Monday, October 20, 2008

Calculated Risk

I took a calculated risk on Sunday morning and moved my car out of a Monday-Thursday spot that I had found on Saturday night—at the Sanctuary, no less—to take full advantage of alternate-side suspension on Tuesday, for Shemini Atzeret, a Jewish holiday. (Simchat Torah follows, on Wednesday, but as there is no street cleaning on Wednesdays in any of my parking haunts, I will not be observing it.) I read a little about Shemini Atzeret on Wikipedia, but learned nothing except what it isn’t: it is not associated with Succoth. I like Succoth, because everywhere you go there are little huts, and people go into the huts and eat: the feast of picnics. You can even order out pizza and have it delivered to your hut. There are mobile huts parked on Broadway, in the Garment District. On Sunday, after reparking, I was trespassing on the grounds of a school of nursing and came across a couple of huts set up in a corner of the campus. They remind me of dune shacks.

Speaking of dunes, I was in Rockaway on Saturday, and because it was too windy to go out in the boat, I drove to Fort Tilden to take a walk on the beach. The dunes there were built to house big guns installed for the defense of New York Harbor. (There are similar fortifications in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Staten Island.) As I approached my favorite parking lot, two police cars, with their top lights swirling, and a Park ranger in a khaki-colored S.U.V. were blocking the entrance. I entered via the exit, and who should I see in the midst of all this police activity but my old friend Frank of Assisi. He comes to this beach with his metal-detector to prospect for coins, watches, jewelry, lead sinkers, cow bells … whatever. I hung around on the fringe, waiting for a chance to say hi to Frank and tease him. I was going to say, Are you stirring up trouble again? Or, Do you need a character witness?

The two police cars drove away, but Frank was still talking to the Park ranger. Finally, he turned his head and recognized me, and I asked what was going on. “I just told someone they couldn’t park here, and all of a sudden the police show up,” he said. Then he made an ungentle motion, meaning that I should get lost, so I did. I never saw Frank so irritated before. My best guess is that whoever he was giving advice to, in his Good Samaritan way, did not take it kindly, and they in turn busted him for prospecting on a beach that is reserved for surf-fishing. I may someday get to the bottom of this.

I timed my walk in the dunes to end at sunset, and drove straight home and lucked into that spot at the Sanctuary. It was a little close to a fire hydrant, but my concern about getting a ticket was dwarfed by the sight of an enormous dumpster in the Sanctuary precincts, taking up three of the seven precious spots. By morning, my car seemed even closer to the fire hydrant, but no zealous cop had given me a ticket. It broke my heart to give up my spot in the Sanctuary—who knows when I’ll park there again?—but if I could find a Tuesday-Friday spot I’d have every morning free until Friday, when I plan to get out of town anyway.

I'd been cruising for eight-tenths of a mile when I saw it: a spot the size of a station wagon, with a shallow sinkhole in it, on the other side of the street. I slammed on the brakes, put my signal on, and made a U-turn mid-block to snag it. Behind me, cars started honking. Fortunately, none of them belonged to a policeman.

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