Monday, June 17, 2013

Service Restored

Today I tried a new maneuver, one that I have seen performed but had never executed. I was parked at the end of the block, the last space before the intersection, and when the street sweeper came  I pulled up into the crosswalk, not so far as to block traffic or cause a head-on collision but far enough to permit the street sweeper and other traffic to get by behind me.

When the sweeper had passed, I reversed into my precious Monday/Thursday 7:30-8 space, which I found last night when I got home from Rockaway, where I dipped in the ocean for the first time this year. The water temperature was 58 degrees.

The beach has changed, of course. The Parks Department has heaped up dunes where the boardwalk used to be, and there are new signs, long mats at select spots between the dunes for pedestrians to reach the ocean, and lots of red flags to indicate swathes of the beach that are closed to swimming. There are also many guards posted to enforce the closings. It’s sad not to have the boardwalk, but at least now I don’t have to choose between the boardwalk and the sand.

The Éclair spent the winter in Maspeth, Queens, in the care of my displaced Rockaway neighbors. She was parked on high ground, in Manhattan, during the hurricane, and suffered no flood damage (thank you for asking). Those neighbors, who have now returned to Rockaway (yay!), have a new used car, their third in as many years. The last was ruined in the flood; the water came up to the EZPass.

Since my car was still parked at the beach, I took the A train to Rockaway for the first time since the storm.

Who ever would have thought we would miss the A train? Sadly, one trip was all that was needed to remind me of the frustrations it delivers. First, at West Fourth Street, the train marked Lefferts Boulevard came instead of the Far Rockaway train. I got on anyway, because I always take the first train that leaves the station. Then, while I was waiting at Rockaway Boulevard to switch to the Far Rockaway branch, another Lefferts Boulevard train came by. (A friend once asked, “Just what is at Lefferts Boulevard that makes it so popular?” Good question.) At last my train came, and I glided over Jamaica Bay. There is a new stretch of corrugated steel along the restored tracks, rusty like a Richard Serra sculpture. It was high tide, and there were what looked like white sacks, or swan rumps, in the water. The Broad Channel station has been freshly painted. I always go down to the end of the platform to peer around the station wall—not that I have ever seen anything except swamp grass—and there on the ground beside the tracks was a blue metal trunk stenciled with the words “SNOW DESK.” I was just getting out my smartphone to take a picture of it when another train came on—I assumed it was another Far Rockaway train, but as it approached I saw that it was the Shuttle, and I had to run for it, because the shuttle is a short train and the last car lines up with the middle of the platform. The shuttle used to wait on a siding, in plain view. I guess they haven’t repaired the siding yet, and I wonder where the shuttle sits between runs.

Fortunately, I have lost my watch, so I was not able to keep track of how long the trip was taking, and I had brought along a copy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s book “The Mani,” about travelling in the southern Peloponnese, which is completely absorbing. Still, one trip on the A train was enough to cure me of nostalgia, and I drove back to Manhattan. When I went out to park the car early this morning, I felt alive for the first time in months.