Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alternate Side

A detail of my car's dashboard. Very 90s.

We have a car in Manhattan and we park it on the streets.

And that's every bit as insane as it sounds, but we have our reasons. ($400 a month garage fees being chief among the street-park decision.)

I never set out to be an auto-bearing Manhattanite, but rather had this thrust upon me when my very elderly parents moved back to New York and under my care about seven years ago, and their car came up from Florida with them.

It was full of dings and scratches, patches of other car colors that had been acquired by... violent proximity. Apparently at the end of his driving years, nearly every time he took the car out, my father would return with dents of unknown origin.

If my parents had just moved to Manhattan, I would have sold their car and been done with it. But no, they chose a senior residence in the northern reaches of Riverdale. (Technically in Yonkers even, though literally it was just a toehold over the line, on the north side of the dotted-line dividing street, rather than the south.)

I was their chauffeur, ferrying them to doctor appointments, shopping trips, Dad's one-man show at the Yonkers Library (his last big professional hurrah).

Now, other than weekend road trips and family vacations, I mostly drive Ethan to school on alternate side parking days, when the car must be ritually moved and re-parked.* Twice a week. More if we've used it and been unlucky in our parking choices upon return.

And after dropping Ethan off, I have about an hour to kill before it's time to re-park. The perfect excuse for morning coffee with the mom-friends.

This morning our conversation spanned hysterectomies, Gay Day at the Mall of America, rating of local pediatricians, concern for a friend having a hospitalization-worthy manic episode, homework, Sacha Baron Cohen, Simon Baron Cohen, the horrors of the middle school application process, Freddy Mercury, a theatrical parent's reaction to numerous boyfriends over the years until her loudly sung declaration of the husband to be: "Keeeeeeper!"

Once again I was filled with that warm snugly feeling that I have the best friends in the world.

A particularly supportive non-judgmental group; when I hear of women complaining about the competitiveness, vindictiveness and shallowness of women's relationships I can't help but think: "Who the Hell are YOU befriending?" because that so does not describe anyone I know or choose to spend time with. Then again we're not the "perfect" moms in designer clothes (unless they came from Filene's or Loehmann's) with the "perfect" children. Far from it.

Giving a friend a ride home after coffee today, she hopped into the passenger seat and seemed delighted to find I had a cassette deck in my dashboard, with actual cassettes in the cubby. (I did mention it's a 1997 sedan that had been previously owned by old people - i.e. my parents -  right?)

She grabbed Special Beat Service and popped it in and we started loudly caterwauling together, singing along to "Sugar and Stress" as we barreled up Amsterdam Avenue.

By the time I dropped her at her door "End of the Party" was playing. A hauntingly beautiful song. We had spent much of the car ride talking about how important music has been to us at various times in our lives.

I mentioned how one of my blog friends had included a song in her post that sent me on a wild nostalgia ride: Kate Bush singing "This Woman's Work."

And then, a few moments later, just as I'd found a parking spot, the heavens opened up and a torrential downpour ensued, the kind that laughs at your puny little umbrellas as it soaks you with sideways rain and from the ground up in great splashing puddles.

There was thunder and lightning involved, and the blaring of alarms, as cars close to the strikes rocked in the violence of the electrically discharging blasts.

Me? I sat toasty in my bubble, listening to my old music on the cassette deck; enjoying the spectacle outside my windows.

Windows, from a rainy window
Trees above, through windshield raindrops

So I will leave you with a few words from and a video of this English Beat song I Confess: "I know I'm shouting, I like to shout!" Enjoy:

*Note: this is a post from my "Zombie Files" - written months ago, and just finished up and posted today (being reminded of it by the rain). Right NOW I am actually using the car a LOT driving back and forth to Long Island where my mother is in a nursing home.


  1. Music always takes me back to a memory. And food. There is nothing more comforting than music and food.

  2. Its amazing what music will trigger. Just you mentioning that reminds me of the kids first day of school this year. Coming home we had a huge Kansas storm. We started with umbrellas and wound up ditching them, getting soaked down to our skin. The kids started off upset but we would up giggling in the end. Thank you for that sweet reminder.

  3. LOVE this, Varda - if you are keeping SBS cassettes in your car, I want a ride. I saw Dave Wakeling earlier this year and he put on a fantastic show - keep an eye out in case he comes your way, totally worth your time.

    Party hint: I always put "End of the Party" as the last song of any party playlist I make, because I'm not so subtle. The Beat says it is time to go, people! Move on.


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