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Chris Jepson

Columnist Chris Jepson

While riding the NYC subway system (the A-train) on July 4, I spotted the following advertisement above the seats. Actually, the car had several of them throughout the length of the car, lest, per chance, you missed its message. Which was, "Change Your Life." Indeed. And, just how, you might legitimately ask? By "Parking Cars in Manhattan!"

The sign read: "Change Your Life. Get A New Job Parking Cars in Manhattan!"

I was immediately struck by the ludicrousness of the assertion. It was the exclamation point, as "they" say, that put me over the top. Parking cars is going to change your life!? I reflected on it and concluded I was being a snob. Why couldn't parking cars in Manhattan be a step-up in life? And who am I anyway to judge anyone's life?

But I've been in enough parking garages (lots) to know that after the initial rush of a new job in a new environment, parking and retrieving cars just might lose its bloom as "life changing."

Parking cars, however, does require a certain discipline and skill set. I do think it would be a "gas" to race a customer's just dropped off BMW x6M up the twisty turns of a sooty six-story Manhattan parking garage at full throttle, leaving rubber and smoke as I slid a 550 horse-powered Beemer into a slot so small as to leave me sweating and breathless.

Anything that leaves one breathless has its appeal. Agreed? I first became aware of parking cars as "a" job from reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" in 1965. That book at that time in my life left me breathless. Kerouac's story of uninhibited sex and hitchhiking across America was manna to this boy's 16-year-old virginal ears. After Heller's "Catch-22," it has had the most impact on my life as any book I've read. That's a tough call. I love Whitman, Emerson, Dickens, Tolstoy, Cather, Twain and Rorty. All these authors (and more) have composed specific words that have left me breathless. But "On the Road" came along just as I was about to hit the highway myself. Serendipitous.

One of the primary characters in Kerouac's story is Dean Moriarty. He's this larger-than-life character who loves girls (they have, ahem, that little, ahem, sump'in special), loves life and loves learning. Dean is an indefatigable raw force of life (of nature).

And for a while he parks cars in New York City. And Kerouac captures (creates) the precision, the beauty of his frenetic "parking."

The only other "parking" episode I recall is from the John Hughes' 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." In it, two parking lot attendants surreptitiously take a red convertible 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California out for a joyride. It's a hoot of a scene. Actually, the movie holds up quite well. It is a quintessentially American tale.

Which is it? By the way. Art imitates life? Or, rather, life imitates art?

Go ahead park those cars, fella! Change your art.