Theoretically, the Alternate Side Parker had a choice this week: park on the Monday-Thursday side and celebrate Columbus Day, or convert to Tuesday-Friday and observe Id al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. But in practice there was no choice: the only spot available on my favorite parking block when I got back to the city on Sunday was on the Tuesday-Friday, or Muslim, side of the street. A beautiful spot opened on the Columbus, or Christian, side as I was leaving the scene, but I was laden with the bounty of Octoberfest in New England (apples, chrysanthemums), and, besides, it had been no mean feat to squeeze into that space and I was not about to move.
So I was out there Tuesday morning, at the stroke of seven-thirty, in one of the twelve spots recently freed up by the removal of scaffolding, wondering if it would be any different on this side of the street. And it was. Usually the street sweeper comes at about 7:40, but no sooner was I behind the wheel than the sweeper appeared in my rearview mirror, at the far end of the street, and I heard the sound of gentlemen starting their engines. A woman with a poodle arrived at the silver Lexus S.U.V. in front of me just in time: I was wedged in so tight that I couldn’t move until she moved. After the sweeper passed, there was a lot of jockeying back and forth to fit back in (a woman up ahead had ended up too close to the fire hydrant, and I was too close to the curb). The pigeons swooped from their roosts on one side of the street to roosts on the other (surely pigeons don’t have alternate-side parking! Were they imitating the cars?). The woman with the poodle left at 7:41 (she did not get a ticket), and I settled in to read the sports section.
Somehow I hadn’t realized that local baseball coverage would be more about the Yankees’ loss than about the Indians’ victory. The highlight of the baseball season so far, by my lights, was the bugs that swarmed onto the pitcher’s mound at Jacobs Field, in Cleveland, during last Friday’s game and drove the Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlin to distraction. The Times called the insects “gnats” and “midges,” eschewing the local usage. As kids growing up in Cleveland, we called them Canadian soldiers, with no inkling that this was not their scientific name. It still sounds perfectly natural to me—Canadian soldiers—though I guess it’s politically incorrect: a slur on the military readiness of our neighbors to the north. The Random House Dictionary (but not Webster’s) has an entry for Canadian soldiers: “the mayfly” (“Chiefly Northern U.S.”). Canadian soldiers were as much a part of summer in Cleveland as swimming lessons at Brookside Park and the stench from the stockyards when the wind was right (or wrong). We would discourage them from swarming on the front porch by lighting punks, those cork-smelling sticks that smoldered and that you could use to touch off a sparkler or a firecracker. When we didn’t have punks, we experimented by lighting cattails from the swamp. A cigar would have worked. Instead of spraying Off! on the back of Joba Chamberlin's neck, they should have gotten a beekeeper to come with a bellowsful of smoke. Or just lit up themselves. Ironic, isn't it, that Joba, a Native American, was undone by the Indians, whose logo, Chief Wahoo, is as politically incorrect as you can get.
The series against the Red Sox opens in Boston on Id al-Fitr, Friday, at sundown. I don’t know why alternate-side parking is suspended if the holiday doesn’t begin till sundown, but I’m not complaining.