Arrived in New York (I think) August 13th, here in Florida, which is about an hour and a half northwest of New York City, depending on the traffic and how effective we are at controlling our fear of death (more on that later). We had high hopes for Black Bear Campground, given its location well off the highwayand the often-breathtaking beauty of the surrounding countryside. But the campground itself isn’t exactly maintained very well, and the water pressure (I use that word, pressure, very loosely here) vacillates between weak and virtually non-existent. We weren’t too happy when the management (again, a word I am using very loosely) suggested we had a kinked water hose or some sort of obstruction in our system. I tried to explain that the kink and/or obstruction had a strange habit of un-kinking and/or un-obstructing at regular intervals, then re-kinking and/or re-obstructing again. Strange. They finally admitted that their well pump and/or tank had a problem, and they’d get right on it. That was the day we arrived. They finally got right on it about a week ago, and we’ve noticed even less overall pressure than before. They’re a little irate that we keep mentioning how hard it is to take a shower in trickling water. “That’s why your RV came with a water pump!” the maintenance man quips. Jeanie and I laugh along with him so as to disguise our gritting teeth. I thank God it only takes thirty minutes to fill our fresh water tank every other day (recalling that we have to fill it from the existing water supply, which, again, is generally a trickle).
But enough of all this negativity. Let me tell you about the bone-jarring holes in the roads (we wondered why the mechanics we occasionally saw working at auto repair places were usually smiling) and how we’ve been paying $7 a day in tolls for the privelege of driving on them. And don’t get me started about the drivers here. We will sometimes see a state trooper handing out a ticket to some hapless driver, and Jeanie and I will look at each other and shake our heads confusedly…because we can’t figure out what the driver could possibly have done to earn a citation. Here are the facts: the speed limit on most of the roads is either 55 or 65. But it doesn’t matter, because drivers here are routinely doing 80-90, even in ostensible work zones, where the limit drops to 45. Our first day commuting, Jeanie and I were pushed out of the fast lane by a line of cars easily doing 85–led by a state trooper! So, speed isn’t an issue. How about reckless driving? Fuhgeddaboudit. Cars shipped to New York have all apparently had their turn signals removed, and the word tailgating doesn’t seem to have an equivalent in either Yiddish or New York-ese languages. They either don’t require eye tests for their licenses, or don’t require the tests to be passed. People here are probably wondering what those funny-looking white lines running down the road are for; they certainly can’t have anything to do with operating your vehicle safely. In fact, the prevailing sentiment around here seems to be that safety is for wussies. Ditto for observing traffic laws. Jeanie and I have a favorite intersection a few blocks from where Jeanie’s son Aaron and his wife Thiara and son Brando live. It has two straight-thru lanes, plus a left-turn lane on the–well–left. We take the left lane because it turns onto the on-ramp for I-87 which runs parallel with Manhattan on the Bronx side of the Harlem River. We’ve rarely been able to use the green arrow for turning, because the intersection is routinely blocked by oncoming traffic. Horns are blaring non-stop. By the time the traffic has cleared the intersection, we still can’t go, because a line of cars has formed to our right, in the middle drive-thru lane, but they’ve decided they want to turn left, too, and they have no problem butting their noses right into traffic, expecting that everyone else will clear the way for them. Too often, that’s exactly what happens. People might be irate about such behavior, but no one seems to care about it enough to do more than honk the horn and glare at the drivers, who couldn’t care less about what anybody else thinks. Oh, and I forgot to mention the “train effect.” If you are within a few inches of the car in front of you (which you generally are, because it’s your habit to tailgate that closely), then it’s understood that you are now a part of that car, much like the cars on a train, for traffic light purposes. Which is to say, you are now entitled to follow that car through the intersection, even if the light is clearly red. You see, the police in New York have a lot of more important things to do than enforce these silly traffic laws. The weird thing is: everyone’s doing it, so no one really gets too upset when someone else does it to them. It’s just the way things are around here.
And one last thing: the parking. You get fined for parking a car in New York. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Here’s why. NYC cleans its streets twice weekly, on a rotating basis: Tuesdays and Fridays, it’s the South and East sides of the street; Mondays and Thursdays, it’s the North and the West sides. You can’t park your car on the side of the street being cleaned from 11am to 12:30 pm. Wouldn’t be a problem, except there are only two parking spaces in Manhattan for every six hundred or so cars. And that’s during those times when the streets aren’t being cleaned. Imagine, then, the mess that occurs at 11 am on every weekday except Wednesday, when it’s suddenly illegal to park your car on half of the supposedly available city streets! But New Yorkers are resourceful. No problem, they say. They merely move their cars to the other side of the street and double park for an hour and a half. And if you happen to be one of the poor SOBs parked on the inside and need to get away between 11 am and 12:30 pm, well you can just–fuhgeddaboudit. Yeah, it’s illegal, but the cops, recall, are too busy chasing crooks. Most of them, anyway. You’ll still get a ticket for parking on the cleaning-side of the street, because now you’re blocking the street cleaning machines, who squirt a little water in the gutters as they pass by, and swish it around with their rotating brushes. I thought I was really lucky one day, I found a sweet spot right in front of the kids’ apartment on the correct side of the street. No need to come out at eleven and drive around for an hour and a half. I couldn’t believe my luck. When I came out later that afternoon, I found a ticket in the window. Turns out there was an indentation in the curb alongside the truck which the locals were calling a “pedestrian access.” No signs. No markings. Cost us $165.
Okay, now for the good stuff. New York, in fact most of New England, is flat-out gorgeous. Enough that Jeanie and I are very seriously considering settling down here after we’ve worked this wanderlust out of our systems (and our grandkids have grown to the point that they’d rather not have us come and smother them with hugs and kisses and gifts). I’ll throw some pictures up here after I’ve had a chance to dink with them a little in Photoshop. What comes to mind? History, the sense that you’re somehow a participant (however distant in time you are) in events that shaped early America. Very little of the topography around here has changed over the last 300 years, and many of the structures built back even before the Revolutionary War are still standing. Stick your head inside one of these gargantuan Colonial houses, and you can imagine George Washington himself standing right next to you (chances are, he might actually have been there at one time…the old man really got around!). There are battlegrounds, cemeteries…well, just tons of stuff to keep a history buff (which I never knew I was; and which Jeanie has always been!) busy for years and years to come.
More later, and pictures too!