Saturday, December 29, 2007

When Parking Rules Go On Holiday

New York City's Department of Transportation has scheduled 43 days in 2008 when street parking regulations, for both street cleaning and traffic flow purposes, will be suspended for national and religious observances.

Although street-cleaning suspensions extend to metered parking spaces, you still have to deposit coins in the meters at the stated hours. The DOT has also designated six of these days as major legal holidays (*MLH), when stopping, standing and parking are permitted except in areas where stopping, standing and parking rules are in effect seven days a week (for example, "No Standing Anytime").

For further details, visit www.nyc.gov/dot and click on "Alternate Side Parking" under Quick Links in the left-hand column.


2008 Alternate Side Parking Rules Suspension Calendar
Holiday Date/Day
New Year's Day* January 1, Tues
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday January 21, Mon
Ash Wednesday February 6, Wed
Asian Lunar New Year February 7, Thurs
Lincoln's Birthday February 12, Tues
Washington's Birthday (Pres.Day) February 18, Mon
Holy Thursday March 20, Thurs
Good Friday and Purim March 21, Fri
Passover: First/Second Days April 20-21, Sun-Mon
Holy Thursday (Orthodox) April 24, Thurs
Good Friday (Orthodox) April 25, Fri
Passover: Seventh/Eighth Days April 26-27, Sat-Sun
Solemnity of Ascension May 1, Thurs
Memorial Day* May 26, Mon
Shavuot: First/Second Day June 9-10, Mon-Tues
Independence Day* July 4, Fri
Feast of Assumption August 15, Fri
Labor Day* September 1, Mon
Rosh Hashanah September 30-Oct 1, Tues-Wed
Idul-Fitr October 1-3, Wed-Fri
Yom Kippur October 9, Thurs
Columbus Day October 13, Mon
Succoth: First/Second Day October 14-15, Tues-Wed
Shemini Atzereth October 21, Tues
Simchas Torah October 22, Wed
Diwali October 28, Tues
All Saints Day November 1, Sat
Election Day November 4, Tues
Veterans Day November 11, Tues
Thanksgiving Day* November 27, Thurs
Immaculate Conception December 8, Mon
Idul-Adha December 8-10, Mon-Wed
Christmas Day* December 25, Thurs

Asterisk (*) indicates Major Legal Holidays.
Alternate Side of the Street Parking Rule While street-cleaning suspensions extend to metered parking spaces, you still have to deposit coins in meters during stated hours, except on the six days designated as major legal holidays (MLH). Those six days are also the only times motorists can ignore stopping, standing and parking rules—and only at curbsides where they do not apply seven days a week (for example, a “No Standing Anytime” sign).

For information about the new, simplified Alternate Side Parking Regulations, call the Hotline: 212-CALL-DOT (225-5368) or 718-CALL-DOT (225-5368). For TTY Deaf or Hearing-Impaired, call 212-442-9488. This information is available 24 hours a day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sanctuary

As parking consultant to the stars, I was able to advise Baby Dee on where to stow her Volkswagen Beetle during this festive holiday season. Dee arrived last Wednesday, during Idul Adha, and found a spot that was good till this morning at eleven-thirty. She played a sold-out show at Joe’s Pub last Saturday. (Hooray!) But this morning the glamorous life was over and she chose to give up her spot early, before eight-thirty, and move to a spot that would be good at ten.


Since it is so rare that we get to celebrate Alternate Side Parking as a family, after performing my own religious parking duties, I went and found my sibling, comfortably installed on the block that I had recommended. As I was filled with the Christmas spirit, I gave her my Times and bought her a cup of coffee and a jelly doughnut.

Here is the beautiful sign that I am parked under, in the same spot that I was blessed with on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I may stay there till spring. The street sweeper didn't come for either of us!



Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ziggurat


Today's image comes to us by way of the Alhambra and is in honor of Idul Adha, which the Times identifies tersely as a Muslim holiday, and alternate side parking is suspended three days for. Idul Adha commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham, which sounds pretty grisly till you remember that Abraham, though willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, did not have to, and sacrificed a ram instead. Abraham turns out to be the common father of three great world religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I think he also has something to do with existentialism, but I never got very far in Kierkegaard, and "Fear and Trembling," though it may be apt, is not everyone's idea of a holiday sentiment.

Idul Adha (rhymes with Little Lotta) falls on the tenth day of the lunar month, and almost coincides with the winter solstice, but has nothing to do with it. It begins as the Hajj ends and the pilgrims descend from Mt. Arafat. Though ecumenism is not a priority for Muslims, as far as I can tell, and I may risk a fatwa by appropriating their symbol, the ziggurat does look like a Christmas tree. I chose it from a heap of broken tiles in a gift shop at the Alhambra. In real life, it has more green in it: the background is a creamy mint green, and the ziggurat is a dark iridescent brownish blackish bluish green. As soon as Idul Adha is ovah, on the solstice, I am going to bring a live evergreen into my house, according to the ancient yuletide custom, to tide me over till the sun comes back to our hemisphere.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Suspended!

Here I was sitting home reading about congestion pricing in my AAA Car & Travel magazine, holding off on my second cappuccino so that I could enjoy a cup of takeout coffee in my lovely parking spot from eight-thirty to nine, when I decided to call 311. I had seen a weather report last night on the Captivator as I was leaving the office—that’s that magic screen in the elevator, with news updates and advertising, that insures that you don’t have to talk to any of your fellow-passengers—and snow was predicted for this morning. Although no snow is yet in evidence, sure enough: the Department of Sanitation has granted me an indulgence! Alternate-side parking has been suspended due to snow removal.

I can’t help but credit the Virgin of Guadalupe for this. It is as if, in her capacity as protector of the downtrodden and Patroness of the Americas, she has made the case, albeit belatedly, to have alternate-side parking suspended for her feast day. An excellent idea! We need more Marian holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guadalupe

I returned to the scene of my vision of Mary and the Dog this morning, with my camera, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but an entire garden full of out-of-season flowers and foliage.

I had just read the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe (today is the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe) and how she gave to Juan Diego, the Mexican Indian she appeared to in 1531, fresh-cut roses to take to the bishop to prove he had seen her—miraculous roses that shouldn’t have been blooming in December. And now here a whole improbable garden had blossomed outside this window, obscuring my vision, unfortunately, but worthy of documentation nonetheless. (Sorry, I don't know how to rotate photos.)


It tuned out that the store with the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the window belongs to an outfit called American Foliage, and they had just received a huge delivery.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hail Mary

December 8th was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and I must prostrate myself before Our Blessed Mother and beg her forgiveness for my blasphemy the other week in asserting that her feast day would be useless to me because it fell on a Saturday. As it happened, I was cruising for a spot on Saturday at around eleven A.M., my brilliant decision to procrastinate having caught up with me on Friday morning and necessitated that I put the car in a lot ($15, river view). “Car Talk” was on the radio as I stole out of the lot, having overstayed my fifteen dollars’ worth. In my eternal optimism, I drove past the Best Possible Parking Block, where, lo and behold, there was a big fat parking spot.

I had all I could do not to compound my sins by turning left on red to get to that spot before anyone else, though there was no competition in sight. I haven’t scored on this block in months. What makes this spot so sweet is not just the hours (street-cleaning is scheduled for Monday and Thursday, 8:30-9, a very civilized time to be up and about), or even the view, or the proximity of the local swimming pool, but the fact that when the broom comes you don’t even have to move, because the block is so well groomed. That cleanliness was an especially refreshing touch on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is not to be confused with the Annunciation or the Virgin Birth or the Assumption, though of course they all follow from this: that Our Lady, in order to be worthy of her role as Mother of God, must herself have been conceived without sin. Pope Pius IX laid this out for us in 1854.

Of course there will always be those who wonder, Why all this fuss about the Immaculate Conception when we could be celebrating Hanukkah? To which I say, Aw, come on. It is one of only two alternate-side-suspended days devoted to Mary, the other being the Assumption, August 15th, which is directly related to the Immaculate Conception in that, if Mary was born without spot of original sin, and the wages of sin is death, then she didn’t have to die. So she was “assumed” into Heaven. Though artists had been painting scenes of the Assumption for centuries, the Church chewed on it for a good long time. Pope Pius XII made it official only in 1950.

I also learned, when I accidentally watched the world news on BBCA on Saturday night, that 2008 will mark the 150th anniversary of Bernadette’s visions of Our Lady of Lourdes, which took place beginning in February 1858. The commemorative 150th anniversary year began, however, last Saturday, to coincide with the Immaculate Conception. And in Rome the Vatican announced that pilgrims to Lourdes during the 150th anniversary year will receive a plenary indulgence—that is, time off in Purgatory (for a limited time only).

Actually I should not make fun of indulgences, because, in a way, that is exactly what I receive from the city when alternate-side parking is suspended: time off in parking purgatory.

I went out for a walk on Sunday, still grateful for the spot granted unto me, and passed a theatrical prop store that had in the window a life-size statue of Mary in her Immaculate Conception outfit (white gown, blue veil, gold sandals with pink rosettes). Next to her was a white wire sculpture of a dog—perhaps a Pyrenean mountain dog—and I am sorry to say it, but the dog looked as if it were sniffing her butt. I intend to go back with my camera.

On Monday morning at eight-thirty, I arrived at my spot with offerings of takeout coffee and the Times. At the head of the line—only six cars fit on this exalted stretch of asphalt—was the red Honda, idling with its windshield wipers on, whose owner seems to have been granted a perpetual indulgence: she is always parked on this block. At 8:40 I watched in my rearview mirror as the broom swept up the avenue, its driver not even pausing to look down the street. He knew it was already immaculate.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lives of the Saints

I had always wanted to go to Padua, and the auction of Padre Pio’s Mercedes-Benz was a good excuse. The first day, I stopped in at the Scrovegni Chapel, with its famous cycle of Giottos (1302-05) depicting the lives of Mary and Jesus. One of the Scrovegni built the chapel to atone for the sins of his father, who was so bad that Dante put him in the Inferno. The frescoes are ravishing and fragile; admission is timed, so that you present yourself at the entrance to a glassed-in airlock at the appointed hour and watch an informational film before being admitted to the chapel, where you are allowed to stay and gawk and breathe lightly for just fifteen minutes. You don’t want to waste any of this precious time looking at tourist literature. Fortunately, a guide lined me up to follow the cycle, on two tiers, starting at the top with Joachim, the father of Mary, and running down one wall and up the other, and then around again on the lower level. He told me not to bother with the Last Judgment, on the back wall, because that was done by students and was not as subtle.

After spending Saturday at the car show, I set off on Sunday to visit the Basilica of San Antonio. The only thing I knew about Anthony of Padua was that there was a Catholic high school in Cleveland—or, rather, Parma—Ohio, named Padua, run by Franciscans. To tell the truth, I had him mixed up with Francis of Assisi. Anthony is often pictured with a lily and a child, so I also had him a little confused with St. Christopher (now deposed). And, of course, every Catholic child knows that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects.

As soon as I left the hotel, I encountered my first beggar, walking a bicycle over a bridge. He offered me his palm for change, but I was so startled by the sight of a beggar with a bicycle that I could not respond. Also, the coins in my pocket were unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t want to be giving away two-euro coins instead of fifty-cent pieces. A little ways on, there was another beggar setting up outside a humble little church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. Begging is an industry in Padua: they blackmail you outside the churches. I gave this second beggar something, but apparently it wasn’t enough, because he chased me down the street demanding more.

The Basilica of San Antonio is a blend of three architectural styles—Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine—and the piazza is full of souvenir stands and caf├ęs.

In the bookstores and gift shops of Padua, you look in vain for mementoes of or information about, say, Padre Pio. It’s all about the local saint—tutto San Antonio. Anthony was actually Portuguese. He changed his name to Anthony from Ferdinand, and also switched orders, from the Augustinians to the Franciscans. He wanted to be a martyr, but that didn't work out. Anthony took sick in the land of the Saracens (Morocco), where he thought he had the best shot at martyrdom, and on his way home to Portugal he got blown off course, landing in Sicily. From there, he made his way to Assisi. He had always been an assiduous student of the Bible, but not a showoff, so everyone was surprised when, on being called to fill in during a shortage of preachers, he turned out to be a silver-tongued evangelist.

At the basilica, I stood in a line that snaked around the back of Anthony’s stone tomb. People brushed it with their hands or laid their cheeks on it, and a monk told them to move along. The Catholic Church, in its wisdom, disinterred Anthony in 1981, just to make sure it was really him being venerated. They found his tongue miraculously well preserved, and pulled it out. While they were at it, they also removed his vocal cords. So Anthony’s organs of speech are enshrined in precious reliquaries, on view just past his tomb. There is also a museum in the basilica with remnants of his robe, and a multimedia presentation of his life story which takes place on the walls of two rooms that people shuffle back and forth between. I should have skipped the multimedia show and gone directly to the botanical garden, one of the oldest in Europe, which closes at one on Sundays, but I was curious now to find out about Anthony.

According to a little book I bought, a life of St. Anthony known as the “Assidua,” written by “a Contemporary Franciscan,” in the last year of his life, Anthony decided to preach every day for the forty days of Lent. He was like a rock star: everyone came to hear him, and wanted a piece of him. When the crowd overflowed the church, he spoke outside in a meadow. This rigorous schedule took its toll, and, foreseeing that he would die, Anthony left Padua for nearby Camposampiero, where he lived in a house that was constructed for him, at his request, in a nut tree. He was taken ill at a meal in the monastery (he came down from the tree for meals) and died in Arcella, having confided to his confreres that he wanted to be buried in Padua, at the church of St. Mary, now the Basilica of St. Anthony.

The stories of saints are like sunsets: they don’t end when the ball falls below the horizon; the most amazing part is the changes in the sky once the sun is down. In this little book, Anthony’s life takes up all of nineteen pages, and the five days after his death take up twelve. The friars in the monastery where he died wanted to keep the body in Arcella. Nearby was a convent of Poor Clares (“Poor Ladies,” in the “Assidua”), who, because they had not gotten to see the saint while he was alive, schemed to have his body after he died. It was June, and the friars felt it would be prudent to bury the body, but Anthony was soon disinterred by rival friars who wanted to take him back to Padua. A pitched battle broke out, with one faction constructing a bridge to take the body to Padua without going through the town, and another faction destroying the bridge and laying siege to the monastery, and the Poor Clares pulling strings with the authorities. Finally, the authorities decreed that because Anthony was a Franciscan he had the right to be buried in the church where he had worked and prayed, in his adopted home town, and his body was returned to Padua.

There had been plenty of miracles while Anthony was alive—they are depicted in murals and recorded in books, some of them with the air of being so well known, like Christ’s miracles, as to require no elaboration: the restored foot, the child saved from fire/drowning, the unbroken glass. But his death opened a “sea of miracles.” In the final section of the “Assidua,” fifty-three miracles are recounted—the ones that were presented at the cause for canonization, which occurred with unprecedented speed, in 1232, less than a year after Anthony’s death. The stories are told in such graphic detail that, as with Homer’s description in the Iliad of how various warriors met their ends in the Trojan War, you are convinced that the stories are true. Here is one such:

“Another woman, whose name was Riccarda, for twenty years suffered from legs that were atrophied. She had become so monstrously drawn in by a certain calloused joining of the skin that her knees stuck to her chest and her feet to her buttocks. One day, using crutches instead of her feet, she came with certain paupers to the place of blessed father Anthony to receive alms from passersby. . . . Entering the place of the sepulchre, she wholly devoted herself to prayer. While she was thus praying, behold two round balls like eggs broke out between her shin and flank. Running within a kind of fluid under her skin, the balls descended all the way to her feet, making a noise like the sound of clapping hands, a sound that was heard by many. At last, her legs which had been made dry like wood for twenty years immediately gained in length, and, the skin having stretched itself, the flesh began to grow to its original size. When the custodians at the tomb saw what was happening, they very hastily carried the woman outside the door of the church and sent her away, not at all fully healed. But she, insisting in prayer for nineteen days and daily dragging herself to the same spot, finally, on the twentieth day threw away her crutches and returned home, walking through the centre of the city with a firm pace, not without everyone’s admiration.”

I searched in vain for any reference to St. Anthony as the patron saint of lost items. I decided that it may have been the sheer number of miracles attributed to St. Anthony that made him seem like a good person to pray to for whatever you needed most urgently, be it the use of your legs or some small thing that you’d just misplaced. It’s easy, once you get started, to make things up about saints. For instance, I’m pretty sure St. Anthony liked cookies. Lots of amarettoni and little chocolate biscotti are sold in his name, and the “Assidua” mentions that he had “a certain natural bulkiness.”

One night in my hotel room in Padua I was awoken by a heavenly aroma. It persisted and persisted, and I couldn’t sleep for the excitement in my olfactory system. There was no visible source of the smell, and I began to wonder if it might not be the odor of sanctity. At last I decided what I knew all along: that it was the delicious scent of the morning’s cornetti—brioches with cream or chocolate or marmalade filling—wafting up from the bar around the corner, where I would go for breakfast.

By the time I left, I had finally found the right combination of coins to give the beggars.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Garbage Day

On Sunday, I brushed the snow off my car at about noon and set off to find a spot, following some real-estate advice that I heard years ago: Go to the block you want to live on and look there. With high hopes, I went first to the Best Possible Parking Spot (Monday & Thursday 8-8:30) and found the snow undisturbed on a row of six cars. Onward, then, to my old faithful spot (Monday & Thursday, 7:30-8), where luck was also not with me. I’d given up a spot on a block I’d never had the pleasure of parking on before, quite near home, which would have been good till Monday at 8 A.M. And then I had a brainstorm: Why not look for a Tuesday-Friday spot and not have to move at all on Monday?

This worked fine, and continued to seem like a good idea, until Tuesday, when I saw it for what it was: a prodigy of procrastination.

Tuesday is Garbage Day on the block where I lurk in a line of double parkers. A school bus is trying to get past a garbage truck. Behind it waits a long line of cars and another garbage truck. Oddly, no one complains about the lane taken up by double parkers. There is tolerance for our Alternate-Side religion.

There are two cars double-parked behind me, and three legal spots across the street. An S.U.V. that didn’t move gets a ticket while we wait for the broom. The guy blocked in at the parking meter next to me taps on my window, wanting to get out. It’s 9:40, and I’m ready to move across the street and claim a spot, but he says all I have to do is back up, there’s room, and anyway traffic is now streaming through without a break. While I am letting him out, the guy behind me crosses the street and takes up two spots between the hydrant and the S.U.V. that got a ticket. When there’s finally an opening, I pull up alongside of him and ask if he would either back up or pull forward to make room for me (he pulls up). Meanwhile, the car that was behind him scoops in, and I wish evil upon him if he dares nose into my spot, but he settles for parallel parking in a tight spot behind the S.U.V.

All the cars that were double parked ahead of us are moving into position, too. We are taking our chances: the broom has not yet come. We are hoping that its driver took one look down the block while it was choked with garbage trucks and school buses and decided the hell with it.

And we were lucky. The broom did not come today.