If you receive a parking ticket in New York City, my advice to you, reader, is either to pay it or never to return with that car. If you should return with that car, I suggest you get used to the idea of coughing up $300 $417 and wasting a couple days of your visit retrieving it after it has been towed.

My debacle started two Februaries ago, during my first visit to NYC, when I received a ticket for obstructing a street sweeper.

I didn’t pay it.

I thought, what’re you gonna do about it, Department of Traffic? I have scruples, and you all are a bunch of assholes.

The letters the DoT sent me were all shock and awe, but I never received a call from a collection agency, and my credit score didn’t suffer. But there was still an outstanding warrant on my car. 

When I returned this year, I received an identical ticket. Only this time, they ticketed me for obstructing a street sweeper on the other side of the same road. It was also written up during a torrential rain shower. (They do send a cop by regardless of whether the street sweeper comes.) I had hoped that the NYPD’s left hand wouldn’t know what its right was doing. But as soon as the ticket ran through their system, they towed my car.

Instead of recounting the whole banal story of the retrieval of my car, here is a map.

One part of the saga is worth mentioning, however. At Manhattan’s Tow Central, where I paid the $185 wrecker fee, I encountered a man on the brink. He was clearly a New Yorker and he was livid. Rightly so. I was too.

I shouldn’t even fucking be here, he shouted. He paced around, hammering on the plexiglass cashier windows. I wanna see the fuckin manager! and so on.

Finally, when it was my turn to turn in my paperwork, he announced to all present that he was going to hold up the line until the manager saw him. Ain’t nobody gon’ get served, he asserted. 

I turned to the man behind me, who looked like Beat Takeshi. He looked on stoically as the livid man beat on the windows. Then I looked at the room full of people trying to pick up their towed cars. Nobody was going to do anything, so

I tapped on the livid man’s shoulder and said, move it along.

Do you think we’re happy?

Do you think you’re the only one getting fucked? 

He didn’t acknowledge me, but he did move out of line. He kept yelling, though. I turned to Beat Takeshi and said something like, “honey is sweeter than gall.”

His lips curved upward slightly into what might have been a smile, but he said nothing, and no, we don’t all smile in the same language.

I thought I had recited some mystic Japanese proverb. As it turns out, it was a self-evident conflation of a Hebrew proverb and Shakespeare.

I took my own words to heart and smiled at the woman behind the window. Why take it out on her, I thought—Just because I’m having a shitty day, doesn’t mean she has to have one too. So I said good afternoon in my friendliest, southernest accent. She smiled back at me and waived the $20 overnight storage fee (oh boy, oh boy, free parking!). 

But enough about all that….

Most of my trip was pretty good, though. Here are some shout-outs and recommendations:

I drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of sausages at Lederhosen Biergarten

I drank a little more at Vol de Nuit.

I went to the Terra Blues Bar twice, and the music was hot.

I ate magnificent fries (I recommend the parmesan peppercorn sauce) at Pommes Frites

I met a badass bartender at The Thirsty Scholar

I wrangled with an octopus at Seoul Garden

And I scarfed a Big Az burger and drained a 25 oz Fosters (the cheapest meal I ate there, incidentally) in the time it took me to ride the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island. 

But there’s more griping to be done….

The people I met in NYC were friendly enough, but my blood is a little too hot to live there. Emerging from the subway, there is nothing so stupefying as seeing still more people and more high rises. Nothing, that is, except for the costs: A pack of smokes is ten bucks, parking costs anywhere from a dollar/hour to $8.75/half-hour (plus tax), and it costs $8 to $20—depending on which direction you enter—just to drive into the goddamn place.  And if you want to go to the bathroom, you have to buy something. (Although reader, I recommend public urination if you have such conveniences.)

For the whole trip I kept wondering what would possess so many people to live on top of each other. And with so few public restrooms. I still don’t know why, but I have noticed a collective romanticizing over New York City. Not from the people living there, necessarily, but from all the star-eyed college girls I knew who hated small towns and places supposedly devoid of culture. Of course, slap a few pictures of James Joyce and an Andy Wharhol up in a small town pub, and you’ve got your average bar in Manhattan: The Dead Author’s Pub or the I’m Famous for What Again? Tavern.  

But you cannot go anywhere there and not see people. I kept walking around Central Park last Sunday trying to find my own little sanctuary. There was none. People swarmed everywhere as ants around puke. And in my opinion, people are only good up to a point. After that, I want some peace.

I do like a few things about the place. For one, most people just want to be left the fuck alone. The anonymity of the place, the sheer improbability of running into the same folks twice, has its own comforts. And that’s admirable, I suppose, if not inevitable.

And because I don’t know how else to conclude this little bitch session, here’s Edward Abbey:

At what distance should good neighbors build their houses? Let it be determined by the community’s mode of travel: If by foot, four miles; if by horseback, eight miles; if by motorcar, twenty-four miles; if by airplane, ninety-six miles.”

 

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