Saturday, October 29, 2011

King Tide

Sitting in the car at high tide on Thursday felt like camping in the rain. Hopes ran high that the streetsweeper wouldn’t come, but why would a little rain stop him? The cops were out: they waddled from car to car like members of the Wide Family, their chartreuse foul-weather gear stretched over the multiple items of police equipment padding their hips.

The Broom comes early on this block. On Monday, it rumbled around the corner at 8:40 A.M. Thursday it showed up at 8:44. That means that if you get here at nine looking for an 8:30-10 spot, you may be too late. But if you happen to be sitting here already, in a nice, single-car spot between a No Standing sign and a curb cut, once the Broom has passed, the pressure is off. You can turn off the lights and the windshield wipers, move the seat back, and enjoy the view: gingkos (still green), an ornate tower top, a line of pigeons silhouetted on a roof.

Last week, after getting the water shut off at the bungalow (let it snow!), I went down to the boatyard to turn in the lanyard—the red coil with the black plastic ring that fits over the ignition on my outboard—so that the motor can be put away properly for the winter. The boat has been out of the water since the hurricane.

I went out on the bay three or four times this summer: visited the BOATEL, the art project/hotel made of boats at the 59th Street Marina, and ran aground at low tide off Broad Channel (I had to use the oars as poles to get out of the muck and then row). But I had no engine trouble, and that, combined with being away a lot, made me decide not to put the boat back in the water. I like having a season where I can say I had no engine trouble.

Ahead of me, a car left its spot and zipped across the street to take a spot that that had just opened on the Tuesday-Friday side. No sooner had he pulled out than another car swam in. It was strangely silent in the car: I had to keep the windows rolled up against the rain. The only sound was the swish of tires on wet asphalt.

The marina boss had left for the weekend, so I put the lanyard in the office with a note and called to make sure he'd found it. I also wanted to ask if he'd heard about the king tide. It was in the Times on October 26th: “A king tide will be running Wednesday and Thursday because gravitational forces of the sun, the moon and the earth will be lined up in a cue shot of fleeting geometry and rare power.” (The article, by Jim Dwyer, was about how this extra-high tide was a harbinger of things to come: the ocean level has been rising and could be this high all the time by 2080.)

The Boss had not seen the Times. “That’s all I need,” he said. “Another high tide.” During Hurricane Irene, he had had a foot and a half of water in his house. “Did they say how high it would be?”

"One to two feet above normal."

“Didja hear I got robbed?” I had heard, but I wanted him to tell it. “The restaurant barge. Twice.“ The barge, formerly a restaurant, is moored behind the dock. I've been dying to get in there; I see that they've been working on it, but it doesn't look much like a restaurant yet.

"What did they get?" I asked

"Tools and liquor. There were five of them. They saw the liquor, so they came back for more. My good tools. We’re trying to catch them. We got cameras. We took fingerprints.” There are cops living on the dock, so they may very well catch them. He didn't sound as mad as he must have been when it happened. I heard he was in a really bad mood.

The garbage recycling truck pulled up alongside me and started crunching glass and plastic. When it moved on, the garbagemen followed it, on the sidewalk. One of them was wearing big orange gloves, rubber boots, and gold earrings—she was a garbage girl.

Across the street, in a pile of bulky recyclable items, was a memento mori: the grille off a small truck or an S.U.V., silver gray. “Don’t look at that,” I wanted to say to the Éclair. The rain had tapered off by the time I got out of the car, at ten. I'd been sitting there so long that in Jamaica Bay the king tide would have begun to ebb already.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


It happened in Mifflinburg. Or was it Mifflinville? No, it was definitely Mifflinburg. I had taken my usual detour off I-80 on the way back from Ohio, cutting south in the middle of Pennsylvania to state route 45. I was poking along, sharing the road with the occasional horse-and-buggy, watching on the right for Wenger's Discount Grocery Outlet, where I like to stock up on dented cans of soup (I don't know why I get so excited about half-price dented cans of soup; it must be genetic). And then it happened: the odometer flipped over to 77,777.7.

Soon after that, my detour sprung a detour, because of flood damage along the Susquehanna River. I drove north along the river to Milton, a small but industrious town (home of Ettore Boiardi, a.k.a. Chef Boyardee), and when I got back to I-80 I found out that I had been on something signposted as the "Blue Detour." After another hundred miles or so, there was a massive traffic jam near the Delaware Water Gap, so I got off 80 again, and found myself on the "Green Detour." I have been seeing signs for these detours for years, and can report that they are indeed quite colorful.

I have been taking full advantage of the traditional fall parking holidays—between Columbus Day and Succoth, I didn't have to move the car for a week. But on the way home from New England last weekend, I was kicking myself for not having a copy of the alternate-side-parking calendar on me. I knew there were more holidays coming up, but I didn't know which side of the street to park on. I found a Tuesday-Friday spot, behind a huge Army truck, like something that had gotten separated from a convoy. It turned out that either side of the street would have worked, since both Thursday and Friday are religious holidays.

I was hoping the Army truck would be gone when I returned to do my civic duty on Tuesday morning. But no. It made for a dismal prospect: the back of a huge convoy-style armored truck, with tires as big as office cubicles and a dipstick the size of a pool cue. Needless to say, the US Army does not observe street-cleaning rules, so when the Broom came, I expected to have trouble squeezing back in between the tank and the lineup of S.U.V.s behind me.

The Broom came at 7:40, and I was able to zip back across the street and get in position (albeit about two feet from the curb) while the S.U.V.s were still lumbering around, holding up traffic. I had to pull up practically under the Army truck so that they could parallel park, and then ask them to back up so I could get closer to the curb.

Actually, I will be moving the car on Friday anyway, because I have to go out to Rockaway. It's time to turn the water off for the winter. My wonderful neighbors, who for the past two winters have been parking my car in exchange for getting to use it, recently told me that they're getting their own car, a GMC Jimmy. "We'll still take care of your car!" my friend T. said. I know they love my car. Who could resist her? Here she is enjoying a ferry ride, surrounded, as usual, by S.U.V.s

I am going to have to come up with a new plan for the winter.