Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stet, Baby

At last an image that combines two of my professional interests: parking (or having a freshly paved road, preferably with a view, to do it on) and copy editing. "Stet" is something copy editors scribble on a proof when they wish to make sure no one messes with what is printed. It's from the Latin "stare," and means "Leave it alone!" or, more mildly, "Let it stand." "Stet" might be the answer to those signs that say "No Standing" or something you say as you leave your car in a beautiful spot. I took this picture in Flores, in the Azores, in the spring of 2008, just before having to walk down a freshly oiled road with my wheeled suitcase.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I was wrong last week about Sunday morning at ten-fifteen being the optimal time to find a parking spot in Manhattan. I got an earlier start this Sunday, coming in from Rockaway in torrential rain (“light rain,” it said on the radio; the truth was somewhere in between), and looking for a spot at closer to nine-fifteen. I figured that the folks who park in the sanctuary would still be lingering over their bagels at that hour, waiting out the rain, but I drove there anyway, not daring to hope, planning my strategy in case there wasn't a spot, and reassuring myself that any Monday-Thursday spot would do, because today, Monday, is Yom Kippur, and alternate-side is suspended, and Thursday I am leaving the city at dawn. And behold, when I turned the corner, there were only two cars parked in the sacred seven-car precinct!

I pulled into the very same spot I had vacated on Saturday, behind the red Honda Prelude, with its front wheels cocked into the street, as if parked in a hurry by someone who really had to pee. Its owner is a sort of crusty older woman who reminds me of a retired proofreader. One of her headlights is taped into place. I watched last Thursday morning as she approached her car, removed a flyer from the windshield, went blindly to the nearest litter box to throw it away, and then ambled across the street to put something in the mail before settling into her car, leaving the door slightly ajar. It surprised me that she didn’t start the engine and straighten her car out in the space—I had left enough room for her to maneuver. But I guess I’m just a perfectionist.

Last week a friend put me onto this site: primospot.com, another new link. At first, it scared me: it makes a lot of information available, and it could increase the competition for a spot. But though it showcases a lot of lovely parking spots, it doesn’t yet have the technology to tell you whether they’re available or not. And as for piecing together a parking strategy that will minimize time spent sipping coffee in the car and watching for the broom in the rearview mirror, anguishing over whether the S.U.V. behind you is going to move in on your spot and crowd you off the block, ruining your week—well, I think I am pretty good at that already.

But it would make sense to have some kind of network of like-minded people you could notify if you happen to see four lovely spots open on a prime block. I don't have a Twitter account, or an iPhone, but it may be time for me to upgrade (my cell phone is ancient—almost as big as a ladies' size-7 shoe). I could start with the retired proofreader.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Link

Which sounds like the harder sell: a book about parking by a copy editor or a book about copy editing by a parker? See Andy Ross's blog Ask the Agent: Night Thoughts About Books and Publishing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Working on the Railroad

Ten-fifteen on Sunday morning is the optimal time for finding a parking spot, or it was for me yesterday. I’d spent Saturday night in Rockaway, where a crew is laying new track on the elevated A train (see below, where I took a major detour on a Friday night). In addition to all their trucks and cranes, there was another piece of heavy equipment parked on our block when I arrived on Saturday morning: a thing they use for “milling” the pavement, which is like plowing asphalt. Opinion was divided as to the desirability of having our block milled. My neighbor T. said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they did some actual work on our little street?” The Catwoman said, “Wheah are we gonna park?”

The road miller disappeared, but I found it later, in the church parking lot. (Seriously, look at this thing.) The train operation went on all night. On the street there was a stack of new sections of track, which comes preassembled, as for a model railway. There was a crane that was hoisting the sections up onto the elevated.

On the elevated was a whole string of yellow cars, the kind you dread seeing because it means there is a free shuttle bus in your future. One of these cars had a crane mounted on it to lift the section of track, move it down the track, and drop it into position. I stood below, taking pictures for a while. It can’t be often that they lay new track for the Iron Horse. One of the men, who I took for a supervisor, told me that they would be there for three weekends in a row, working around the clock, and planned to replace the track at both the Beach 98th Street and the Beach 90th Street stations. Next year, they will lay new track between the stations. Then, he said, from Far Rockaway to Beach 116th St., we’ll have a whole new railroad.

I watched as the men on the ground prepared these PVC joints and pounded them into the track sections. It was hard to get a good picture of the yellow car as it moved along the tracks, but I kept trying, until the man at the rear of the car yelled down, “Hey, Bobby, what is this?” and pointed at me. I guess he thought I was a terrorist or was somehow a threat to the future of the railroad. “I’m just having some fun,” I said. The supervisor said, “You can take all the pictures you want.” By then, my battery was beginning to flicker and the light was waning. Here is the crew, moving out, as I went home.

The next morning, the pile of new track was gone and there was a stack of old track, waiting to be trucked away. I took a quick walk to the beach, packed the car, and got back to the city just in time to snag the most beautiful parking spot in the world, one of only seven in what I like to call the Sanctuary (though it has no official recognition from the Vatican). There were actually two spots on this exquisite Monday-Thursday, 8:30-9 A.M. block, as somebody was leaving just as I arrived. I wished I could think of a friend to call who could use the other spot. Alternate side is suspended today, for Idul Fitr, so the Eclair is golden until Thursday, when I have to sit in it for only a half hour, and a civilized half hour at that.

Thanks to the railroad for all the heavy lifting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Morning Guy

The broom made us move today, and what a mess. The four cars parked between the curb cut and the crosswalk pulled diagonally across the street, and an S.U.V. that had been lurking behind me, at the curb cut, sat in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, as the street sweeper honked. “You’d better not try to steal my spot, buddy,” I grumbled over my shoulder at the S.U.V. as we all reversed into place.

But he was good—he even backed up a little to give me room to maneuver. I couldn’t understand why he was content to remain in an illegal spot, though. Maybe he had business in the neighborhood, or was waiting for someone.

Then, just before eight, he came to my window and asked me to move up. He was a black guy with a foreign accent. I had a few inches to work with, so I agreed. But after I had moved I got out of the car to see what he was up to. “You don’t actually think you’re going to fit in there, do you?” I said. He was right up against my bumper, and the rear third of his car was over the yellow line, leaving barely enough room for a car to turn into the driveway behind him. He was planning to park an entire S.U.V. in the space formerly occupied by a motorcycle (a Ducati—today it was parked across the street).

My watch said eight o’clock, but the woman in front of me, in the blue Subaru, had not gotten out of her car yet, so I turned on the radio. Folk music poured out of it, and I did a double take: yes, the radio was set to WQXR, the classical station, at 96.3 FM, soon to move up the dial to 105.9 and become a public radio station. I am looking forward to that, because the public station will have fewer commercials, and often when I'm listening to WQXR I have to jump up and turn the radio off, because the commercials are always about cancer. Then I recognized the folk music as Peter, Paul and Mary; I had just read the obituary of Mary Travers in the Times. When the song was over, Jeff Spurgeon, the morning guy at WQXR (he used to belong to my singing group), identified it as Bach—modern lyrics to a chorale from the St. Matthew Passion. He had found the perfect thing to play in memory of Mary Travers.

The guy in the S.U.V. thanked me before he left. Afraid he might not be familiar with our customs, I pointed to the yellow curb and asked, “Are you sure you can get away with this?”

“I come back after two hours,” he said, and rushed off. Then I remembered my own sometime mantra: Anyone can paint a curb yellow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Season Opener

I had to consult the parking calendar yesterday for the first time in almost a year, and was disappointed to see that, with the exception of Yom Kippur, all the Jewish holidays—Rosh Hashana, Succoth, Shemini Atzereth, Simchas Torah—which usually make this such a joyous parking time of year, fall on Saturday and Sunday in 2009 (5769-70). I was lucky last night when I came in from Rockaway to find a Monday-Thursday 7:30-8 A.M. spot. I had to squeeze behind a blue Subaru Outback and be careful not to knock over an Italian motorcycle, a Pugaci (is there really such a thing as a Pugaci? Or am I thinking of Bugati? Or Ducati? I was reading it in my rearview mirror). This morning, I was relieved when the motorcyclist moved, giving me access to the curb cut behind him. There were traffic cones set up across the street—No Parking on the Tuesday-Friday side—and I was tempted to cross the street and shift the barriers, to have more room to maneuver—I am out of practice. But, for whatever reason, when the broom came, at 7:40, it swept by without making us move at all.

So I sipped my coffee and paged through the Times, which contained this useless nugget: “Because of Rosh Hashana and Id al-Fitr, alternate-side street cleaning rules are suspended Saturday and Sunday.” It failed to mention that Id al-Fitr runs through Monday (Allah be praised).

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I worked late last night and took the A train home to Rockaway, probably for the last time this season. There had been signs posted all week that the Rockaway Park shuttle would be out of service beginning at 10:30 P.M. on Friday, September 11th. After ten-thirty, riders were directed to stay on the train to Far Rockaway, get off at Beach 60th Street, and take a “free” (whoopee) shuttle bus back in the other direction.

Somehow I got it in my head that if I just caught the train in midtown before ten-thirty, I would be O.K. My train got into Broad Channel at about ten-forty, and the conductor didn’t say anything about the shuttle being out of service, so a bunch of us detrained, as usual, to switch to the shuttle. There was no S train lurking on the siding beyond the station, but soon one came along from the other direction, and after sitting for a while on the siding it reversed direction and slid down the tracks toward us. It looked as if we were in luck: the M.T.A. was going to provide one last ride.

The train started sounding its horn—not a good sign—and as it got closer we could make out its destination: “Not in Service.” It stopped anyway, the big tease, and sat there for a few minutes, while we hoped it would open its doors, and then slithered away.

Hmm. What to do? Clearly no more shuttles were running. I have a friend in the bungalow courts who works for a car service, but I couldn’t find his number, and it was just late enough (going on 11 P.M.) to be too rude to call anyone else. I could walk from Broad Channel. But it had been a long day, and if I wasn’t going to get home till midnight anyway, I might as well wait for the next A train and let myself be herded along to Far Rockaway and the stupid free bus with everyone else.

It drives Rockawegians crazy when people assume that all of Rockaway is Far Rockaway. Far Rockaway is the easternmost part of the peninsula, the armpit, and the rest of the Rockaway Peninsula is the arm, forming the southern rim of Jamaica Bay and a ten-mile barrier beach along the Atlantic: Rockaway Beach. A whole spectrum of neighborhoods stretches along the peninsula from east to west: Arverne, Seaside, Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, Neponsit, Riis Park, Roxbury, Breezy Point. The A train crosses the bay at the longitude of approximately Beach 84th Street. If you live on, say, Beach 101st Street, it is a gigantic bore, on a Friday night, after you've already been on the train for an hour, to take a four-mile detour to Far Rockaway. Grrrr.

When the next A train came, the conductor made the announcement about the change in service, and we all trudged aboard, but the M.T.A. had a little more fun with us before the night was out: as the train pulled into the Beach 60th Street Station, we let out a collective groan, watching from the windows, as the shuttle bus pulled away. There was nothing for it but to follow the signs down to the street and wait. At least it had stopped raining, and the breeze was mild. A bus came: “Out of Service.” Another bus came: also “Out of Service,” but this one stopped and picked us up anyway. It took a strange route down Rockaway Beach Boulevard to Beach Channel Drive and then along the Rockaway Freeway, under the El. (Note the many applications of the name Rockaway: there is no Near Rockaway, or Close Rockaway, but there is a Rockaway Boulevard and a Rockaway Turnpike and a Rockaway Avenue and a Rockaway Point and a Rockaway Point Boulevard and an East Rockaway—and a Rockaway, New Jersey, but let's not go there.) Nobody on the bus knew what the deal was, whether the shuttle bus would automatically stop at all the train stations or whether we had to request a stop, as on a regular bus. So the bus zipped past Beach 90h Street, where I was planning to get off, to see if I could find an open deli on the way home. Then someone lit up the “Stop Requested” signal, and the driver stopped at 94th Street. Nothing was open except the bars and a pizza joint and a Chinese restaurant.

This morning, after I complained at length to my neighbor T. about getting stranded in Broad Channel and not getting home till midnight, she said, “You coulda walked one block and got the 53.” Or, her husband said, "you coulda got the 21." Of course! Both those buses come straight out Cross Bay Boulevard, through Broad Channel, and turn west, toward Rockaway Park, stopping a block from my home. What was I thinking?

Well, at least I got to complain. And the journey home gave me a strong incentive to pack up the cats and move back to Manhattan.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The End (Again)

This picture was taken on the Thursday before Labor Day as the Rockaway ferry pulled into the dock at Riis Landing. I have one ride left on my forty-ride season ticket, and I meant to take it this morning but I overslept. Alternate-side parking rules were in effect, so, for the first time in months, I had to get dressed and dash out to move my car. I found a spot across the street, the last spot before the Stop sign, where the Eclair will be perilously vulnerable to large turning vehicles. I hope she will be O.K.

I have been resisting nostalgia over the passing of summer—resisting, in fact, the passing of summer. Why must it end? The ocean is warmer than it's been all season (though there are some jellyfish floating in it). The cats have completely settled in, and forgotten all about their city life. Norbert was on the Greek porch this morning, among the morning glories. Eventually it will get too cold to stay in the bungalow, which is unheated. Until then, the main reason to decamp to Manhattan is the brutal commute.

On the A train today, I had ample time to consider what to do about the car when I move back. I could park it on the street again. Or I could call the garage and ask if they can still give me the good deal they gave me last year. (It's hard to go back to the street once you've parked in a garage. It may be impossible.) Or I can work something out with my neighbors in Rockaway, who borrowed my car a few times over the summer: maybe they would park it in exchange for getting to use it occasionally. This seems like a good idea, but I run the risk of having them begin to think it is their car. Or of getting tickets.