Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Up the river

That's Sing Sing prison, in Ossining, New York, which was not my destination on this trip, and I hope never will be.

I haven't done enough sailing this year. In particular, I didn't get my sail up to Maine and back. I was looking for a job, you see. In the event I got neither the job nor the sail. Perhaps there's a lesson in that.

So last weekend I decided to take the Scapegrace up the Hudson. The pretext was visiting an old college pal of mine -- call her Lindsay -- who lives in Rockland County, near Nyack. (I seem to need to have a destination -- can't just take the boat out and potter around.) The plan was to meet Lindsay at the Haverstraw Marina, in, where else, Haverstraw, about 25 miles upstream.

Got a late start on Saturday, and the wind was very light and variable. Took a couple of hours to get to the Cloisters, shown below --

-- which was looking very pretty in New York's surprisingly Mediterranean low, level evening light. I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it to Haverstraw in any reasonable amount of time; that I'd have to turn tail ignominiously and head home. But I decided to keep going until the current turned to the ebb, later that evening, and see how far I got.

As it happened, the wind freshened and scooted me rather nicely right up the river to Croton Bay, five miles from my destination and a mile or so from the aforementioned prison:

Croton Bay, as you can see, is a big piece of water, but it's quite shallow -- about ten feet on the outer margins, shoaling up, as you approach the shore, in a forgivingly gradual way. And it has a nice clean even sandy-clay bottom that doesn't stink when your anchor brings it up. It was about 11 PM when I got there, and the current had turned against me, and the wind had died, so I took advantage of the nice clean bottom, as everyone should do when they have the chance, and dropped the hook.

On one side I had the depressing prison, sprawled hugely like a lounging Behemoth escaped out of Paradise Lost, glaring over the water with an infernal brimstony light from its thousands of sodium lamps. (What must their electricity bill be, even now that the Rosenbergs' old chair has been deactivated?) On the other side was Croton Point, which has a park, nestled in the shadow of a semi-disguised landfill.

Now I have never been an inmate of Sing Sing. But I do have a connection with Croton Point Park. Both my kids went to a nice high-minded private school in New York -- let's call it St Cosmas and St Dismas. SS C&D used to have their annual Family Field Day at Croton Point Park, a tiring and tedious bus ride from New York. Neither of my kids was all that into field sports, and neither their mom or I was very good at talking to other parents about investments that we didn't have. So these outings had a curious emotional quality. We always embarked on them with some kind of strangely unfounded high hopes, and always returned in a deep state of gloom and irritable misanthropy.

SS C&D, in spite of its sanctoral patronage, turned out in the end to be just another evil careerist meat-packing plant disguised as a school. So my memories of Croton Point Park and its associations are not, generally speaking, happy memories, though there are of course happy moments among them -- gleams amid the gloom.

On the one hand, recollections of the credentialling sector. On the other, the relentless searching glare of the incarceration sector. Not for the first time, I found myself pondering the affinities and symbioses of the two.

* * * * *

But enough of that. I curled up in the vee-berth and awoke with the bright clean dawn next day, made my coffee, and took off for Haverstraw.

1 comment:

  1. Look into this item which is probably at the NY Public Library:


    The author floated down the Ohio and the Mississippi in a homemade shantyboat with his wife, stopping to paint murals and grow vegetable gardens along the way, creating this unique document in the process. Not unlike the episodes of your blog.