Monday, September 22, 2008

Keep Dreaming: From Fantasy to Reality

If you work a traditional Monday-to-Friday work week, you know that Monday can be difficult. Even though I don't have a soul, I think that most people do. I also think that the soul is kind of an amorphous blob but that during the work week many people are forced to cram that blob into the Jell-o mold of structure and pretense, which is why it feels so good to pop out of it for a couple of days. Of course, conversely, it hurts that much more when you have to stuff it back in on Monday. This is especially true for cyclists, who after a couple of days of epic two-wheeled conquests must return to the mold, their legs sore, their appetites raging, and their pride back in check. (Obviously this doesn't hold true for people like messengers, who ride all week long. Or for the unemployed. Then again, what's the difference between the two, really?)

In the spirit of kicking off a weekend of fantasy, this past Friday was PARK(ing) Day. Basically, what this meant was a bunch of people in different cities took over parking spaces and turned them into little temporary parks. (Or, more accurately, just did weird stuff in them.) The idea as I understand it was to help people imagine all the other things you can do on the side of the road besides just leaving cars there, and how much better the world would be if the streets were lined with freaks instead of Hondas.

Frankly, I don't have much of a problem with parking cars in parking spaces (so long as drivers enter them carefully and don't heedlessly fling their doors open into traffic), so I wasn't especially moved by PARK(ing) Day. As far as I'm concerned it's the people who park in the middle of the street that are the real problem. If every driver parked in an actual parking space that would be a tremendous improvement in itself. Unfortunately, in New York City that's not the case, and there is absolutely no place here that a person will not leave a car. It's actually quite common to see someone stop an Escalade in the middle of the street and leave it running with the door open while he runs into a bodega. (In New York, this is an expression of self-importance--it's the motor vehicle equivalent of sitting with your legs wide open and taking up two subway seats.)

Still, though, I suppose I can kind of see the appeal. After all, every day in New York is Bike Lane Appropriation Day. Among the activities taking place in New York City bike lanes this morning were moving into (or perhaps, given the economy, out of) expensive Brooklyn brownstones:


and riding stupid mopeds. (I thought I was being attacked by a lawn edger when this contraption overtook me.)


And as far as stopping your car wherever you want, there was this guy from Jersey, who sat camped out on the divider between Sands Street and the BQE entrance ramp near the Manhattan Bridge while he got directions on his cellphone:

So I'd like to get behind PARK(ing) Day, if only to force people to drink the same swill of liquid annoyance and inconvenience they make us chug every day. Unfortunately, having now viewed the Streetsfilm of PARK(ing) day in New York City, I can find very little around which to rally. In fact, if I'd encountered one of the appropriated parking spaces shown in the film I'd probably have been horrified and made every attempt to get as far away from it as possible. Here are some examples:

Here we have a greenhouse or a nursery or an arboretum or something. I realize a lot of people get tremendously excited around plants for some reason, but in this case I mostly just see a leafy obstruction. It's bad enough I have to worry about getting "doored" all the time; this installation opens up the possibility of getting "planted" as well.

These people took over a parking space up by Columbia University to have a "fancy party." If there's one thing New York has way, way too much of it's overpriced "brunch" spots serving eggs Benedict to hung-over wealthy people. It's also bad enough that many of these establishments don't have the decency to keep their clientele inside and out of sight, and instead set up tables for them to dine on the sidewalk. So the thought of "brunch" actually spilling over past the curb and into the street is almost too sickening to bear. Then again, it is kind of nice to see them in the gutter. Still, though, I'd much rather have streets lined with cars than with rich people dining decadently. At least stray cats can sleep under cars.

Unlike normal entertainers who are actually sought out, street entertainers do stupid things nobody wants to watch, and as such they must perform in crowded public places so people who don't particularly want to be entertained are forced to look at them anyway. And when it comes to people who make you watch what they're doing, jugglers rank just a tiny bit above mimes and flashers. Creating spaces in which jugglers are free to congregate and fling things up into the air publicly instead of in their homes where they belong can only lead to an explosion of mimes, flashers, hacky-sackers, human statues, naked cowboys, and people who drum on buckets that will facilitate New York City's transformation from a cultural capital into a giant liberal arts college campus.

I don't understand tea. I know people say tea is relaxing, or soothing, or healing, but that's not true in my experience. To me, it's just hot water that tastes vaguely like something else. Of course, I realize it's possible this is because I don't have a soul to soothe, but nonetheless I suspect the power of tea is something people believe in just because other people believe it too. Drinking tea is kind of like when you buy a hallucinogen, aren't sure if it's real or not, and sit around waving your hand in front of your face waiting for something to happen. (I think I saw a trail!) If I drink something I like it to have an immediate and irrefutable effect, like liquor does. I suppose there are certain laxative teas that might have an immediate effect, but that's something else entirely. In any case, I wasn't "moved" by the tea party. (Laxative teas notwithstanding.)

As ridiculous as some of the other parking spaces were, at least they didn't involve motor vehicles. I'm not sure what the point of this one is--it just looks like a car wash. Then again, you have to feel compassionate towards the people of Queens, who have been so molested by cars over the years that it's probably impossible for them to conceptualize anything that doesn't involve them somehow. They can't not think about cars. It's sort of like how the theme of death inevitably appears in the films of Ingmar Bergman.

Ah, yes, public meditation. How spiritual. This is perfect in Williamsburg, where you aren't doing something if the rest of the neighborhood can't see you doing it too.

Finally, something I can get behind! This parking space even had an internet connection. That's me waving on the right.

I can also get behind the "Green the Ghetto" concept, though my own green-themed parking spot in Park Slope didn't go over so well. Of course, that might be because I put a different spin on "green." No sooner had I finished setting up my space than my bong was confiscated, my inflatable lounge chair was deflated, and my cable TV hookup was disconnected. (Emboldened by visions of a car-free future I had taken the liberty of splicing into someone's line.) I was right in the middle of "Family Guy" too! Man, those Park Slope mommies can be sooo touchy.

Thank goodness for that free wi-fi over at the Park n' Write, where I spent the rest of the day watching YouTube videos, being green, and partying like it was a Wednesday.

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