Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hallelujah Chorus

(Low-key secular version)

On Saturday, the day before Easter, I finished getting my figures together for my income-tax return, got in the car, and delivered the package to my accountant in Astoria, who later said that he thought we’d make the deadline. Hallelujah! This is no small triumph, as once you’ve filed an extension, as I did for the past two years, it’s hard to make the deadline ever again.

Then I got on the Grand Central Parkway and drove out to Far Rockaway Auto Glass to have my cracked windshield replaced. I got there just before three o’clock, with all the necessary documentation from my insurance company. Turns out I have something called a glass waiver, so not only was I covered for a windshield cracked by an act of God but there was no deductible. Hallelujah! God is good, and so is Geico. It’s the first time I’ve ever benefitted from having car insurance.

I was a little bit curious about how they go about replacing a windshield (I trust it does not involve the use of a sledgehammer); mostly I wondered how they get the registration and inspection stickers off the old windshield to paste on the new one (steam?). But I got the feeling that the autoglaziers wanted to work without my supervision. “Come back in an hour,” the boss said.

I still had the Google map I’d printed out the last time I visited Far Rockaway Auto Glass, when my car was vandalized. (It didn’t occur to me to call the insurance company that time. I labor under the impression that whenever you use the insurance, they raise the price.) The last time, I walked straight to the ocean, and saw some swans in the inlet at East Rockaway and talked to some fishermen. This time I was leaning in the other direction, toward Jamaica Bay, but I needed a destination. There on the map was Gipson Street, where my plumber lives. I had ridden out to his house on my bicycle once last summer. And beyond Gipson was a street called Granada Place, with its evocation of the Alhambra, and a nearby street called Sunnyside, which was the name of Washington Irving’s cottage in Tarrytown. I set off.

The plumber, Jimmy, looks Oriental but talks like he’s from the Bronx. He spends the winter in Florida. His house is a narrow two-story white stucco house squeezed in among other houses on a street that ends at the bay. I started stalking him last summer, just to see how he lived. If he had an ostentatious villa with a swimming pool, I would know he was overcharging me. But his house is modest, and in season (plumbing season, that is—Jimmy’s and my plumbing season) his driveway is lined with the vans and cars of someone who runs a plumbing business out of his home.

Gipson Street ends at a basin of Jamaica Bay that features a cement plant to the east and a Keyspan power plant to the west. Low-flying planes were coming in for a landing at Kennedy Airport. On the shore among the flattened spongy reeds was an orange upholstered loveseat. The Manhattan skyline is in the distance. I tried to hug the bay as I went west, up and down the prongs in the fork of streets, but KeySpan, which delivers natural gas to Long Island, makes a big chunk of the waterfront inaccessible.

I went back down to Mott Avenue and trotted over to Sunnyside. There was a big gracious house on the corner, the kind of place I was glad my plumber didn’t live in. I was just going past it to find the turn onto Granada Place when my cell phone rang: Far Rockaway Auto Glass calling, to say my car was ready. It was twenty to four, and I knew the autoglaziers were eager to close the shop and go home, so I decided to save Far Rockaway's Granada for another day (chances are it would have been a letdown) and found the most direct route back to the garage on Nameoke Avenue.

One of the men was just parking my car on the street when I arrived. It had orange tape holding the beautiful new windshield in place; the registration and inspection stickers had survived the operation. I signed a form for the boss, and asked him when to take the tape off (tomorrow) and how the street’s name was pronounced. (Gipson, I figured out, does not have a hard G, like Gibson, but a soft G, like Gypsy.) Nameoke could be a stately two syllables like Holm Oak, or it could rhyme with Mammy Okie. “Nammy Oke,” he said, solving for me one of the mysteries of Queens. Hallelujah.

Back in Manhattan, I found a spot, with no cruising time at all, on my second-favorite parking block. Hallelujah! Easter Sunday was very peaceful. I steered clear of the Episcopalians, and was tempted to go outside only when it snowed a few absurd large flakes in the sunshine. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Alternate-side parking was suspended Monday and Tuesday for Passover, so I don’t have to worry about the car till Thursday, and then only for a half hour between seven-thirty and eight in the morning. Hah-LAAAY-LOOOO-yah.

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