Monday, August 18, 2008

No “No Standing”

The “No Standing Anytime” sign on the corner of my street in Rockaway remained in place for less than a week. No one will say who took it down (Omertà!), but now people have started complaining about the lack of signs for alternate-side parking on our side of the street, saying it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks.

Parking has been noticeably scarcer on our block this summer. More and more, the locals are reluctant to give up their spots on a good beach day, when Rockaway is overrun with DFDs (people Down for the Day). Often, we have to go around the block or continue (illegally) under the El to find a spot. The trouble with the block beyond the El is that nobody lives on it—there’s a warehouse, a senior day-care facility that looks like a penitentiary, and two vacant lots. It’s O.K. during the day, but at night it might as well have a sign on it that says “Park at your own risk.”

Walking to the beach last Saturday, I spotted one of my neighbors standing outside a black S.U.V. on that block, wailing into her cell phone. “My boyfriend’s car got broken into,” she said. The driver’s window was shattered and there were pellets of glass all over the curb and the front seat. She was inconsolable. Her boyfriend’s tools had been in the car, hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars’ worth of tools, some of which had sentimental value (“I gave them to him for Christmas,” she sobbed). This neighbor has had a run of bad luck (bike accident, car accident), and for some reason has recently shaved her head. I wanted to help, but I found myself backing off, as though she were contagious. When the police came, and it turned into a three-way with her, the cops, and the boyfriend on the cell phone, I slunk off and went to the beach.

There were little bitty jellyfish all over—a tapioca sea—but the ocean was so warm in spots that it felt like a thermal spring.

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