Thursday, March 5, 2009
Don't let this happen to you!
I gave notice at the garage last week. I will have to go back out on the street in April. I regret it already. I'll miss Julian and Julian. But it hasn't always been perfect at the garage. They tell you to call the night before you want your car, and then you call and it's busy or no one answers. Or someone answers but when you get there they don't have your car, and you have to stand there while other people are picking up or dropping off cars, and there's nothing to do to console yourself except take pictures.
I took the car on a short excursion to Bayonne last week. I'd only ever been to Bayonne once, accidentally, many years ago, when I was driving from New Jersey to Manhattan and I thought that, just for a change, instead of taking the Lincoln Tunnel I would take the Holland Tunnel. I thought it would be more picturesque, that it would have tulips planted outside it or something. I wound up in a traffic jam on the truck route through Bayonne at night.
Somewhere recently I saw a map of Bayonne that showed a small park or bird sanctuary on the water. This is what I was determined to find. I met a friend at a diner on Broadway, the main street in Bayonne, which is a good-sized peninsula with the Hudson (or, rather, New York Harbor) to the east, the Kill Van Kull (and Staten Island) to the south, and Newark Bay to the west. The town kept reminding us of other places: it was a lot like Staten Island; certain corners were reminiscent of West Twenty-fifth Street in Cleveland; and I flashed at one point on Genoa, not because Bayonne looks the least bit like Genoa but because I was shopping for a cheap watch, which is something I did once in Genoa. There are a lot of jewelry stores in Bayonne, and a lot of dollar stores, and a lot of vacant storefronts. Also one bookstore, lots of churches (some with domes), and plenty of pizzerias. And hot-dog stands.
In a hobby store, a nice woman directed us to the bird sanctuary, Rutkowski Park, on Newark Bay between Bayonne and Jersey City. We had to go around a gazebo and enter on foot. It was exactly what I was hoping for: a boardwalk over a swamp (which, of course, they now call a wetland), with two little duck blinds to view the wildlife from (only there wasn't much wildlife to view), and a tiny industrial beach looking across the bay to the cranes in Elizabethport. There was a huge yellow boat launch, and some shrubs with pink branches, and scads of Canada geese, honking away. The tide was out. Besides geese and gulls, we saw three birds pecking around in the marsh that looked like extra-large long-legged plovers, with black and white bands at their necks. We identified them on a placard of illustrations posted on the boardwalk: killdeer.
Part of the reason that I found Bayonne so satisfying, I think, was that a few nights before I had had a dream that I was on a hike with some friends. The trail reminded me of Cinque Terre: it was cut into the rock of a sheer cliff down to the water. Trees were blowing in the wind, and birds were surfing off the leaves. "You have to see these birds!" I told the others, but when I went to point them out, the tree crashed down off the cliff, and so did another one farther along the trail: it was an avalanche. We were safe, though, because the trail was covered. While my friends were making Boy Scout-like rescue efforts, I saw people below in the water, in great swells, swimming, and remembered that I hadn't packed my bathing suit. Then I noticed that, to the right, the avalanche had taken the roof off what looked like the New York Public Library: I could see the reading room. To the left were train tracks, as at Grand Central. I hoped I had two shots left in my camera, because libraries and trains are two of my favorite things. Then I saw a flock of big colorful birds in a small tree, and said "Look!" and they all flew away.
Bayonne was not quite my dream come true, but I did find an elegant ten-dollar watch and add a bird to my life list. And there were those pink trees. At one point we drove over a funky bridge and I realized we were crossing railroad tracks. And on my way out of town I passed the Bayonne Public Library, a veritable temple of literacy, with a portico and classical names carved high on its facade. And, because I hadn't done laundry in so long and had had no clean underwear that morning, I happened to be wearing my bathing suit.