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Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin




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Alternate Parking

Treat yourself to 200 pages of New York situation comedy by reading Calvin Trillin’s new book, Tepper Isn’t Going Out. The dialogue is funny, the situations fully human, and the craftsmanship of the writer can be found on every page. Murray Tepper enjoys reading the New York Post while sitting in his Chevy Malibu, parked legally on Manhattan streets, usually at a meter, into which he has deposited appropriate coins. Trillin’s survey of alternate side of the street parking patterns for New York is funny in and of itself. Add to that Trillin’s description of Tepper’s hand gestures to roaming drivers who are looking to find parking, and expecting that someone sitting behind the wheel of a car is likely to be pulling out. Not Tepper. Tepper Isn’t Going Out. In fact, New Yorkers are lined up outside Tepper’s car to sit with him for a few minutes and ask him questions. Before we know it, Trillin introduces us to a paranoid and vindictive mayor, Frank Ducavelli, who considers Tepper a “harbinger of the forces of disorder.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“The driver of the Toyota seemed angry before he even asked the question. He had pulled his car even with the Chevy Malibu that was parked in front of Russ & Daughters. He was scowling, and his voice, as it boomed out of the Toyota’s front window had an angry edge to it. ‘Are you going out or not?’ he said.
Tepper smiled and shook his head – a small shake of the head, like a bidder at an auction responding in the negative when the auctioneer meets his eyes as a way of asking whether he wants to top a bid that has just topped his. Tepper had been practicing almost imperceptible headshakes.
 ‘You’re not going out?’ the man in the Toyota said, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Tepper shook his head again, still smiling.
 ‘Whadaya – live there?’ the man shouted. ‘You one of these homeless bastards, except you’ve got a car?’
Tepper didn’t answer, and the Toyota pulled away. Tepper went back to his paper. He was reading a story about a dispute between Frank Ducavelli and the editors of a publication called Beautiful Spot: A Magazine of Parking. In its latest issue, Beautiful Spot had published a long article entitled ‘How to Beat It’ – an article that included step-by-step instructions on how to avoid paying each type of parking ticket issued by the city. The mayor, calling the article ‘a recipe for lawlessness,’ had banned the sale of Beautiful Spot at all newsstands in city buildings. Unsurprisingly, the magazine’s editors had gone to court, citing First Amendment rights to free speech. The mayor had replied, ‘There is no right to sedition. There is no right to lawless anarchy.’ He’d reiterated his oft-stated belief that respect for the parking laws was the bedrock upon which modern urban civilization had to be built. Meanwhile, Beautiful Spot was unavailable in the newsstands of city buildings, and, of course, sold out everywhere else. The headline on the story was IL DUCE INSISTS NO SPOT FOR PARKING MAG.”

Trillin doesn’t stop with the parking aspect of Tepper’s life. We learn about his work in developing targeted mailing lists by correlating consumer behavior with products. We learn about the mayor’s security concerns, including BOSS, the Body Orifice Security Scanner, recently installed outside his office. If you go a page or two without smiling or laughing, be patient, the next yuk is coming soon. Those readers who have mastered the joys and endured the pains of alternate side of the street parking in New York, this book will be especially appealing. For readers who never think about parking, this book will be a funny curiosity. In either event, read and enjoy.

Steve Hopkins, February 20, 2002


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