Friday, October 23, 2009

Last Friday

Last Friday, not relishing the idea of sitting out in the car for an hour and a half, I left the house early, strongly motivated by the need for caffeine (it seems I accidentally tossed the basket component of my espresso pot in with the recyclables). Friday mornings one can sometimes find a spot that is good right away, because people give up prime spaces to get an early start on the weekend. Sure enough, there was a man with dress shirts on hangers draped over his shoulder, opening the back of an S.U.V. “Are you pulling out?” He nodded yes. “Great. Thanks.” We were on a marginal road, with cars parked on both sides, and I shamelessly blocked traffic until he moved.

Come Saturday, Diwali, I was off to Rockaway to begin the great experiment: lending my neighbors T. & T. my car in exchange for their parking it. I am hoping this will be a win-win proposition. So far, so good. They get to use the car to take Little T. to the doctor. Little T. is fine and healthy, and looks contented enough in the Éclair, though I hope they take him someplace fun in it, too, so that he doesn’t associate it solely with doctors. I am going to move the moose bobblehead so he can see it from his backward-facing car seat.

Then T. the Dad put me onto a whole new parking scene in our neighborhood: just two blocks away is a street with a Thursday-Friday street-cleaning schedule, which nicely complements the Monday-Tuesday schedule on our block. Furthermore, this block has a median strip, which doubles the number of spaces available. I already knew about the street around the block, where the city has not yet put up signs; if you can find a space there, theoretically, it’s good forever. T. the Mom assures me that the car is fine, but I don’t think she understands the alternate-side-parking ethos. I am not content to know the car is fine—I want to know exactly where it is and how long it can stay there.

If I had had to sit in the car this week, I would have enjoyed reading about the Vatican’s reaching out to disaffected Anglicans. Good luck with that, Your Holiness. Why do you think they formed the Church of England, anyway?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perfect Plan

My plan was to get to my car by nine this morning—I had parked in a Tuesday-Friday 9:30-11 A.M. spot, having buzzed with no success my two favorite spots when I got home last night at eight. I made a brilliant U-turn on a major crosstown thoroughfare (saving precious minutes), and peeked into the Sanctuary, where an S.U.V. had just scored a spot, and a van was trying to squeeze into a space in front of two motorcycles (I could see that no good was going to come of that). When I turned down the street that was my main chance, on the block ahead I recognized the flashing lights of the street sweeper. So far, so good. Traffic was blocked ahead, in part, no doubt, because of my fellow-parkers, and I sat through two red lights before traffic started to flow again. I might have had to slow things down by creeping along on the Tuesday-Friday side, hoping there was still room for me, but, joy of joys, the first car on the left had generous space behind it, and I was able to coast into place, right in front of a doorman building. Perfect.

Strangely, while I was sitting in the car I got a call on my cell phone from a man I talked to last summer at the ferry meeting in Brooklyn’s Manhattan Beach. He kept apologizing for taking my time, but he couldn’t have called at a better moment: for the next hour, I had nothing but time. It seems he will be offering an alternative ferry ride at some point. I told him I was definitely interested, and I am (even though I am not commuting from Rockaway right now). When we were through talking, I turned to the Times and read about the big sticker crisis: apparently the glue was defective on two million registration stickers that the Department of Motor Vehicles sent out, and on another two and a half million inspection stickers, and people are getting ticketed for not displaying their stickers properly, and complaining bitterly.

Later, walking up the block, I noticed that more than half of the vehicles with New York State license plates did indeed show, as the Times reporter Danny Hakim put it, “signs of profound registration sticker distress.” I recommend transparent packing tape, the same kind I used for holding my right headlight in place, until my new mechanic refitted it with a judicious screw. It never occurred to me that the glue was defective. I thought it was my windshield.

I hope it is not against the law to have a moose bobblehead (upstaged in this picture by the street art in the background; I'll have to remember to take a picture of that when I go back to move the car on Friday). The moose is good company on a long trip. He bobs his head in time to the music and agrees with everything I say.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Morning

This morning I went off to the car with my new bobblehead moose (a souvenir of Maine from my friend T.) and gave up my spot for a trip to the mechanic’s, to get a new headlight and an oil change, and maybe to see about fixing that shudder over 60 m.p.h. (wheel alignment? tire balancing? one bad tire?). The radio was tuned to 105.9, and I was about to change it to 96.3, but it was playing such nice music that I left it alone. Then I remembered: WQXR moved last night, and the familiar Nebraska voice of Jeff Spurgeon moved with it. This was his first day on the new job.

So I get to the mechanic’s, leave the car, and decide to explore the High Line, the park built on the old railroad elevated over Ninth and Tenth Avenues in Chelsea. It’s spectacular! The landscapers have retained a lot of the weedy effect, and the views are great: segments of the Hudson River, Chelsea Piers, monstrous modern glass buildings in the swooping Frank Gehry style, New Jersey, parking lots . . . I ran into an Australian tourist up there—she sounded like Nona Appleby. (Nona should visit the High Line.) I got her to take a picture of cars parked on elevated risers in front of the back of a billboard. “Is that aesthetically pleasing to you?” she asked. I swore it was.

Then, on my way across town, I saw a black dog being pushed down the street in a stroller. The street cleaner was just coming along, and cars were shifting to claim spots. (It looked like there was a fair amount of space over there, on a 9-10:30 A.M. block; I’ll have to remember that if I get desperate in my neighborhood.) Finally, just before getting on the subway, I heard music and saw a woman sitting on a stoop practicing the banjo. At least, I think it was a woman. It was definitely a banjo.

I wish I had thought to stop in the flower district for potting soil. Just now I asked around the office, where there are lots of gardeners, and got enough soil to pot my alternate-side-parking aloe in a styrofoam cup. I hope it survives. It’s on my desk with the bobblehead moose, which I forgot to leave in the car and carried to work, where it has been greatly admired.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unexpected Gift

I could not be fussy when I got back into town last night, after driving the five hundred miles from Cleveland. I took the first spot I found, a Tuesday-Friday 8:30-10 A.M. spot, which meant sitting in the car for an hour and a half this morning. It was not an entirely unpleasant interlude. I was outside a building with a beautiful old wooden door and a wrought-iron gate, daisies and vines, and a stone lion. I’d had a passenger on the trip, a twenty-year-old cellist who works in one of those fancy soap shops in SoHo. The car was still fragrant from his clothing.

Soon after eight-thirty, all the cars shifted to the other side of the street and double parked. A white Maxima backed in ahead of me. It was the first time I ever saw anyone parallel double park. The broom came at around nine, and there was the usual back-and-forthing, with the Maxima humping up onto the curb, to get in position. When we were all settled in, a legal spot unexpectedly opened up on the other side of the street, and the Maxima moved again. The spot in front of me was vacant for thirty seconds.

I could have taken the Eclair to the mechanic’s this morning instead of just sitting there. My left headlight blinked out on this trip. The other big event was that the odometer turned over to 65,000. When I pointed this out to my passenger, I could feel him doing the math: the car was as old as he was—didn’t I mean 165,000 miles? I explained that the car had less than 30,000 miles on it when I bought it. It had belonged to a woman who drove it only to Dunkin' Donuts on Saturday afternoons. Its next owner may have to explain that I used it only to chauffeur my cats to the beach and drive to Cleveland twice a year.

At 9:40, a black Jeep with New Jersey plates stopped across the street, and a man jumped out and looked around. Finally he came to me and said what sounded like “Veel o stop dat? Na veel in cruising?” I said no. (I was pretty sure he was asking if I was going to pull out.)

At ten to ten, the guy behind me, a healthy, public-spirited sort who drove a Subaru Forester with a Bowdoin decal, suggested that if he moved back and I moved back, there would be room for another car. I was willing to go along with that, although I didn’t want to have to watch as whoever parallel parked in front of me crushed my license plate. Two cars tried and couldn’t get in. Just as it was time to leave, Bowdoin said that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. “You move up and I’ll move up.” He had been talking to a guy on the street who looked like a cook, probably because he was wearing white and clutching a thick bunch of greens. This guy now approached and said he’d seen it many times: a truck comes along, determined to fit in the space, and pushes the little car to make room. “It ruins your transmission,” he said. The greens he was holding turned out to be an aloe plant.

“Would you like an aloe plant?” Bowdoin asked. “I have some extras.” And he reached in a black tote bag and gave me an aloe. I could pot it in the car on Friday.