Van Chronicles – Chapter 13

I got my karma from here right to New York

By 1994, we’d moved from the house with the half court to a house in the next town over, inching ourselves closer to New York by eight miles, shaving two exits off the Merritt Parkway, heading in the New York direction. You’d have to know the Merritt to really appreciate just what a good feeling that is. It’s a beautiful highway. Wall to wall trees the length of that stretch – in midsummer it is a sea of green. That is its best feature by far: its sheer loveliness. Its worst feature is everything else. A divided four-lane highway, where the right driving lane doubles as the exit lane and exits came up rather frequently. The fewer of those exits you have to face when two or more cars are gathered together on the Merritt is directly proportional to the joy in your life.

On the night of the show, April 28, I was driving against traffic, so theoretically, it was going to be a piece of cake. There were just two things working against me – one: I’d never driven to New York before…oh, I’d been driven to New York, I’d just never been the one behind the wheel, and two: I was driving in solo, and to be honest, sense of place is not one of the cards I hold in my deck. I am directionally challenged, so not only do I not give directions, I also don’t take them. Well, I’ll take them – they just don’t do any good. But hey, how hard could it be – the streets are all numbered and go in order. Thoighty-thoid ’n’ thoid.

Actually, it is a piece of cake. The Merritt to the Saw Mill Parkway to the Henry Hudson and you’re there. Created for suburban drivers who like to cruise in. It’s the other highways and byways of New York that throw me – Major Deegan, the Throg’s Neck, the Cross-Bronx Expressway – get me outta here! But coming from Connecticut, Manhattan is a breeze.

I have a recollection of getting off the Henry Hudson and heading east on 79th Street, because I know I was sitting at the light thinking, so what’s the big deal about driving to New York? The Beacon Theater is at Broadway and 75th. How hard could that be? Seven blocks between here and there, and I’ve got ten minutes before I’m supposed to meet Dennis. Piece of cake.

And I’m sure it would have been except for the part where there was no left turn at whatever street it was I had been counting on getting one; because if I didn’t make that one, no telling where I might end up. My next mistake was to continue looking for that elusive first left. I was down in the sixties before it dawned on me that sometimes the quickest way to get to something two blocks on the left is to follow a concentric series of right turns. Enough of them and in theory, you will drive right by the place. Well, in theory, yes. In practice, I didn’t do quite as well as all that. It’s those one-way streets that are the killers. It’s not even funny that there simply does not exist a one-way street that is ever going in the direction I want it to be going in – ever. You’d think there would be – the law of averages and all. It does occur to me that the law of averages is skewed such that it shouldn’t be taken personally, as in, say there are 10 one-way streets, you’d think the law of averages would say, “On average, honey, you’ll get five going the right way and five going off the wrong way.” I don’t think it goes that way, though. The law of averages is saying to me, “Honey, you know those five one-ways going the right way, we’re going to take those off your hands and give them to Myrtle over there, and we’re going to give you her five that are going the wrong way. Trust me, it all balances out.”

So what can a girl do? Not drive a car in Manhattan seems like a good start. Feet are much better at one-way streets. At least mine are. I have never failed to remind myself of that anytime I happen to be driving a car in New York, which happens so rarely, it seems a bit of a waste of time to have a rule, but I have one anyways – park the car at the first opportunity – just get off the streets. I consider it my community service. Nobody wants me out there driving in New York. And honestly, I don’t blame them.

Notwithstanding my scenic tour of the Upper East Side that evening, by the time I got to within a ten-block radius of the Beacon Theatre, I was ready to jump car. I parked it in some garage I’d driven by about twenty minutes earlier. Still leaving plenty of time to hoof it over to the theater and get a drink in before the show.

to be continued …

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