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Editor's notebook: Back to Park Your Age, or, a warm day in Antarctica

Part trivia project, part exercise program, PYA is back.

Park Your Age, that is, a little tradition I started in 2000 or so. This year’s number? The clock comes ‘round to 59, which I will turn on Monday. (Chocolate is definitely my favorite flavor cake, FYI.)

In PYA, you park in the numbered spot in the Hood River News that matches your age. I started PYA (and writing interminably about it) 17 years ago at age 42; that year, the parking spaces were inexplicably numbered; no space assignments were ever issued.

No one knows why it was done, but it was, so I decided that PYA would bring a middling sense of order to that newly-delineated asphalt universe.

I realized that space 42, being up and away from the building, had practical as well as symbolic value, giving me a locus to contemplate aging, and a healthy distance to walk back and forth from office to car several times a day.

There is a true yin-and-yang to PYA, starting back at 42. It was cosmic — “The answer to the Universe and Everything,” wrote Douglas Adams), and earthly — leaving the closer spaces to paying customers.

Forty-five was a lot of fun to write about because of things like 45rpm records, and 49 (finding gold) and 52 (cards in a deck, weeks in a year) also felt laden with portent.

Few others have lived the PYA ethos, but that’s okay. It gets mentioned; some people do it sometimes. And for myself, in those years when my PYA space was close to the building I opted for another space. In past years, certain numbers either did not exist or were taken up by the dumpster, or were too close to the dumpster for comfort. Such was the case with 58.

Some attentive readers might remember that I “retired” the PYA chronicle two years ago, upon turning the hyper-cool age 57 (Heinz! Chevy!) and writing that 58 and 59 would be the JV team.

That is essentially true. And I skipped 58, but as I park in space 59 this year, the number got under my skin a little.

And while 60 will be off-limits, 59 is open. So whenever I can, I park there: all the way up the parking lot against the west retaining wall, giving me a long walk each time.

Thus I again look for some meaning in the June-to-June PYA number.

Admittedly 1959 was not so iconic a car year as, say, 1923, 1952 or 1957. However, a vintage Stratocaster guitar came out of 1959 — and a whole lot of other cool rock-n-roll gear.

But this is not about the year ’59 so much as the number itself.

I’d love to drive Interstate 59 through Alabama and Louisiana, and can report that the highest temperature ever recorded on Antarctica (Jan. 5, 1974) was 59 degrees, and the highest Atlantic Ocean wave and the longest shark ever caught (in Thailand) both measured 59 feet.

Only eight PGA tour players have ever recorded a 59-stroke round, and only 59 percent of the moon’s surface is visible from the Earth.

In 2015, a movie “59” came out, and danged if I don’t wish I came up with the premise: “In rural Ireland” (IMDB tells us)” three down on their luck strangers, a troubled Indian teacher, a penniless Irish pensioner and a feisty veterinary surgeon hatch an audacious plan to win a million pound song contest, but must first create the greatest Christmas song ever written, as a Guardian Angel looks on.”

We don’t have enough movies with feisty veterinary surgeons!

The clock is ticking on PYA, because the lot numbers only go up to 65. El Cuate food truck occupies 61-65, and space 60 should be left for customers of El Cuate. And we definitely want El Cuate to stay.

So PYA will stop at 59.

All this seems sort of trivial, though, but one aspect of the number certainly held my attention when I read it:

The 59th is the last second of each hour and the 59th is the last minute of each hour.

And the way I look at that is, yes, leading up to just starting another hour, another tour around the clock always comes after the auspicious 59. Look for my car there.



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