Monday, January 29, 2007

Radio Day

Twenty-three degrees in Central Park. Jeff Spurgeon is playing a Handel oboe concerto on WQXR. I had to scrape snow off the car and start her up to melt the ice on the windshield, so I have the defrost and the radio on. The sun is coming up over a cloudbank right at the foot of the street.

7:41 and all is well. Or almost all.

“Hi, can you move back?” A young woman with a big smile greets me. At first I thought she was selling something, car door to car door. “This guy is right in front of me.” She presses her gloved palms together to demonstrate.

“Sure,” I say, and open the door to take a look. I have no idea where she came from.

“You have a pretty good space back there.” I pull back a foot or two.

The truth is that I got a little distracted when the street sweeper came. There was a pile of litter at my spot, and the street sweeper stopped and the guy got out and moved a sheet of plastic from the gutter onto the sidewalk. I guess it could gum up his works. Then I assumed that the guy behind me had pulled back into the hydrant space to give everybody room to straighten out, so I had pulled farther ahead than I needed to, to give him room to pull up.

The woman climbed into the car in front of me from the passenger side. It was Washington, D.C.! Now her driver’s-side door is blocked by the street-tree barrier.

The sun is blinding. Facing into it, I can see only a piercing blue sky and black silhouettes—a water tower on its erector-set legs and a few bare tree branches, spangled by the droplets of ice on my windshield. I have to lower the visor. Everything in my rearview mirror, by contrast, is sharply detailed. I see the sunlit lower half of the face of the guy behind me—mustache, thick lips, soul patch. He’s chewing something, and wears small gold hoop earrings. He lies back against the head rest.

What a great problem this winter sun is. If it were hot out, I’d be wishing I had a place in the shade.

“That was Cassenea de Mondonville.” Jeff Spurgeon is showing off his French pronunciation today. Next he introduces Hallfter’s Danza della Pastora, performed by the pianist Alicia De Larrocha. Great parking music, Jeff. Thanks.

Two minutes to 8 and the guy in back of me leaves. He is wearing a black hoodie and baggy low-riders. He gives a backward glance. I’ll just sit here till Alicia is done. It looks like there might be some scavengeable items in the garbage in front of the building my friend K. lives in.

I go back to have a look at the merchandise. A few rusty beach chairs, some disassembled bureau drawers, and a stack of wooden file boxes, each with four shallow trays fitted with segmented plastic compartments. They’re labeled DMC and show a black horse from a chess set. (They’re not really called horses, are they? Are those knights?) Anyway, they would be good for organizing fly-fishing equipment or embroidery thread … if I fly-fished or did embroidery.

What could I use them for? I have enough junk as it is. I proceed to the grocery store. If I still want them after grocery shopping, I’ll go back.

I buy a pear, two apricots (love those fruits of the Southern Hemisphere), blueberries, Greek yogurt, and an Amy’s frozen spinach pie. The cashier, a nice lady who is the only cashier in the store at this hour, fumbles as she hands me my receipt and almost dumps the change in the bag. She apologizes. “It’s early,” I say.

“It’s not that,” she says. She has a slight, unplaceable European accent. “I am nervous. This is my last week.”

“Oh, are you retiring?”

“Yes,” she says. “I’ve been here so long.”

“I was just getting to know you,” I say. “Maybe I’ll see you Thursday.”

I forget about the wooden file boxes until I am on my way to work, and then I pass them again. For some reason, I decide they were used to store spark plugs. It occurs to me that those segmented plastic things are removable and the boxes could be used for filing papers. It further occurs to me that I don’t have to carry the boxes home: I can deposit them in my trunk. So I take one. And, because there’s still room in the trunk, I take another. If I decide I don't want them, I can always put them back out on the street.

(Musical Notes: Mondonville was an eighteenth-century French violinist and composer. Ernesto Hallfter is described on a Web site maintained by his son, Manuel, as “the composer of joy and spontaneity.”

(Remind me to write about the ukuleles.)


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