Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Sometimes I'm absolutely amazed at how New York City does it. Eight million people are crammed into 305 square miles of space, and yet there's still room for parks, tourists, and the world's largest matzo ball. It's an organizational marvel that, day in and day out, those in charge try to screw up.

Take this past weekend. On Sunday our street had a festival known as a "block party." For those of you who live in the suburbs (as I used to), a block party is like a neighborhood cookout, but instead of cooking weenies and throwing around a football in someone's backyard, you do those things on the street. Sure, city dwellers do that sort of thing in the streets throughout the year, but on block party days they don't have to worry about being flattened into a pancake by a dump truck. That's because the block is closed off to cars for the day. No driving or even parking: violators either receive a ticket or have beer spilled all over their car.

Now, the block party isn't that bad of an idea. I guess someone could argue that it makes perfect sense to close a street to traffic all day long so that a handful of kids can bust open a fire hydrant and run around (until the fire department stops their fun). The loss of one block of one street won't matter much to anyone. However, as Jennifer and I pushed Kyle around the neighborhood Sunday, we noticed our street wasn't the only one closed off to traffic. One block up from ours was shut down. So was the street two blocks down. And another street after that. And another street after that. Even part of an avenue, one of the main transportation routes in our neighborhood, was closed off. Some brilliant person handling the permits allowed all these block parties to happen on the same day! And although it was mid-afternoon, none of these parties were in full swing yet, which meant the streets were barren except for the police blockades, taunting drivers passing by. The streets that were open were full of cars driving through the neighborhood maze, looking for a lone parking spot. If you were visiting our neighborhood on Sunday, the best place for parking probably was in New Jersey.

I have a car, and I use it to do simple things like visit the supermarket, go to church, and drive the occasional motor speedway race. I know the tricks of parking in the city, and I often find a spot relatively quickly. However, there have been a number of times when I've spent more than an hour looking for a spot, with our little guy crying in the back because he doesn't understand why his daddy keeps driving around in circles, mumbling nonsensical words to himself and screaming at pedestrians who walk out in front of green lights. It's a very pleasant experience. I made sure I didn't take my car anywhere this past weekend.

By nightfall, as those looking for legal spots gave up and parked on the sidewalk, the real festivities began. Our street had a band. A loud band that rattled our windows. It was like having a rock concert on the front lawn. I would have enjoyed it, had it not been eight o'clock. Kyle was wiped out and really needed to go to bed. So, while Jennifer rocked him and sang him a lullaby, the rest of the apartment rocked to "Burning Down the House." I suppose I could have called and complained, but that would require crossing the line separating "quickly aging parent" to "cranky gramps." I like to think I still have some youth in me, even if it's dissolving faster than snow in acid. Besides, I'm sure in the near future Kyle will get excited about these block parties, and we would feel awful if someone else spoiled the fun. So, I don't want to set a precedent just yet.

Then again, if a whiner shuts down our party, I suppose we could hit another one... just a block away.

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