This year is already going down in history as a bitterly unpleasant one. America and the world are in varying states of conflict with no easy resolutions being offered. While the U.S. humiliates itself with the buffoonery of its current political climate, many parts of the world have it much worse. Conflict-rich New York City appears as a calm oasis in the midst of this storm, which speaks volumes about the unfortunate state of our world.
New York City is its own universe at war with itself in so many ways already, it’s hard to get caught up in the Sturm Und Drang of a political season that will be here again in four years anyway. Admittedly, this election has added some excitement and unpredictability, but whatever revolutions were alive in the primaries are over.
This year’s Presidential election is likely the most contentious once since 1968, which saw widespread race riots and the assassination of the leading Democratic candidate. We’ve had nothing of that scale here, at least not yet. And this is the first time since 1944 that both major-party candidates are from New York. We’d have every reason to feel like this is New York’s moment to play an outsized role in the national dialogue. But New York already views itself as the center of human civilization, and the overall disaffection with the choices in this year’s election is felt here as elsewhere. New Yorkers were weary of these candidates long before this year’s election.
So the average New York City resident does little but shake their head at the politics being played out on our televisions and news feeds. We already have things to hate each other for. The city is full of despicable people who come from all ends of the political spectrum. We don’t need to pass judgement on one another’s politics; we’re already judging each other by a myriad of other criteria. People who are not activists are largely, and for their own benefit, disengaged from the process. We’ll hold our noses and vote for someone in November, but until then leave us alone.
The summer is a time when one needs to leave the city in order to preserve one’s sanity. Everything is worse when drenched in heat and humidity, and this summer has been exceedingly hot, with 90+ degree heat for days and weeks at a time. We can’t seem to catch a break. New York magnifies the worst of the oppressive weather, and the dense population make city life a sojourn to Hades in these months.
Lots of people head north at some point. It’s cooler the farther north you get. I dream of living somewhere in the mountains or the woods in reaches hours north of New York by car. I envision a family compound with room for many guests, enough land to hunt on, and a writing office stocked with hunting trophies and miles of books. Then I snap out of this and realize I’ve been dozing off on my feet on the 7 train crammed next to other sullen commuters.
New Yorkers follow the edict that’s used often in the military: “embrace the suck.” We are going to be hot and miserable for several months, so just accept that level of misery for what it is and wait for the fall when New York is much more pleasant.
This short story is now for sale on Amazon, so buy it. It will be the best 99 cents you ever spend. This story was inspired by my year working as a bank teller right after graduating college. I hated that job. I hated dealing with the awful customers who wanted their egos stroked. I hated the provincial attitudes of many of the people I worked with. Looking back on it now, I realize that I was still a bit immature and I could have been better at my job. Luckily I left before going crazy. I thought up a plan to rob the bank, not because I intended to ever rob a bank, but because it would have made for an interesting novel. I still have a lot of notes from my bank robbing novel that I intendeded to write, and maybe I’ll come back to it. It would be a perverse, crime-ridden On The Road (what great American novel since 1957 doesn’t aspire to be the next On The Road?).
But here is ‘Big Plans.’ It’s a funny short story that you will enjoy. If you’ve ever worked a job you hate (and who hasn’t?), you will be able to relate. It also has excellent artwork by Sergio Zuniga.
When I moved back to New York City years ago, one of the greatest benefits was that I didn’t need a car.
My luck with cars has been terrible. My first car, a 1987 Plymouth Horizon, broke down constantly. I was a broke college student who couldn’t afford a new head gasket when my car put itself out of its misery via self immolation.
I bought my second vehicle from a shirtless man in the back woods of Georgia who was drunk at two in the afternoon and called his son “Molson” even though that wasn’t his name. My giant 1977 Plymouth Voyager van was mustard yellow with a big white strip. If you viewed it at the right angle you could still make out the lettering from the church that used to own it. It didn’t perform much better than my old Horizon. Its drive shaft fell off on Interstate 285 in Atlanta once.
My 15-year car-free life came to an end a few years ago when the wife and I bought a used truck. I don’t live in Manhattan anymore and Eastern Queens is not as much of an automotive purgatory as Manhattan. And being involved in music means I have to haul large speaker cabinets, guitars and drunk musicians throughout and beyond the five boroughs.
But the conveniences of city car ownership are paid for with the wages of anger and aggravation.
The roads are full of bad drivers and New York City is rife with people who not only drive terribly but feel entitled to do so. I’ve seen people in Inwood triple park rather than walk an extra 20 feet to a supermarket. I’ve seen cab drivers wait until they have a red light to drive across an intersection.
And parking in New York City is a misery that never goes away unless you are somehow incredibly wealthy. The city’s parking laws are a Byzantine morass of prohibitions that are consistently poorly-signed. A liberal interpretation of a sign can get you a fat ticket or worse, towed. I have not had the experience of paying vehicular ransom at a city impound lot, but every account I have heard from survivors indicates it is a Kafkaesque nightmare that can make someone hate our city for life.
My wife has lived in the co-op apartment we share for more than twelve years and was on a waiting list for a parking space for five years.
We thought our parking troubles were mostly over. We have a regular space. But the perpetual douchery of New York City driving revealed itself again just this past weekend.
My wife had taken our baby girls to visit relatives in Nassau County and returned home from three hours of tied-up traffic on the Long Island Expressway. to find someone had parked in our spot.
Normally the travails of someone with a reserved parking spot would fall firmly in the confines of “First World Problems.” But when you’ve waited five years for that spot and you’re a barely middle-class family with no margin for parking tickets or private garages and someone rudely parks their Mercedes Benz in your spot, violence is justified.
If someone had left a note on the car with their contact info and let us call them to move the car, it would have been no problem. We would have been annoyed but impressed by their willingness to be decent upon notice. Because of the late hour and our building management’s inability to get a towing company right, we were stuck without legal parking for the night.
Normally this would be license to get creative with vandalism. If this car had a sunroof, my dream of justifiable shitting through a sunroof of a snotty dickhead’s car would have finally been realized. I would have loved to stick bananas in the tailpipe, pissed all over the door handles and leave a steaming log of justice on the windshield. It would have given me joy to superglue some tasteless gay porn all over the windows and scratched giant curse words into the expensive paint job.
But since our space is reserved, the authorities would have us as their prime suspects easily. There was little we could do but leave a tersely-worded note stating that they were parked illegally and we had been forced to call the towing service (which was true, even though the towing service was out of business).
So justice has not been served. If you see a dark-colored Mercedes Benz S550 with New York license plate FTX-2898, please vandalize the shit out of it. Thank you.