Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's August in Greenwich...Where is Everyone?

Well, I'll give you a clue: not here. When I got to Town Hall yesterday, there was *no line* at all. Astounding. The day before (7/31) the wait was over an hour and a half, according to the two clerks on duty (the third was on a coffee break, of course). One can posit two reasons for this phenomenon: 1) people don't read the fine print on their tax bills, which says that you have until August 1st to pay without penalty; or 2) it is social death to be seen in town during the month of August.

Both explanations no doubt have some validity, but the latter one probably prevails. We all know that Parisians are wont to "foutre le camp" during August, and of late the same has been true here in Greenwich as well. Which is a tad odd, as the amenities here - beaches, islands, ferryboats, concerts in the park by the water, etc. - are equal if not superior to those available almost anywhere else. To me, this has always been the kind of place I want to come to during August, not get away from. But we do have a large French-speaking community in town (and a very active chapter of the Alliance Francaise), so perhaps they have persuaded their American friends that being in town this month is simply not comme il faut.

Which is why when I went to Greenwich Avenue yesterday to buy the soon-to-be-rare First Edition of Diana Peterfreund's book, there were a gazillion empty parking places. Of the many dozen available near the bookstore, I chose a nicely shaded one with time still left on the meter. I almost parked parallel to the curb, thereby taking up three spaces, just because I could. But with my luck, one of the sub-human specimens of the GG would come along while I was in the bookstore and rustle up a tow truck to disappear my car on a charge of improper parking, or some such. So I stayed between the pretty white lines and abided by the applicable laws and regulations (except the one that says you are technically not allowed to use someone else's leftover meter time - you're supposed to put in your own quarter. Note: the more recently-installed parking meters automatically reset themselves to "expired" when they sense a car pulling out of the space - after all, Greenwich needs the money - ::cough, cough::).

Anyhow, let me encourage any and all to come to town while the arrivistes and parvenus are out of the way (guess I'm in a Francophone mood/mode today). Most of the locals are still here, and it's almost like we have our town back again, just like in the good old pre-yuppy days.

Today is another scorcher, hotter even than yesterday. And just to show that my comment then about Greenwich not being immune from power outages is true, the radio this morning said that 200 homes in the burg were juiceless as of 7 AM. The library (one of our four, in this case the main one) has turned off about half the overhead lights as a nod in the direction of energy conservation. So I have moved to a computer nearer to the windows, where I can watch all the smoke-spewing diesel trucks and gas-guzzling SUVs go by. Let it not be said that Greenwich does not contribute more than its fair share to the greenhouse effect....

Alas, it is now time for me to go out and play in the heat and the traffic. Each is bad enough by itself, but the combination is more execrable than words can describe. And there seems to be no end in sight: the weather may eventually cool off by December or thereabouts, but the traffic simply gets worse, week by week, month by month. If one extrapolates the trends of the past 20 years or so, it is clear that total gridlock will prevail in about 20 more. Maybe *then* the town fathers will finally listen to my long-standing proposal that we ban cars from the downtown area and bring back the trolleys we used to have - just as many European cities have done in their central business districts. Imagine Greenwich Avenue as a pedestrian mall - wouldn't it be great? No more fistfights over parking places, no more spandex mommies in their SUVs idling in the lanes of travel waiting for a lesser mortal to vacate a space, no more meter feeding to rent the primo spots for half a day or more. Why, even the locals might start coming back to Greenwich Avenue to shop.

For the time being, however, we tend to quote Yogi Berra: no one goes there anymore - it's too crowded. (Except, of course, in August - I wonder if some of the chic boutiques hanging by an economic thread may finally wake up to the fact that paying $100+ per square foot to some rapacious landlord is not a guarantee of untold riches for life. Even some of the chains have recently begun to leave the Avenue - what a great reversal of the trend of the past several decades! Maybe there's still some hope that Greenwich will avoid the fate of Westport and other towns that have recently turned into outdoor malls....)

1 Comments:

Blogger John R. Roberson said...

Those of us who are wise enough to stay in Greenwich in August have among our many rewards the pleasure of driving on streets relatively empty of the SUV's. Have they really enticed their owners to try the forest roads they were supposedly built for?
Or have they simply run out of $3.50 gas? Whatever, my Prius exults in August.
-- Doysteer

August 23, 2006 1:43 PM  

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