It was an academic year, 1979–80, but I wasn’t a student. I graduated from the University of California, Irvine in June 1979 and drove a Volkswagen van to New York City, where I lived in Manhattan until July 1980 with no responsibilities whatsoever.
I spent a few weeks getting settled. I parked the van in front of a building in Morningside Heights and hauled my belongings up to my temporary apartment. They consisted of books, records, a stereo, an IBM Selectric typewriter, a signed lithograph by Roy Lichtenstein, and a modest wardrobe.
The next morning I looked out the window and saw that the van was gone. The police told me that it was probably taken by some kids and burned. When I asked why they would do that the cops looked at me as if I were an idiot for failing to understand that they had nothing better to do.
The van had served its purpose; I’d planned on selling it anyway. (My father, who had paid for it, said in his wry way that he would “absorb the loss.”) In a few weeks I found an apartment at Broadway and 111th, one block down from Tom’s Restaurant of Seinfeld fame and a few blocks from Columbia University.