A fond fable from what one hopes is not a vanished New York.
So deft and so deeply kind is Trillin (Family Man, 1998, etc.) that this send-up of Mayor Giuliani, written before the September disaster, instead of collapsing like a dead soufflé, survives high and light. Courteous, friendly, family man Murray Tepper has become a burr under Mayor Ducavelli’s saddle. His crime? Parking. Mr. Tepper, a modest Manhattan businessman, who became expert in the arcane specialty of street-parking regulations in the ’70s and ’80s, now, at his wife’s request, rents space in a garage convenient to his home. But, at the turn of the millennium, though he could safely stow the car in its slot and forget it, he has taken to exercising his street parking savvy and rights in the evening and on weekends. It’s not a big deal. He just likes to drive to one of those a nice parking spots he knows as well as anyone alive, pay the meter if necessary, take out the paper, and enjoy a nice read. The parking is always scrupulously legal (he wouldn’t dream of refilling a meter.), but Tepper’s making trouble. Other parkers, taking his presence in the car to indicate imminent departure, become routinely incensed when he politely waves them on. His wife, friends, and business associates have begun to worry. Why would anybody spend time parking on the streets when there’s this perfectly good and paid-for spot in the garage? Tepper, though always polite, provides no explanation, pointing out only that he is parking legally. But not, apparently, morally. Fussbudget Mayor Ducavelli (“Il Duce” in the tabs), reading a city column about Tepper’s odd abuse of parking rights, takes Tepper for a saboteur of civil order and sics the police on him. The mayoral harassment becomes quickly public, and Tepper, despite his innate modesty, becomes something of a city hero for standing up to the bully.
Sweetly silly and very wise. This is what we want to put back in place when the city pulls out of the nightmare.