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Bogart Stories

NYC in the 70s
The Parking Game

Living with Bogart


New York City in the 70's
Living with Bogart


 

New York City was an adventure with Bogart. At the time (1972) there were only 500 +/- Bouvs registered in the US.  He was a mystery to everyone on 76th street.  In our small  co-op he knew everyone's footsteps & didn't protest their  comings & goings but when I was out of town or simply not @  home, even the grocery boy had to leave his load @ the front door as Bogart wouldn't let him into the bldg, let alone into the apartment.

One evening as Carol walked him on the block, two men stopped on the other side of the street to look @ Carol.  Bogart noticed this, didn't like it, pulled away from Carol, crossed the street, planted his rather broad sumo-type body in front of these guys, growled & barked in a menacing fashion until they decided it was time to move on. Yet we had parties for 100 people or more & he was the perfect gentleman and bear skin rug.

One night I got called into work (CBS News) in the middle of the night so I took Bogart with me. The guard @ CBS stopped me in the lobby -- it was 2am -- to tell me that dogs weren't allowed in the broadcast center. Bogart was  sitting quietly at my side sans leash. 

I explained I  had to get to work, that elephants & other animals regularly  entered the bldg for the Ed Sullivan show & that I would be  responsible for him; I even volunteered to sign a note to  that effect. The guard wouldn't budge. So, finally in  desperation, I repeated that people were waiting for me & I would just have to leave Bogart with him. He looked Bogart in the eye & relented. So Bogart & I went to work on  Richard Nixon's first trip to China.

When we moved to the country in 1982, Bogart was all confused; everything was backwards for him so we got him a  puppy (Burton) who cheered him up, annoyed him & kept him active for a number of years. And Bogart taught Burton a  bunch of stuff simply by example.

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parking

The Parking Game
Bogart's friend, George Collins


 

In the early 70's we lived in a landmark 5 story co-op brownstone, circa 1898, on a landmark block, on Manhattan's west side.  There was one apartment per floor & we lived on the parlor floor (1st floor above street level - where guests were entertained in the old days). 

Above us lived the Collins(es) -- George & Marilyn, both very quiet, gentle people.

I think Marilyn was from Boston & I know George was from Brooklyn.  Marilyn was about a head taller than George, had prematurely gray hair & had never lived with a dog while George had black hair, was brought up in a dog home & missed his family's German Shepherd terribly.

Now, it is a generally accepted fact that you're nuts if you own a car in New York City. Further you tempted the fates if you parked it on the street.   Anything could happen to a car parked on a NYC street - sideswipes, break ins, being locked in by the cars on either side of you, gears stripped because your car was nudged backwards or forwards to make room for a larger car squeezing in.  Well, you get the idea. 

Garage space was limited to those who had inherited money but was out of the question for most, as the cost was prohibitively astronomical.  Many just bought old, used cars so they wouldn't get upset in something happened to them.   

Why am I telling you all this?  Because, dear friends, Bogart, like most Bouviers, loved riding in a car & this is a story of how Bogart got some of his best rides.

First, I have to make you understand that parking a car on the street in Manhattan was filled with ritual, connivance &  invention.  And one the rituals involved finding a spot for alternate-side-of-the-street parking days.  

Let me explain.  

Generally there is no parking on the North-South main avenues in Manhattan but the East-West side streets can be used.  At night you can park on both sides but during the day you could only park on one side of the street.  Every other day, the "good" side alternates.  So for example, on Mon, Wed & Fri, you could park on the right side while on Tue, Thu, Sat, you had to park on the left side.  Sunday, everyone caught a break.  This system allowed the Dept of Sanitation machines to clean the gutters.  Now the NYC Sanitation Dept is one tough group & if your car blocked one of their machines, they could ticket you.  Worse still, they could summon a tow truck to remove your car to the police pound & I cannot begin to tell you how expensive & what a pain in the ass it is to retrieve a towed car in New York City.

This made parking a very serious proposition & gave rise to the "parking game" which came in several variations.  

The "early risers" got up before dawn & double parked their cars on the safe side, blocking unlucky car owners from getting out.  These "blockers" would then go home, take a shower, have breakfast, read the paper & wait for the trapped driver to lean on their horn to get the blocking car moved, thus creating a legal spot for the day.   

Others began circling the block just before the appointed hour when the day drivers left hoping to be in the right place @ the right time.  This was like the old game of musical chairs.  10 people standing around a circle of 9 chairs.  Music starts & when it stops suddenly, everyone scrambles for a seat, leaving one person standing & out of the game, etc.  This was sometimes referred to as the "circle jerk".

Then there was a third group.  

George & Marilyn Collins owned a car which they parked on the street & George belonged to this third group.  Late in the evening -- 9:30-10pm -- on the night before the big migration from one side of the street to the other, George would quietly come downstairs, armed with the newest "New York Times best seller list" novel, gently knock on our door & ask if Bogart could go for a walk with him.  "Sure".

So George & Bogart would saunter down the street or around the block to wherever George had parked his car & get into the parked car.  George, of course, sat in the driver's seat & Bogart sat upright in the passenger seat.  With the interior light on, George would read his book while Bogart watched the passers by (who also watched him) while observing other happenings on the street.

Thus George & Bogart would quietly pass the time until a "visiting" (non-neighborhood) car parked on the opposite side of the street departed, creating a "safe" space for the next day.  George would then immediately start his car, drive to the other side of the street where he would park in the newly vacated spot.   

After locking up the car, George & Bogart would walk home together, the entire process taking about an hour.  George got his dog fix, a little company, some protection & Bogart got his car ride.  Such was Manhattan life in the 70's.

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