We park our car on Lena’s Place. This is not the actual name of the street. The actual name is Huntington Street, and we park in the alleyway that dead-ends at the Gowanus Canal, with cement factories on either side and the elevated F-line subway looming overhead, wrapped in its protective black matting to prevent chunks of decaying concrete from falling on peoples heads (and cars).
The block where we park is not a pleasant block. There are piles of broken glass, random garbage, heaps of charred refuse. Lots of used condoms. With no residents, no one seems overly concerned that the city does not in fact clean this particular block. Ever. Which is why we park there: anywhere else and we’d have to move the car for weekly alternate-side street cleaning. But not on Lena’s Place. Also, the street is wide enough that we are less likely to get sideswiped and lose a mirror than on other blocks.
The reason we call this block Lena’s Place is because that’s a better name than Crack Alley, which is what we were calling it before. I have never actually seen anyone do crack on Lena’s Place, but it seems like the sort of thing one would do there, or the sort of place where one would do that sort of thing.
In any case, Lena’s Place was the name we gave to a restaurant in our little neighborhood of Seoksu Sam-dong back in Korea. We never worked out the restaurant’s proper name, but for some time we’d been calling it the Staring Place, in reference to an uncomfortable meal we’d eaten there during which an elderly Korean woman sat across from us and watched the entire time, occasionally giving us complex verbal instructions that we obviously couldn’t understand. The restaurant was, however, not half bad, plus they had worked out how to deliver to our apartment without giving us trouble. So we decided we needed a better name for the joint than The Staring Place. It turned out that the owners were the parents of one of my students, a young girl who used Lena as her English name (so we didn’t even have her name right). In honor of this middling student whom I occasionally caught cheating, we began referring to the restaurant as Lena’s Place rather than The Staring Place.
Unfortunately, renaming can take you only so far. When I went out to the car today to run some errands, I found that the window on the passenger-side door had been smashed in, filling the interior of our car with tiny bits of glass. The vandals had stolen almost nothing — our change tray was tossed on the floor and the change was gone, but a dollar bill was left sitting on the seat, as was a pile of admittedly not very marketable CDs — Pimsleur Russian, a Boss Hog album, some Central Asian music. But the window was gone, glass was everywhere, and worse yet, there were downy feathers all over the interior of the car. Either some pigeons flew in and made sweet love, or else the vandal tore his down jacket on the broken glass. I hope it was the latter, both because that’s far less disgusting and because the fucker deserved it.
Fortunately our insurance will cover it. I sort of assumed that if we parked on the street, eventually we would lose a window, so I got the deductible waiver for glass repair. I took it to a place on Fourth Ave. where a pleasant, balding fellow named Mohamed took care of everything in a couple of hours.
So with all the windows back in place, I took the car back home and parked it — where else? — right back on Lena’s Place.