Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Never a dull moment, as my mother used to say. When I went out to move my car yesterday, I found the entire passenger side slathered with pine needles and mud, as if mulched by a passing hay wagon. Also, the license-plate holder on the front was mangled and hanging by a plastic shred. I had driven the day before to the Queens International Film Festival, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near LaGuardia Airport, in East Elmhurst, and parked on a wet and leaf-strewn street, but unless someone was leaf-blowing in the rain, I don’t see how all that gunk could have attached itself to my car.

I had to get two things off my mind before I could consider a car wash. One was the outboard motor, my 6-horsepower 4-stroke Mercury, purchased from Buster’s Marine of Broad Channel on August 25, 2007, which I needed to have winterized and to submit for repairs, covered, I hope, by the three-year warranty (# OR055963). I lugged the motor from the bungalow to Buster’s. It must weigh fifty pounds and is extremely awkward, with its propeller and all, unless your name is Buster and they don't call you Buster for nothing, in which case you can take it from a lady and sling it over a mechanic’s rack as if it were a lantern. I had arrived with the idle-speed control switch, which had broken off the carburetor, sealed in a plastic bag with documentation, and was even ready to submit my ship's log, if necessary, but nobody was the least bit interested. Buster was doing some interior decorating and foisted me off on his helper Dave. Apparently, as soon as they hear the word “broke,” they figure somebody was doing something that made the part break. I maintain that it was defective and broke all by itself, but it looks like I am going to have to take it up with customer relations.

My other item of business was the remaining gas in my three-gallon tank. This gas dated from a time a few weeks ago, when gas cost twice as much as it does now. This gasoline could not sit in the bungalow all winter. There is no safe place for a can of gas except for the tank of a car. So I had to rig up a system of funnels and spouts to pour the gas into my tank. Some of it spilled on the street. O.K., most of it spilled on the street. I just hope it evaporated before anyone tossed a cigarette butt in the gutter.

Every time I looked at the car, I thought, Oh, poor Éclair. I really should go to the car wash. But it suddenly became important to get in a walk on Jamaica Bay. I had noticed the ravishing colors of the trees in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge last weekend. This weekend the colors were somewhat dimmed, but as I was walking among birders at sunset—hopping down to the turtle-hatching beach, to see if I could come here by boat next season—an egret came soaring around a bend, banked when it saw me, and continued its flight, so beautiful and so silent.

On the way home, I remembered the odometer. All the driving back and forth between Buster’s and the bungalow had brought my mileage up sooner than I expected to 59,999. Heading north on Woodhaven Boulevard, past Rockaway Boulevard, I looked down just as the 9s were aligning, and the tenth of a mile rode up—5, 6, 7, 8—until it was 59,999.9, and then, as I braked for the next light, it turned over to 60,000.0. Happy Sixty Thousandth Mile, Sweet Éclair! Still a cream puff at eighteen. I found her a lovely Tuesday-Friday spot, barely clearing a crosswalk, to celebrate Veterans Day. I wish I had sprung for the car wash.

No comments: