in front of my house so that it's going to be about a month 'til I can park there again," Busdancer said.

Well, had she ever confronted "the guy with the shovel"?

"I make hints here or there," Busdancer said. "But he just clearly doesn't get it."

I found the culprit, Busdancer's neighbor with the shovel, Darren Griffen.

He doesn't have to park on the street.

"No, no we're pretty fortunate," Griffen said. "We have the parking."

Griffin has a driveway, and he shovels the snow from the driveway five-feet high into the spot on the street where Busdancer wants to park.

And so I ended my trip to Somerville, All-American City caught in one of life's dramas, somewhere between Summer Street and Winter Hill, where everybody's got to pahk somewhere. And on the calendar, Spring is two months away.

This program aired on January 28, 2011.

David Boeri Twitter Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.

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