Thursday, November 12, 2009
Plan C (continued)
When I woke up this morning, the Éclair was still way across town in a spot that was good till nine. I wanted to get over there early so I could get back to my side of town in time to snare an 8:30-10 spot. I left the house at about 8:20, and, I must say, my timing was perfect. I got to Penny Lane just in time to pull in behind a white S.U.V., in the first spot on the block. I had to ask the driver, a woman (a skier, judging by her vanity plates), if she would mind pulling up a foot—my rear end was sticking out a little too far beyond the pole with the sign for metered parking. “I don’t want to get you in trouble,” I said. “I know the parking lot is right there.” (Someone has put a splotch of yellow paint on the curb to communicate the need for clearance at the parking-lot entrance.) The woman was very nice: without interrupting her cell-phone conversation, she started her car and pulled up two feet.
A Mack truck turned the corner and I watched in my sideview mirror as it stopped and the driver got out and moved two garbage cans into the crosswalk, blocking the street. This was not anarchy but a thoughtful (if wasted) civic gesture: the truck was delivering oil to an apartment building, and the street would be impassable for a good half hour. A delivery truck went around the garbage-can barriers and parked behind me. The stuffed animal strapped to its grille was a camel, I decided. Then a U-Haul went around the barriers, followed by an off-duty cab, the silver truck that picks up dry-cleaning from the Chinese laundry, and several cars, a few of which squeezed into the parking lot. Soon cars were lined up all along the street, honking. Finally, the cabdriver got out and motioned for everyone to back up and the street cleared—until a garbage truck turned onto the block, and the whole exercise began again.
The skier left her car at 9:20; I noticed that she had a parking permit. It occurred to me to pick up a few shirts that I had left at the Chinese laundry weeks ago. And then there was nothing to do but sit in the car. I haven’t sat on this street for a long time. I meant to try to notice whether the Mack truck circled around and the driver moved the garbage cans back to their respective curbs. But I got absorbed in the jacket of an audio version of “Crime and Punishment” that I found last weekend in a funky little store attached to an orchard in Massachusetts. Books on cassette are almost obsolete now, and my technology for playing CDs with a converter on my car’s tape player has broken down, so I was delighted to come across this used two-dollar Dostoevsky. When I ran out of radio stations in Connecticut, around Hartford, I slipped Raskolnikov into the tape player. He is a strangely compelling travel companion.
The book, in a translation by David McDuff, is abridged, a literary act that I usually don’t hold with, but in the case of a Russian novel on a short trip it was a good idea. Raskolnikov commits his crime right away—none of this sitting around gassing till page 400, as in “The Brothers K.” There is a riff on the difference between being poor and being destitute (Raskolnikov is destitute), and a long letter from Mom. When the reader, a British actor named Alex Jennings, who is excellent, does a woman’s voice, he sounds hilariously like one of the “Monty Python” troupe playing an old frump. I broke off on Tape 2, Side B, in which R., who has been ill and delirious (uh-oh), is taken by a friend to a party and overhears gossip about the murder of the old pawnbroker and her sister …
I will have to plan another trip to resume my adventures with Raskolnikov. Meanwhile, here is his garage.