My wife and son are in New Jersey. We all went down together in our one car on Friday, and caught the fireworks in my mother-in-law’s home town. On Sunday, fetching bagels for a brunch, wishing I had a bike stored there so I could bike to and from the bagelry, I reflected on all the driving around we do that’s so unnecessary and happens only because there’s no good alternative. The next day, we all drove into the city together to MOMA, where I saw Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel.”

It’s a Dada-ist ready-made that stands there like a punch-line waiting for a joke, or like a Zen koan rebuke to our utilitarian, humdrum concerns.

If I’d had a working bike, I could have biked to and from the bagelry on a pleasant Sunday morning. If public transit to that northern New Jersey town were anything but a joke, we could have had a convivial train or bus ride. (As it was, we were 5 in a car, so it was pretty convivial anyway; and what a treat to park for free on the street half a block from the museum! Holiday parking.)

But I improved on the situation. I had to be back in Newton for the week, so after tea at Moma’s terrace cafe and tearful goodbyes (OK, so I’ve invented the tears), I grabbed my little backpack, scooted off on foot to a subway station a few blocks away, caught the D local to Grand Street, and walked a few block through Chinatown’s funky storefronts to the Lucky Star bus counter, where I dropped my $15, stood on line for 5 minutes, and clambered aboard a clean, quiet bus for a 4 hour ride (with a stop at a fast-food joint in Sturbridge) to South Station, typing all the way on my tiny little laptop. Red line to Green line to Newton. Hooray, public transportation and enterprising cut-rate bus lines! On Friday, I’ll head back to the big apple on a Bolt Bus, and we’ll see how they compare.

In the meantime, since we’re a one-car family, I’m having my own bike-week. To the garden, to groceries, to the library, to the T… . For me, a vacation from a car is a vacation, indeed!