That time of year thou mayst in me behold when trucks sideswipe my car and knock the mirrors off. Also, the long streak of alternate-side-suspended Jewish-Muslim-Hindu-patriotic holidays has ended, and since I have no immediate travel plans, I realized suddenly that I had the car in the city solely in order to park it. So I asked permission of the Éclair’s previous owner, MQ, to park in her nice suburban driveway, and last Friday I commuted to Times Square via Rockaway, a detour that took me through Broad Channel at the hour when all the trucks from Call-a-Head, the portable-toilet company, are lined up on the boulevard, waiting to make their pickups, and clockwise around Jamaica Bay.
The Éclair still had all that vegetation stuck on her, and I know it hurts MQ to see her looking less than her best. I checked to see if the carwash was open on my way past, but got honked at. Finally it occurred to me that I could clean the car the old-fashioned way: wash it by hand. I had in my trunk a couple of sponges left over from boating and a jug half full of windshield-wiper fluid. So I groomed her like a horse, sponging off her right side, brushing the crumbs off the upholstery. The Éclair looked pretty good, parked in its ancestral driveway.
On the bus through Brooklyn, a man who, at first, I thought was talking to a woman seated across the aisle from him turned out to be reciting poetry, for all our benefit: “She was a poor man’s rich girl, but she always played the game.” He got off after a while, so I could concentrate on the Times. Now that we are going to have Obama, I find I can read the Times without wincing--I can read whole articles about politics, even if they don't mention "Saturday Night Live." There was a long piece about how the President-elect’s neighbors, in Hyde Park, Illinois, are being inconvenienced by the Secret Service, but they don’t mind. This made me want to cry. Farther down was a sidebar with the headline “As for the ‘Arab’ Remark …” about Rahm Emanuel’s father's slur on Arabs. He had said to an Israeli newspaper: “Obviously he’ll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.” This prompted an Arab-American group to write to Rahm Emanuel, who apologized to the president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who happens to be my old high-school English teacher and drama coach, Mary Rose Oakar. This made me laugh.
Then I got involved with a piece on “intrepid space plumbers.” They are sending some specialists to the International Space Station to set up a second toilet and a water-purification system that will recycle the astronauts’ urine into drinking water. It concludes with a quote from Dr. Sandra Magnus, who will be one of the first to sample the space water: “As she explained, water flushed from our earthly toilets eventually evaporates and rains down again, so, ‘We drink recycled water every day—on a little bit longer time scale.’” This news left me nonplussed. It had been raining in Rockaway while I waited for the bus, and I’d seen some very earthly toilets sitting on trucks on the shores of Jamaica Bay. I didn't know whether to be alarmed at the general principle or reassured by the cosmic time scale.
Over the weekend, walking around Manhattan with no car to park, I was like a person who has been shopping for boots and found and bought a pair but can't stop looking in shoe-store windows. In the Sanctuary, one car was taking up two spots, and the Sanctuary is already down from seven spots to four; I had to restrain myself from leaving a note on the windshield.