Photobucket

In January, a young lady decided to leave Virginia and drive up Interstate 95–exiting only for Exxon gas and Arby’s curly fries, and later a 5 Hour Energy that she, not a coffee drinker with exposure to that much caffeine, came to regret–until reaching Boston, at which point she would take Route 1A to Marblehead, Massachusetts and spend a snowy weekend with her grandparents, one more time, before a relocation that would render impossible such a visit indefinitely. There, she ate shellfish, drank pinot grigio, regaled her grandparents with slightly inappropriate stories, overcame a slight hangover to complete most of the Globe’s Saturday crossword, and attended her first hockey game–the Bruins, then enjoying a 30-7-4 record. (It was odd that it had taken her 25 years to see hockey live, especially as she kept figure skates in the trunk of her VW, with the jumper cables, under the cover for the convertible top.)

Instead of driving straight home, this young lady, heretoforth LMK, decided to stay in New York City on Monday evening. She had purchased a ticket in advance for Monday Night Magic. She felt that, as illusionists followed a calling to perform magic, she was called to watch magic and, one day, disappear from a box being sliced into by machetes or like sharp objects. The featured performer was Mike Super, the winner of the reality show “Phenomena,” and, among other things, he filled and re-sealed an empty Coke can (which is an astounding and useful skill in an international financial crisis), performed voodoo on a gentleman (which took 16 years for him to master for audiences), and missed LMK’s vigorous jazz hands in the fifth row to choose a second row girl girl to make disappear (which, given that all LMK’s life milestones would go downhill after disappearing, she understood might have to wait until after, say, her firstborn).

LMK barely waited until the applause had ended to catch a cab to the Blind Tiger to meet a friend she had seen three years before, and met three years before that. The story of their first meeting is a whole other story (that is so good it is hard for LMK to refrain from telling it now), and LMK was horrified to be an hour late for their third meeting. Over microbrews, a grilled cheese, and deviled eggs, it was decided that LMK would stay another day.

On Tuesday, LMK explored New York City, as she had when she attended the New Yorker Festival in October. En route to see her friend and eat lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, she passed the ad hoc “Pond” at Bryant Park and decided she would retrieve her figure skates from her car and spend the afternoon there. While she fueled herself with pan roast of mixed shellfish at one of the restaurant’s low counters, she read an entry in an anthology of food writing in the New Yorker, chatted with a couple who took her name in case she ever wrote a bestseller, and received relationship advice from one of the older servers there–namely, to hold on to her old friend, which gave her the first impression that this gentleman was quite wise.

After figure skating and a couple of other small adventures, LMK retrieved her car from the hotel, picked her friend up from work, drove to Brooklyn, and, it being late and she being eager to shower and drink a beer, settled on a parking spot near, but not in front of, a fire hydrant.

Later in the night and early in the morning, LMK found herself leaning against various Atari machines at Barcade while sipping on microbrews and taking in bathroom graffiti art and jokes. Realizing they both craved wurst and perhaps some sauerkraut and spaetzle, the pair went to a German restaurant locking its doors for the night and happily ended up with free pizza just for ordering a third beer elsewhere. LMK woke up feeling physically prepared to drive the five hours home, if not ready to say goodbye. The trip had been… magical.

But as much as LMK fancies disappearing acts, she would have preferred to see her car parked where she had left it the previous night.

LMK’s wet hair quickly froze into an unattractive matte as she and her friend walked to the nearest subway station. It was about 20 degrees. She had decided to forego makeup and was sensibly dressed in velour sweats and a ski jacket, anticipating that the most interaction she would have that day would be her efforts to make toll workers smile.

Only after vehement insistence that he not miss his first day of work in more than two years did LMK’s friend reluctantly go, and despite her concern for her car, at that moment, she was more anxious about how her cowlick happened to thaw as they said goodbye. He put LMK on a train to a police precinct where, presumably, she could find out if her car was towed or stolen. And LMK soon forgot to feel self-conscious about looking quite so homely.

LMK had only to travel one stop to get to the office of the 9th Precinct of the NYPD. She got stuck when she attempted to exit the subway turnstile with her rolling luggage, and the backpack with the computer and New Yorker anthology, and also a camera bag containing her mom’s new camera. A young urban woman in a hot pink sweatshirt was well ahead of her leaving the station, and upon hearing LMK’s efforted grunts, she turned around and politely volunteered to yank LMK and her suitcase through the turnstile and proceeded to do so, and did so gingerly, at that.

LMK popped out of the subway exit and rolled her luggage through puddles of undeterminable origins. If not for the dozen patrol cars parked out front, LMK would not have taken it for a police station. Years ago, the white tiled building was likely a sleek, futuristic fortress. On that Wednesday, the exterior had the feel of a restroom in an expired theatre after the last show in a run of “The Flying Dutchman.” Once inside, LMK explained her plight and was soon chastised for not knowing her exact license plate number.

“But, officer, can you search for it by entering my license plates as Virginia, or by the first half of the sequence, or by where it was parked? I mean, it’s a very foofy car, I think it would stand out.”

The officer briskly thumbed through about 12 reports of towed vehicles and said to call two towing hotline numbers he wrote down on a Post-It. One was an automated system that, at the end of every option, hung up on LMK. The other required her to know a name from its directory, then hung up. The officer told LMK to wait it out and keep calling the hotline, go back to the site where she’d parked her car and dial 911, and call her insurance company to get a claim going for a stolen car. He then turned his attention back to the young lady who had been assaulted by her uncle, and LMK felt guilty for trifling the 9th Precinct that morning, that ultimately, she would be the one who would end the day unscathed from her crime.

LMK lugged her bags back down into the subway station and made it through the turnstile. She restrained her tears, half because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself, half because she worried they, too, would freeze to her head. An older gentleman with a cane and detective hat stopped as he passed LMK and requested that she smile, then suggested that if she moved further along on the platform, the train would actually pull up in front of her, and it might be warmer there, too, and that she needn’t be shy to join him. LMK thanked him and decided Brooklyn was edging out Charleston and maybe even Minneapolis as the friendliest places she’d ever been. (The latter was so friendly that she was actually followed by a gentleman for half her evening, whom she finally addressed in a public place and informed that he was ruining it for men and should take a five minute head start away or she would call the police.)

This conviction–that Brooklyn was so convivial–was solidified when LMK met the patrol officers sent to respond to her call. For almost an hour and a half, they worked through the report, with LMK in the back seat, exchanging paperwork through a crack in the ceiling where the barrier protected the front from the backseat and pens through the metal grate. Upon seeing where she had parked, the officers instructed her to plead innocent to the ticket, should it be in an impound lot. They also mentioned to her that the 9th Precinct was not known for expeditiousness, in more descriptive words than that.

LMK was on the phone much of the time, either with her insurance company or her family or friend, so one of the officers managed to sneak in a call to his mother to make sure an appliance was working. LMK found it endearing when she overheard, “Alright ma–yeah–love you too.” The other made a call to a fellow officer to check and see if any news had come in and, after a few minutes of “You’s a filthy son of a bitch, you know that?” and “That’s not what your sister said last night,” the conversation crescendoed in an, “Heyyy, I kid. How you doing man, your mother doing good?” LMK grinned, sitting in the back of a police car for her first time.

LMK’s car wasn’t showing up in their computer system, which she deemed more conclusive than a stack of carbon copies, so the assumption was that it was stolen. The officers were confident it would turn up, though, on the grounds that no self-respecting car thief would want to be seen in a vehicle she affectionately called the “bitch basket.”

They complimented her calm attitude, and she suddenly found herself explaining, “It’s funny–well maybe not funny per se but strangely ironic?–I’m supposed to move to San Francisco next week, but if my car’s stolen, I’ll move here since I don’t need one in this city.” She realized she wouldn’t mind staying another night, or indefinitely thereafter.

Halfway through a sandwich of fontina on grilled sourdough and a consolatory (but completely frivolous) lemon martini, LMK’s phone rang. It was the officer who had so impressed her with his delivery of insults in an authentic New York accent.

Her car had been entered to the system as having New York plates.

After finishing lunch, LMK walked halfway to the Brooklyn Navy Pier impound lot then allowed a cab to take her the rest of the way, in the interest of time (but not of safety, as she felt perfectly immune to harm walking along sidestreets). The process of getting her car back was bureaucratic. The trailer office was chilly, and staff would disappear for long periods. LMK searched for them to return to their stations through the large window that divided the waiting room from the often empty office and finally stared at hand-written signs taped to face out the window instructing her, “Do not step up to window without being called. Stand on the T on the floor. Please.” She lamented the futility of double-underlining every word, posting two such signs saying the same thing next to each other, and using a T to indicate where to stand instead of, say, an I or even a more interesting S, which seemed to work for airport security and rollercoaster lines. She also fantasized about asking the gentleman behind her to blow his nose and the gentleman behind him to stop popping his gum. But all things said, it was not as expensive as she expected. (If you must know: $185.)

LMK decided to leave the city via both the Williamsburg Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, and it was timed so perfectly as to join rush-hour traffic and linger with her foot on the brakes while she watched the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty. She looked down on the South Street Seaport, where the Salon Perdu tent had been erected for a New Yorker Festival panel discussion of magic (with sleight of hand demonstrations and free mimosas), and over at the runners crossing the pedestrian bridge. Once across, LMK couldn’t help but look back.

NYPD impound lot entrance, from behind it. The office was a trailer. No frivolous spending here…
Photobucket

Advertisements