George Sarant

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DON’T DRIVE IN NEW YORK CITY

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The other night we went to the Metropolitan Opera, holding some of the best seats in the house,  looking forward to a nice night on the town. It wasn’t. The restaurant we ate at close to Lincoln Center was the noisiest place I’ve ever been and it was impossible to carry on a conversation with everyone else shouting to be heard above the racket. Then the opera, Die Fledermaus, was presented in English and took considerable liberties with the libretto. Opera sung in English always sounds stupid to me, and there’s no reason for it since they stream translations across the back of the seat in front of you. 

Every time I’ve been there I look at the hall and think why can’t we do better than this modern blank edifice, say like the old Met, vastly superior halls in Europe or even in other cities in the US. That is also true of the other venues, including what was Avery Fischer Hall, now renamed David Geffen hall, but is still just Philharmonic Hall to me. I don’t see why anyone should get a tax deduction for plastering their name all over things; the ego gratification doesn’t warrant it. If you’re coming to visit New York you can skip Lincoln Center, except for the overall architectural view; the individual halls are nothing to write home about. 

Earlier in the evening I thought I was lucky to find a parking space like in the old days before they stuck meters on everything, so I could avoid paying $46 for a garage. There was absolutely nothing to indicate the parking was illegal so I thought I was home free. But after the concert when we got to the spot the car was gone; either stolen or towed. I called the city number and yes, it had been towed, for allegedly parking in a bus stop. However there was not a single sign indicating that, and there was no yellow line on the sidewalk, so there was absolutely nothing to show it was allegedly a bus stop. But the damage was done, we had to grab a cab and head for the 38th street pier to retrieve the car after paying a $185 towing fee, and there was also a $115 ticket on the car on top of that. Most of the people there after midnight were clueless out-of-towners with rental cars that had been towed. This is nothing but a revenue racket, and the appeal process is deliberately convoluted. 

It was 1 AM when we finally got home, and due to alternate side parking I had to find a space on one side of the street. I drove around and around several blocks but there were no spaces, even on the wrong side. Finally after half an hour I found a small space I had to squeeze into with only inches to spare, and still on the wrong side so I would have to move the car in the morning. 

Last week we were on our way to another event but never got there because I hit some sort of obstruction that wasn’t there before nor was it demarcated and had to get two new wheels. 

The point of all of this is that this city not only discourages cars, it is hostile to them. On that basis don’t drive in New York City. Those of us who are natives have to live with this, but travelers beware. Something is bound to go wrong and spoil your evening, never mind being shaken down for parking, and honestly there’s nothing that great here anyway.  

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