Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Picture Car

I was dismayed this morning to see cones along the street where I had parked last night—blue cones and “No Parking Today” signs that were not there last night and that meant, among other things, that I would not be spending the next half hour in leisure mode, catching up on the Moby Dick Big Read. Someone had put the signs up after midnight, for no good reason (a travel show was being installed in a nearby building). A few of my fellow-parkers got belligerent and refused to move. I am not nearly as disgruntled as I might have been, because I drove off and found a spot on the Monday-Thursday side of a 9:30-11 block, squeezing between a car with a deadly tow hook sticking out the back and a shrouded motorcycle, which I found a bit more forgiving than a car, without actually knocking it over. 

On my own street, which has meters, there was no parking because of a film shoot. Alternate-side parkers hate film shoots. Sharply dressed people (extras?) lingered at the corner, near a building that had been redesignated the Office of the Attorney General. Production assistants were all over the place. One of them was giving away miniature pastries to distract people as she encouraged them to take a different route to school or work. A cop directed a traffic jam while simultaneously munching. I could not help but notice that, for a street with no parking, there were an awful lot of dusty-looking beat-up cars lining the curb. I looked inside the cars. On the dashboard of each car was a printed form that said “Picture Car,” and gave a name and contact number. I asked one of the production assistants about the cars, and he confirmed that they were late-eighties models—old Hondas and Toyotas and an ancient Cadillac—parked there for the film set. (The film was “The Wolf of Wall Street.”) 

These were not what you would call “vintage” cars, except in a certain anonymous, nondescript way. Most of them were unoccupied, but in others people were seated behind the wheel, behaving like alternate-side parkers: one did a crossword puzzle, another read, a woman talked on the phone, a man listened to music. Next to one of the cars, a brunette with a clipboard was making notes, and I stopped and said, “I don’t want to interrupt you, but I wonder if could ask you something.” 

“What’s your question, I’ve got a lot on my plate,” she said. 

I hadn’t yet formulated the question, so I said “Never mind,” and let her go back to her glamorous Hollywood job. She was not exactly a good-will ambassador for the film industry.

But here's the thing: I have a dusty-looking beat-up car that would not have looked out of place among the Picture Cars, and I envied their owners. They were getting paid to park! I wanted to know how they got the gig. A friendly-looking man was getting into the passenger side of his Picture Car, and I asked him, “How do you get to park here?”

“You have to do a lot of spinning,” he said.



At home, I went straight to the laptop, found Creative Film Cars, and registered the Eclair. She has a lot of character—she ought to be in pictures. Before the money starts rolling in, I have to supply some photographs. Thanks to my friend NH for this stylish closeup of the dashboard.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

O Possum!

The first time I saw an opossum, loping along at dusk in the vegetation at Fort Tilden (it, not me, though actually it was both of us), I had just come back from Tuscany, and I thought it was a wild boar. It paused and looked back at me. I do not think it thought I was a Tuscan boar hunter. I have since viewed possums a number of times at their condominium in Rockaway. Once, after a party (ours, not theirs, although we can't know that for sure), a possum sat on the roof of a bungalow receiving slices of Wonder Bread tossed up by my neighbor. Last weekend, the possum population reached critical mass. Here is a link to Night of the Opossum.
Be prepared to scream!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Boot

The alternate-side-parking season got off to a dubious start this week. I returned to the city late on Monday (Labor Day) and, knowing that the pickings would be slim, passed up a Tuesday-Friday spot in the hope of scoring a Monday-Thursday one so that I wouldn’t have to devote two hours to sitting in the car on Tuesday morning. That is like standing on the subway platform and letting the local go by, in the hope that the express will soon be there. Not a good strategy. That Tuesday-Friday spot was the only one within a twelve-block radius.

On Tuesday morning, I tried again, but I still didn’t feel like sitting in the car for two hours, even though there was an excellent article to read in the Times about the arcane origins of the parking rules in the West End of Rockaway. I guess I’m out of practice. 

No Parking Saturday & Sunday, May 15-Sept. 30
Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

The Eclair is in pretty good shape going into the fall: new exhaust system, new front brakes, two new tires. After a trip one Saturday to Stony Brook, I grudgingly heeded my neighbors’ advice to put air in the left front tire, because it was low. Running my hand over the tire, feeling for the cause of the leak, I scraped my finger on something. A nail? A row of acupuncture needles? Holy Camaro! I was feeling the steel in “steel-belted radials.” This tire was not just low—it was bald. I pumped it up anyway, and the next morning the bald tire was completely flat. (Warning: Inflating a tire may dislodge the nail that is holding the air in.) I called AAA, and a guy came out and put the doughnut on, after which I hobbled out to Brooklyn and got in line at Pep Boys. This was not my idea of a fun Sunday, but the alternative was to take time off work to go back to the mechanic who, after inspecting the car just two weeks ago, had let me drive off on bald tires. 

Anyway, I surrendered to the fifteen-dollar lot by the river, and the guy in the booth was very sweet. I took a chance and left the car in the lot overnight. This morning, after seeing off my house guests—my cousin and her husband, with whom I had had a riotous time in Rockaway, possum hunting (stay tuned)—I walked to the river to move the car. It was right where I’d left it—hadn’t been towed—but the left front wheel had a boot on it. I was not that surprised. It was almost as if I’d been waiting all my life to find out what happens when your car has a boot on it.

The same sweet guy was in the booth. I told him about the boot, and asked, “What do I do?” He said, “You pay me thirty dollars for parking overnight, and I take it off.” Fortunately, I had some money in my pocket. I’ve discovered that I like having money in my pocket. “Let’s go see your car,” the guy said. He unlocked the boot, which opened like a jaw. It was bright blue. “It looks like a toy,” I said. “It works,” he said, opening and closing the jaws. I gave him two twenties, and he gave me two fives. “I didn’t put the boot on,” he said. “The night guy did that.” I gave him back one of the fives.

Now it was Wednesday morning and I was cruising for a spot, and everybody knows that nobody moves on Wednesday, because very few blocks have street-cleaning rules on Wednesday. That is why it is such a waste when, say, Yom Kippur falls on a Wednesday.

I carried on—somebody had to be giving up a spot to go to work—driving to my most reliable 7:30-8 block. There were cones set up on the Tuesday-Friday side, but on my preferred Monday-Thursday side there was one free spot that I managed to wrangle the Eclair into. On another block where I hadn’t been able to park yesterday, because some people were making a stupid movie, a police tow truck had been at work, removing a whole line of cars. Summer is over.