In A New York Minute

My daughter Kiri came back to the States last week after a year and a half working in China, and my nephew Evan got married this past Sunday. Kiri’s flight from Shanghai landed at JFK in New York — it was the cheapest flight back to the States she could find — and the wedding was in Bedford, MA, so Julie and I made a combined expedition, picking Kiri up in New York, then driving up to Massachusetts for the wedding.

Except that gave us a couple of days in between, and I used one of them to meet with my editor and my agent in New York, and visit the Tor offices.

Our stay in New York had its weird moments. We stayed at the Jamaica Super 8 in eastern Queens, just off the Van Wyck Expressway, convenient to JFK — and if you ever want a decent place to stay in New York and don’t need to be in Manhattan, I recommend it, as the room was generously sized, the continental breakfast was far better than most, it’s convenient to the E train and the LIRR, the whole place was spotlessly clean, and there really is free parking.

However, there isn’t much free parking, so you need a permit from the front desk to display on your dashboard, and you may need to squeeze into an oddly-located space. We have a minivan — a very small and maneuverable one by minivan standards, but it’s still a minivan, and after fetching Kiri from JFK we arrived at the hotel to find exactly two spaces left, and getting into one of them proved flat-out impossible, as we would have had to drive along the sidewalk, squeeze between a pickup truck and a lamppost, and make a right-angle turn.

We tried. Couldn’t do it. So we took the other, next to the trash bins at the back, which didn’t smell as good but was more accessible.

By the time we were parked, someone had squeezed a sports car into the spot we couldn’t get.

(Later the oversized pick-up left, and it was easy.)

Anyway, our plan for Thursday was to leave the car in Queens and go into Manhattan by subway, then come back out and drive north across the Whitehurst Bridge and head for New England. Which, in fact, is exactly what we did. However, the question of just where we were going to leave the car was a bit tricky — the hotel would not allow us to leave it in their tiny, overcrowded lot after the official noon
check-out time. (Well, not unless we paid for another night in the room, which we weren’t about to do.)

Just across the street behind the hotel, though, was a typical Queens neighborhood of grubby little houses with a restaurant on the corner — think Aunt May’s house in “Spider-Man,” and you know the sort of neighborhood I mean, except that in this case there was also that restaurant, a rather uninviting Dominican place.

There was streetside parking there. It was all jammed full, of course, but there was streetside parking — and Julie noticed that the signs said no parking was permitted on the right side from 8:30 to
10:00 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, for street cleaning. Our day in New York was a Thursday.

So we decided we’d check out of the hotel around 10:00 and park there before it filled up.

And at 9:58 we climbed into the car, backed out of the space, wiggled out across the sidewalk, and exactly at 10:00 a.m. pulled up to the now-empty curb across from the hotel.

At 9:59 the whole curb, the whole block, was empty.

We were the second or third car to park there, right behind the first, with the second-or-third pulling in behind us more or less simultaneously with our own arrival.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the placement, as the front bumper was partially blocking someone’s narrow little driveway. (Again, see “Spider-Man” for the sort of driveway in question — the scene where
Peter and Mary Jane talk over the trash cans.) So Julie got out to guide me while I adjusted our position to maximize driveway access without hitting the car behind ours. It took, oh, maybe 90 seconds, at most.

By the time I got out of the car and locked it, at about 10:02, there wasn’t an unoccupied parking space on the entire block. We hadn’t seen anyone else arrive after the first three. We hadn’t seen any of the drivers walk away. They were just there.

It was really pretty amazing.

But there we were, with legal free parking. We walked three blocks to the Jamaica-Van Wyck subway station and we were off to Manhattan.

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