I’m coming down the home stretch of a morning run. On one side of 58th Street, there stands a long stretch of Calvary Cemetery. The stone wall that separates it from the outside world is dotted here and there with gin handles and beer cans. I even see an empty champagne bottle. There’s a lot of industry over here. It’s a neighborhood where dudes get off work and get right down to business, and the cemetery wall seems as good a place as any to party. I can’t imagine where the booze comes from, since there’s no liquor store nearby. Either they bring with for after work, or someone’s selling out the back door of the strip club 15 blocks away, next to the Coca Cola plant.
A staple-gunned sign on a telephone pole yells CHECKS CASHED as an alert for the guys who want to get peeled as fast as possible. There is no arrow on the sign. You’re supposed to read those words and just know, in your heart, where you must go.
On the other side of 58th Street stands a pair of huge, yellowy-brick buildings. One is the repair shop for Sanitation Department vehicles. Two wide ramps lead up to the garage, like something from an old movie about decadent ancient Babylon. Inside, an enormous banner declares WE KEEP THE CITY ON THE GO. Next to this building, a shorter, less imposing one that serves the same purpose for the NYPD, with a phalanx of squad cars sitting on a square of sidewalk free turf across the street, awaiting their check ups. On a side street behind these buildings, there’s also a repair shop for the Fire Department. Things get fixed here.
There are no subways within walking distance, and bus service is spotty at best, especially if you need to be on the job at this hour. So if you work here, you drive here, and when you get here, you park your car half on the street, half up on the unpaved curb littered with McDonald’s bags and potato chip bags and flattened beer cans. This poses a challenge for the runner. You can either run out in the street, which puts you in danger of being hit by a truck or one of the dudes who’s been partying at the cemetery all night and is finally staggering his way home. Or you can squeeze yourself between the parked cars and the jagged extremities of Calvary’s wall. In so doing, you may accidentally bump into a car belonging to a cop who has to be at work at 6am, which also holds many dangers.
I opt for the former and jog in the street. The sun is just starting to peek above the headstones. And as I jog past the half-parked cars, I notice two vanity license plates that fill me with sadness.
The first belongs to a banged-up Honda. It is adorned with a huge Jets helmet, and the license itself says RVIS24. This is clearly meant to honor Darrelle Revis. As you probably know, Revis was traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason. Keep in mind that currently, a Jets-themed plate with a personalized “number” will cost you $91.25 initially, and $62.50 to renew annually. So this poor slob has laid out, bare minimum, $153.75 already, and is on the hook for over 60 bucks a year, all to use his ’98 turtle-green Accord to pay tribute to a player who was sent packing from his favorite football team. And if he wants to switch back to something generic, that ain’t free neither.
But that’s only part of the reason this made me sad. The plate said RVIS24. There was plenty of room to fit REVIS. That means someone else beat this guy to the punch. Some other schmuck in some other crappy car is in the same boat with his REVIS24, trying to make a brutal choice between paying the price to keep it or enduring the hassle to change it. And there’s probably a RVS24 out there, too. And a 24REVIS, too, and another dozen variations on that, all of them kicking themselves for putting their faith in the Jets.
The second plate I saw came a few cars after RVIS24, bolted to a scarred blue Ford. It said KEPPRAYN.
This is an expression of a more conventional faith, but one that was probably best left unexpressed. This car’s owner was so dedicated to the spreading the idea of prayer that it never occurred to him his message was nigh incomprehensible. The lack of two E’s in “keep” is what really throws your brain off. You know what word it’s supposed to represent, but in your head you hear “kehp” instead. If you are a native English speaker, there is no way to force yourself to see KEP and pronounce it “keep.” There simply isn’t.
Since license plates are limited to seven characters, I honestly don’t know what this person could have done instead to better represent his idea. But I do feel that if he’d taken the time to write it down and look at it before ordering, he probably would have realized his error and ordered something else instead. So either he’s regretted his purchase ever since it arrived in the mail, or he’s deluded himself into thinking that even a mangled message of faith is better than none at all.