"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman
Saturday, September 20, 2003
as i was saying...
drew and i took my 1976 datsun B210 to syracuse to move some stuff for my brother whilst he interned in ohio. [incidentally, it being my first car i had to name it, and her name was yaz pistachio. 10 points to the first person who gets that reference without having to search google.]
the map my brother provided worked fine until we hit the syracuse city limits and found out that the city fathers had implemented a massive upgrade of the highway system in, through, and around the city. after an hour or so of detours, we made it to his apartment.
like most city centers and college towns i've seen, parking near the apt was at a premium. i drove to the end of the block and found a mostly vacant gravel parking lot with an honest-to-god parking attendant booth containing a real live human being. i asked if we could park the car until 7 or so the next morning, and the man in the booth nodded.
and the gods snickered under their breath...
the entire contents of my brother's apartment consisted of one or two dozen cardboard boxes of his stuff, and mattress. my brother's apt was across the street from bragg's, a restaurant owned by the artist of the same name. drew and i had recently attained legal drinking status in the fine state of new york, and had even more recently attained a huge appetite borne of being in a car for six hours, so off we went to an evening full of beer and food and laughter, and more of each. somewhere around dessert the skies opened up (i seem to recall syracuse being one of those cities where it rains 423 days a year), so the trip back across the street was enough to soak us to the marrow. drunk, bloated, and drenched, i fell asleep looking forward to moving my brother's stuff in the rain under the pall of the impending hangover.
morning broke yellow and runny like the last egg rolling off the kitchen counter and hitting the floor, spattering your shoes with the last hopes of a hot breakfast. no, seriously, that was how it felt. worse than the hangover, the sky did not even have the decency to remain dull and cloudy. no. it was sunny and painfully, metallically white, the kind of bright that seeps in around your closed eyelids and runs slivers into your pupils.
i left drew at the apt and went down the block to the parking lot.
which was not where i had left it the previous evening. so i cursed my hangover and my confusion and the sun and syracuse in general and walked back the OTHER way, to the parking lot.
which was definitely not there either.
a block in the original direction then. to where i had parked my car.
no car. no parking lot. the lizard brain inside, the part that likes to sleep, especially through hot bright mornings in strange cities, crept to the forefront and peeked sleepily out through my eye sockets. "mmmgggmmm," it said. "shut up," i replied, "we have a situation."
"shut up. i've lost the parking lot. it had my car in it. i need to find the parking lot."
indeed, there was, across the street, not far from a rumbling bulldozer [bulldozer? danger, will robinson!], a pile of wood that was somehow familiar. as if it might have been, in a previous life . . .
a parking lot attendant's booth.
i checked my watch. 7 am.
i stepped over the wood and approached the hard hat on the bulldozer. it seemed the parking lot had been scheduled for demolition, and had been closed for days. someone had apparently taken down the chain across the entrance. possibly the same someone who had been loitering in the now defunct attendant's booth and had assured me i could park there, free of charge.
[it should be noted that i could not recall this mystery attendant's appearance for love nor money. which is probably a good thing, because at that point i would have devoted my life to hunting him down like the one-armed man; and when i found him, i would have done unspeakable things to him involving toothpicks and an EZ Bake Oven.]
mr. bulldozer informed me that university facilities had had my datsun towed to an undisclosed location. i panicked. this was a strange city (getting stranger), what would happen to yaz? would she think i'd abandoned her? would she forgive? would she run off to canada and get funny plates?
i left the gravel-pit-nee-parking lot and collected drew. he took the news with that complacent, confused acceptance characteristic of the recently awokened and hungover - like i could have informed him that in our stupor last night we had joined the french foreign legion - and we traversed the campus for an hour until we located the facilities building, which was closed for the weekend. then we trudged back to the security administration, who said that yes, they were the evildoers who had towed my car.
drew was recouping in the lobby. i was sweating that horrible beer sweat. "thank god," i said, "can i have my car back please?"
from the skies above, more snickerring.
"we don't have it"
it seemed my car was now in the possession of the tow truck company, as syracuse university, thanks to the brilliant idea of completely reconstructing every square mile of the city at the same time, didn't have an unobstructed lot in which to store seized vehicles.
a taxi was summoned to take us to yaz. picture this: i stink of beer, rain, sweat, panic, and no shower; so does drew. we are in the back of a taxi without AC, staring wildly, trying to memorize the route from the campus to the impound lot as our driver takes detour after detour past machines pouring tarmac in the syracuse summer heat.
up above, the sniggering and snickerring has become outright guffawing.
mr. impound lot wants $50 for my car. after paying for the taxi, i have $40 in my pocket. yaz is shooting me pleading looks from between a very big lincoln and yellow chevy that looks like she's been around the block a few times. i feel like the 98-lb. weakling having sand kicked in his face while the bullies tease his girl. mr. impound lot doesn't want to hear my sob story. he wants $50 dollars. i only have 40, i tell him. then i don't have a car, he tells me.
there is now uncontrollable laughter bellowing from the skies.
and then i remember. i produce my dad's amex card.
somewhere in the skies, the laughter stopped abruptly, and a voice with a slight northumberland accent said "oh. forgot about that."
so drew, yaz, and i made our way back to the apt (thanks to using all remaining brain cells to memorize the route), and packed up my brother's stuff, and moved it all into his new house. while we unloaded boxes into his new bedroom, we made several trips past his new housemate, who sat completely motionless, dressed in fatigues, with a cane in his left hand and a patch over his right eye, staring at the HO train layout dominating the livingroom. normally, we would have been nervous about a semicomotose one-eyed cane-clutching man obsessing over a model railroad. but drew and i were now veterans of the syracuse mindwarp, and were immune to off-beat grad students.
afternoon, and time to drive back to long island. five miles onto the northway, i got pulled over for doing 70 miles an hour in a 55mph zone. as i drove off, citation in hand, i heard a chuckle from somewhere up above.