Hevel Havolim: A Vanity Plate

Down the Taconic Parkway we flew, my wife and I late one recent Monday morning, she at the wheel, the stillness of upstate weekday field and forest, beauty all around. It’s hard to believe that such quiet exists so near to New York City, such greenery and access, the Parkway an IV from heaven so little used, save weekend rush hours.

Suddenly, though, the spell was broken, a silver coupe intruding as it sped onto the road. An Audi or Lexus (I’m a klutz at cars) bore down in front of us from the on ramp at Jackson Corners Road, its lone occupant bent intently over the controls. I’d not seen his face, just the brunette comb-over and shape of his scalp. In a trice, though, I could see him head on, even as he paced far ahead of us. The New York State license place bore a single character. Right in the middle, a number, “1.”

Client number 9 has retained his dignity. They couldn’t take his plate away, at least not yet. Eliot’s long had a place in Gallatin, a rural community just over the Dutchess County line. In days gone by, a black Explorer or two (well, maybe I do know cars) would thunder ahead, bearing his majesty to and fro. Now much reduced, the poor fellow’s his own chauffeur. Weekends alone, Silda and kinder, God help them all, on their own.

Hevel havolim goes the expression. Vanity of vanities, in Yiddish: plain nothing. Still he clutches. They can’t take it from me. The shield and the sword are mine, for the nonce. When he cops his final plea, will the Feds cop this medal from Eliot, too? Or will it be the DMV to strip him of his last epaulet? (What’s the use? David Patterson doesn’t drive).

Perhaps they should let him keep it, spare him some dignity. Have some rakhmones for a crazy fool? I’ve heard tell, about in the City: There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names.

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