Monday, October 4, 2010


Spoiled by the Jewish holidays—five in a row, freeing up the entire month of September—I returned yesterday from a weekend in New England, unloaded the car, and wondered what to do with it. The Eclair now starts reliably, but she needs a new muffler. My friend’s son showed me where the exhaust pipe has come loose. At first it just rattled, but now it roars. It seemed wrong to make so much noise only in order to move the car from one side of the street to the other. I decided to go to Rockaway, check on the boat, and find a parking spot out there.

I had driven up to Massachusetts in the storm last Friday (there is some kind of leak in the well beneath the windshield wipers, and rain dripped on my toes as I drove), so the clear weather when I left for the drive back, at dawn on Sunday, reminded me why people love to drive: it was an intense pleasure just to see the road stretching ahead into the hills. I’d had an excellent weekend, replete with good food and the scratching of several modest consumer itches (a jar of honey, a bag of apples, a new flat-screen TV). I didn’t need the radio or tape-player for company: I was content, for a change, to be peacefully absorbed in the Connecticut scenery.

I planned to take the Sawmill River Parkway all the way down to the West Side Highway—I love the part where, just as you emerge from the tunnel-like toll plaza, the Hudson River opens out on your right—and in my determination I barely registered an LED highway sign that read (in red) “HENRY HUDSON PKWY CLOSED TO 54 ST.” What? Surely if this was true it would be repeated. I passed the exit that offered me a last chance to give up on the Sawmill and take the Cross County Parkway to one of the other approaches to Manhattan, and turned on the radio. Just as the cars ahead of me congealed into a long ribbon of parking lot, I learned that the West Side Highway was indeed closed for a five-borough bike ride.

Cursing all cyclists, I got off in Yonkers. I figured if I went north, I could work my way back to that crossover. Instead, I found Broadway, the old Indian trail, which at least was going in the right direction: south. Where Broadway went under the El, I saw a sign for Route 87, the Major Deegan, and made a left along Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. Soon I was in another traffic jam, but most of the cars on the Major Deegan split off for New Jersey at the junction with 95.

A few hours later, the traffic to Rockaway was light. I went directly to the marina: someone had bailed (or more likely pumped) out my boat. It was too windy to even think of going out in it. I started looking for a parking spot near the bungalow—the next alternate-side holiday isn’t until Columbus Day, next Monday—and had just come to the realization that I was going to have to ask my neighbor to move the car at least once, when suddenly I remembered George’s street: a block of newish two-story attached brick houses, with driveways and parking pads, and no street-cleaning regulations. The people who live there sweep up in front of their own houses. There was one spot left, up against a rosebush planted on the tree lawn. I had time to talk with my neighbors, notice that my passionflower vine has finally put forth a blossom, and take in a major sunset before catching the bus and train home through Brooklyn.


Marilyn said...

So sorry the bike ride bogged you down but I did that ride a few years ago and it was quite a thrill to ride on those highways!

MJN/NYC said...

Marilyn! I don't really curse all cyclists--and I know what you mean. I've enjoyed riding down the middle of Fifth Avenue when it was closed to traffic. The West Side Highway would be stupendous!