Monday, October 6, 2008


I drove out to Rockaway last Saturday, and before I left, Dee, who was in town for a concert, offered to move her car into my spot in the Sanctuary to hold it for me. It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done to support my parking obsession! I told her she didn’t have to, though, because my plans were in a state of flux, and I would take my chances.

There was an article in last Saturday’s Times occasioned by the overlap between Rosh Hashana and Id al-Fitr, by a woman with the wonderful byline Jennifer 8. Lee, which contained some interesting history about alternate-side parking as well as the excellent suggestion that alternate-side parking rules be suspended for the entire thirty-day period of Ramadan and the information that the only people who don’t like it when alternate side is suspended are the bosses in the D.O.T. who have to reassign the guys who drive the street sweepers. Surely they can think of something else to clean.

Also it was reported in the Wave that the American Princess, the ferry to Rockaway, blew her engine last Wednesday during the morning run. New York Water Taxi is putting another boat on the route, probably one of the yellow-and-black checkered catamarans. I would have loved to be on the ferry to witness this little maritime disaster: to see how the crew handled it, who towed them, where they got towed to, etc. I miss the ferry and the crew and New York Harbor. I even miss the faux waterfalls.

The New York Waterfalls, by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, are getting cut off next Monday, October 13. I found myself recommending them to some visitors from Italy, so I guess I like them, though I came to them from real waterfalls in Flores (below), worthy of King Kong. I am not ashamed to say that I am a waterfall snob, but I am also a big fan of plumbing.

In Rockaway, I intended to go on a historic bungalow tour that I saw a notice for in the Wave several weeks ago. (There was a typo in the headline: “BUNGLOW.” I couldn’t decide whether to pronounce it Bung Low or Bun Glow.) But then I remembered that I lived in a “bunglow” and I ought to be ON the historic bungalow tour. So instead of reporting on the historic bungalows, I offer this link to a cut of the documentary “The Bungalows of the Rockaways,” by Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Logan Harris. The filmmakers hope it will be shown on PBS in its entirety when it is done.

My first stop in Rockaway was the mechanic’s. I finally had to admit that the smell I’d been smelling, all across Ohio, of burning rubber or petroleum or something bad cooking, was coming from me and not from the guys spreading blacktop or making asphalt repairs who appeared by coincidence, for me to blame it on, everywhere I drove. It started on the L.I.E. a few weeks ago, when I felt a jolt—something pretty solid hit the right rear tire—but the car kept going and seemed to be all right. I told the mechanic, and I tried to describe the smell, but said I didn't know if there was any connection. He came out to the car, sniffed, and said, “I can smell it.” He opened the hood, and then crouched down under the car. (All the pens fell out of his pocket.) “What did you hit?” he asked. I don’t know, but apparently there were parts of it stuck under there (it wasn’t an animal).

While he was under the car, I thought to tell him that when I started up the car that morning, and pressed the accelerator to pick up speed, the engine didn’t respond. I had to pump it a few times. “That’s the transmission, isn’t it?” I said, and he said yes, he could see the leak. He couldn’t do anything about it right away (mechanics like to get out of the garage early on Saturday), but I gave him the spare key and said I’d park the car in the lot later. “Write this down!" he yelled to someone inside. "Tranny leak.”

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