Monday, September 24, 2007

Back on the Block

I cancelled a dentist’s appointment last week to park the car. I didn’t go into details with the dentist’s office, but I gave them plenty of notice. What was I supposed to say? “Hi, hon, I had car trouble in Pennsylvania, and didn’t get into the city until yesterday afternoon, and I had to take the first spot I found, which is good till Thursday at eleven-thirty, so I have to move the car Thursday morning and I need to reschedule, O.K.?” I just said I needed to reschedule. On Thursday at 9 A.M., instead of sitting in the dentist’s chair, I was on the prowl for a spot that was good at ten. As it turned out, all the spots that were good at ten were taken, so I gave up and put the car in a parking lot. Come Friday morning, I decided it had been worth it—fifteen dollars for a spot with a river view!—so I left it there and paid for another day. Is this the beginning of the end? Or just an aberration?

First thing Saturday morning, I got my tie rod ends replaced and the wheels aligned in Rockaway for two hundred and fifty dollars (quite a bit more, I’m afraid, than I would have paid in Bloomsburg, but there I would have frittered away an entire day and night in a mall hotel, whereas in Rockaway I could go boating and swimming). The mechanic, who knows a creampuff when he sees one, said, “If you want to sell your car, call me. She runs real sweet!”

So at seven-thirty this morning, I’m in the car, having found a spot on Sunday on what I have formerly designated the Second Best Parking Block in Manhattan but I think I may have to promote to the Best Parking Block in Manhattan, simply because it is so reliable. The scaffolding on the other side of the street has come down (freeing up twelve delicious Tuesday-Friday spaces), and the building that was under construction all last winter is now sheathed in shiny new bands of copper. The little girl in pink has grown over the summer; escorted by her mother, she skips down the street, as high-spirited and well dressed as ever, in a pink-and-black striped top and matching knee socks. Behind me a homeless person has parked his shopping cart in a space big enough for a motorcycle or a Smart car. A black-and-white plastic tablecloth or shower curtain is lashed over his stuff with twine, and the cart is customized with poles from which hang billowing black plastic bags.

Here comes an armored car, and behind it the street sweeper. It’s 7:40 A.M. In twenty minutes, I will be positioned to observe the Jewish holiday of Succoth. All this month I have observed the Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur), in my fashion. Bring on Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah!

Across from me a fork-lift comes out of a big garage door that lets into an elevator for cars. On the fork-lift a long pole is balanced horizontally. It looks like a vehicular unicorn. A man tries to hold up traffic so the unicorn can cross the street, but traffic insists on coming through. Finally, the man gives up and starts waving traffic through, but a black S.U.V. resists, and the unicorn emerges. Turns out that the driver of the S.U.V. that was holding up traffic was trying to get into the very same elevator-garage door that the unicorn was exiting. “I just didn’t want nobody hitting him with their car,” the man who had been directing traffic explained to the S.U.V.

At eight o’clock, I lock up and walk down the block. At the corner, a homeless man is sprawled possessively on an old sofa that someone put out on the sidewalk alongside an Indian restaurant advertising "Now Serving Breakfast." The restaurant owner is demanding that he move. “I’m not goin’ nowhere,” the homeless man says, and throws in a few obscenities. I smile at the restaurant owner. He’s got a problem.

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