Alternate side is suspended today for Election Day, and I lucked into a beautiful spot for it yesterday, when I came home from Rockaway, where Jimmy the Plumber and I engaged in our annual winterization rites. His helper, Gary, pumped out the hot-water heaters and turned off the gas while Jimmy removed the plugs from the pipes under the house and my neighbor complained bitterly about the lazy painter her landlord had hired, who was in such a hurry to get out of there that he left the brush standing in the paint can, with paint still in it. It took an hour and a quarter to turn off the water and blow out the pipes and pour in the antifreeze and fit a new four-inch plug into the waste line. It took all day to defrost and sweep and mop and rake and make sure all the windows were closed and shove the precautionary nails through the window frames to prevent break-ins.
Afterward, I drove to the marina, where the Boss, in his pirate bandanna, said, “You’re out of the water”—he pointed to my boat in the yard, still draped in the canvas slings of his boat launch. “You want to get that motor off, or it’ll get stolen.”
“Do you have a tool that cuts locks?” I asked, because the lock was rusted on. Before you could say “Kidnapped” the lock was off and I was driving back to the just-closed-up bungalow with the outboard motor in my back seat. I lugged it inside under the watchful eyes of some new neighbors, young men I’d never seen before, who probably know the value of a 6-horsepower Mercury. I can only hope they don’t have a tool that cuts locks.
Back in Manhattan, I cruised into the very same paradisiacal spot, in front of a doorman building on the Tuesday-Friday side of the street, that I had found on Halloween. There was a woman right on my tail who wound up on the wrong side of the metered-parking sign. I tried not to let any expression of gloating enter my body language as I unpacked—she looked a little volatile. Although vandals spared my car this Halloween season, when I went out to Rockaway on Saturday, the radio was haunted: there was no reception, and I couldn’t listen to “Car Talk.” The sound came back on for the drive home, but the volume went up or down depending on how much gas I gave the accelerator. It had fully recovered in time for the Monday-morning reverse commute, but for a while I thought I had a problem worthy of Click and Clack.
Spending time in Rockaway before the election was instructive. Many of us in New York live in a bubble of liberalism, but out there in Rockaway they come right out and say things like “Do you really believe a black man can be President of the United States?” and “I just can’t vote for Obama.” (They should have practiced during the primary. I even resisted the urge to vote for Dennis Kucinich, whose name was still on the ballot.) My favorite columnist in the Wave, Dorothy Dunne, whose columns have been appearing with less and less frequency over the past few years, so that I fear for her health, began her column with the proposition that Barack Obama could be “OUR COUNTRY’S SAVIOR” if, instead of squandering his campaign funds on his campaign, he simply donated that huge amount of money to solving the financial crisis. Funny, I had the same idea when I was about six years old. I had heard of this guy Rockefeller, and I thought if just one obscenely rich man gave all his money away, he could solve poverty. (Paging Mayor Bloomberg …) But I have since seen that this was naive, like trying to dilute the Atlantic Ocean by dumping in a Great Lake or two. And I was not surprised that Dorothy Dunne went on to write, “I am a McCain fan,” and to give the former POW her ringing endorsement.
This year, for the first time, I gave money to a campaign, for which I have been rewarded with countless e-mails asking for more. It's the only time I've ever hoped that the candidate with the most money wins.