Time Time Time, See What’s Become of Me

Writing on the Wall

The July 4th issue of the The New Yorker — of course I’m behind, it’s The New Yorker — runs a beautiful poem by Clive James. This is part of it; you can read the rest on Clive James’s web page, at the link below.

Portrait of Man Writing

While you paint me, I marvel at your skin.
The miracle of being twenty-four
Is there like a first blush as you touch in
The blemishes that make my face a war
I’m losing against time. So you begin,
By lending inwardness to an outline,
Your life in art as I am ending mine.

Try not to miss the story my mouth tells,
Even unmoving, of how once it had
The knack for spinning yarns and casting spells,
And had to make an effort to seem sad.
These eyes that look as crusty as dry wells
Despite the glue they seep, once keenly shone.
Give them at least a glimmer of what’s gone.

[ ... ]

But do we credit beauty even when
It’s there in front of us? It stops the heart.
The mortal clockwork has to start again,
Ticking towards the day we fall apart,
Before we see now all we won’t have then.

Exquisite. Read the whole thing here.

Posted in General Musings |

What Good Luck! What Bad Luck!

Saskia Lane: Portrait with Double Bass

The main quality of last night was three simple hard-to-forget letters: hot. That’s hot, H-O-T, hold the L Baltimore, not hottie or hott or HOTS, just hot. H. O. T. Goddam it was hot. This was hot like all of a sudden you realize you’ve been in the steam room longer than you thought and your eyes are starting to melt. Drippy, sodden, slicky, squicky, sticky. Hot. It was downright caloric.

Because I was screwing around too much at the office I stayed late to finish up stuff I should have finished earlier (Bad Linus! Bad, Naughty Linus! Wrist => Slap), which left me late to Michal the Girl‘s CD release show at Rockwood Music Hall. Michal the Girl hints: girl, named Michal, pronounced Mike’ll, and a delightful creature. Don’t worry about the rest, it’s one of those sins-of-the-parents deals. “Hey! I know! Let’s give her a boy’s name, but spell it differently! What a cool idea! And turn on that lava lamp while you’re up.”

Michal has always been clever, spiky, and tuneful. Her new music embraces space instead of trying to fill it, and draws you in like a hazy murmuring day by the ocean — full of motion, forward and back. She’s got a big strong voice and not long ago she largely kept it leashed and heeling. Now she’s found her pride of stride, and my half of the set feels like the business end, with not a step out of place.

I love the Lascivious Biddies, and if you’ve seen them then you do too. In MusicDish this past spring I described them this way: “Poised somewhere between Rockapella and the cast of 42nd Street, plus keys and strings, Lee Ann and Amanda and Deidre and Saskia mix urban grit, urbane wit and girl’s-gotta-do cocktail dress style into a show that leaves us grinning wide with incendiary sophisticated glee.”

It’s all as true as ever, even crammed in close on the small Rockwood stage. That’s Saskia pictured above with her double bass in a moment from last night; click through and explore around for a few more Biddy shots on my Flickr stream. Everything the Biddies do is charm-packed and pulled off with cheeky style, except for the bits that are flat-out breathtaking. When their set is over, a giddy air of camaraderie hangs gently in the summer bloom.

At d.b.a. The Contingent holds court, and the Beer Grab-Bag (well, grab-bottle would be more like it) cooler is set up on the back bar: you get to fish around in there among the odds and sods from their basement bins for $3.00 a go with no peeking, or, well, no scrutiny but if you’re picky, and I am, they sometimes let a fellow take the occasional glance. I spy with my little eye a Dogfish Head label of some sort. Dogfish Head, out of Rehoboth Beach, DE, is one of the finest small breweries in America, and since I’ve basically never met a Dogfish beer I didn’t like I hook it out and squint it up to the light.

It’s not just a beer — it’s a Dogfish WorldWide Stout, a limited-edition dark roasty beer brewed, as the label says, “with a ridiculous amount of barley.” It’s hard to find, it’s glorious, it’s the strongest beer in the world (ranging from 18% to 23% alcohol, year to year), and it’s not the cheapest 12-ounce bottle on the block. But it is tonight.

Sean, who knows my beer habits from years on both sides of the bar, laughs. “That’s like drinking four pints, that is,” he says, as I set to on my prize. Later he’ll dare me to finish a half of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, which is fortuitously on tap (Christmas in July, you know), to wash down the WorldWide Stout. It’s an outrageously bad idea.

So what do I win?

Posted in About Last Night |

What You Hear is What We Got

Blind Cavefish: Jess, Smiling

I’ve been a fan of The Jess from the first time I clapped eyes on her quick, funny, busy blog, Blind Cavefish. She’s a writer with a unique voice, one that carries far and sweeps particularly wide. Plus we have similar tastes in Really Bad Monster Movies and a fantastically unhealthy tolerance for Great Zombie Flicks, which we devour avidly. If she didn’t like to sit in the back of the theatre instead of down row 3, I’d have proposed by now. (I’m not unreasonable. Row 5 could work for me as well.)

Last night the ongoing WYSIWYG Talent Show reading series, which has been outing blinking bloggers since Valentine’s Day of 2004, took on Summer Camp as its theme. Jess was one of the performers.

Now, Jess will insist that she’s paralyzed by crowds, likely to drape herself with lucky herbs or suck down feline quaaludes or mix red wine with gin fizzes and the like before staggering up under stage lights. When push comes to shove she turns out to be not a trooper, but a natural: easy and funny and charming, with a smile that comes quick and dazzling under theatre lights and a great story to tell.

Overall a terrific show, with Jess positioned between an outrageously funny riff on masturbation, dirty songs, and clueless puppy love by Jonny Goldstein and an equally outrageously funny Cukoo’s Nest story by Susie Felber of being the lone unhandicapped girl at a Special Needs camp (when Mom said “special,” you see, she didn’t mean special special, she just meant “special.” You can see how this could come about).

Round the corner we rolled after the show to sample the new neighborhood beer bar, Hop Devil, where suddenly it was midnight. Hoegaarden was the beer of choice in general, and I stuck with St. Bernardus Abt and Moinette — yummy — and managed to persuade a curious Roxy to plunge her sorrows into a plucky glass of Saison du Pont, which she handled very well and, I think, only regretted slightly, in a “who is this strange man and why is he making me drink strange beer” way.

Then there was pizza — because how could we not? — and a we-been-drinkin’ cab back to the hood with Curly. This morning came on quick and firm. “You,” it said. “You there. Out the bed. Prepare to be boarded.”

Posted in About Last Night |

Summer Re-runs

One year ago today, we ran our most popular Pepper post to date: a roasty parody of the Clive Owens and Keira Knightley costume drama film King Arthur. Here it is again, in its entirety, for new readers. The selling point of this movie was that it was supposed to be historically accurate, for certain small values of historical accuracy.

PG-13 Woad House

Being a Condensed Treatment of the New Moving Picture King Arthur, in Hopes that 115 or More Minutes of Your Life might be Devoted to More Fruitful Purfuits. Copyright © 2004 – 2005 Linus Gelber, All Rights Reserved.

There there be Dragoons

The Steppes of Sarmatia. Fires, huts, mud.

Lookout: Look out!
Elders of Sarmatia: What’s wrong?
Lookout: The Romans are coming!
Elders: What about it?
Lookout: They are coming as they do every 15 years to reap their bounty under treaty, to take our children away to the cold north where they will train them as cavalry riders and force them to patrol dangerous lands near Hadrian’s Wall! Shall we rally to arms and stop them?
Elders: No.
Lookout: But why not?
Elders: For one thing, our tribe disappeared over 200 years ago.

The Romans seize young Lancelot.

Lancelot: But wait! You can’t do this!
Romans: Why not? We’re being mostly historically accurate.
Lancelot: Yes, but I’m a made-up character! Even if Arthur is real, it’s known that I never existed!
Romans: Shut up.

Hadrian’s Wall. Arthur’s knights escort Bishop Germanius to someplace that whatever it is, it’s definitely not Camelot, because that wouldn’t be historically accurate.

Soldier: Camelot!
Knights: Shut up.
Soldier: But look, you’re Arthur and this is England, and –
Knights: Shut up.
Soldier: Where are we going then?
Arthur: North.
Soldier: Fine, be that way.
Tristan: Whoa!
Arthur: Where?
Tristan: What?
Arthur: Where are they?
Tristan: Who?
Arthur: Woads. The Woads. You know, the blue warriors who attack without armor, screaming as they race toward our swords?
Tristan: I was just stopping my horse, is all.
Knights: You mean the Picts?
Arthur: WOADS!

The horses stop.

Tristan: Nice one.

Woads attack from the forest. They wear no armor, and scream as they race toward the armored knights.

Woads: Woooooo!
Arthur: Woads!
Knights: What?
Soldiers: Whoa!
Guy Dressed Like Bishop Germanius: Ow!

The Knights slaughter the Picts Woads. Arthur interrogates a survivor at swordpoint.

Woad Survivor: …and really it’s a complete misnomer. Everyone believes the Picts painted themselves blue and tattooed themselves with hallucinogenic dye from the woad plant, but there’s very little evidence in the historical record. Woad isn’t psychotropic, for one thing, and it doesn’t work as a tattoo dye. The only eyewitness account of naked blue warriors is in Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul, and that justifies both Caesar’s losses in battle and the further commitment of forces to the Gallic campaign, so he needed to make the Picts sound terrifying and fearsome, which makes the text highly suspect.
Arthur: Sort of a Weapons of Mass Destruction thing.
Woad: Exactly.
Arthur: So that kind of messes up Braveheart too, doesn’t it?
Woad: Look, did you see The Passion of Christ? That man wouldn’t know history if it sat on his –
Sir Bors: Arthur, the guy dressed like Bishop Germanius is dead.
Arthur: Oh no. And Bishop Germanius was supposed to free us of our servitude tomorrow. What will we do now?
Bishop Germanius: Snag! Here I am, dressed as a common footsoldier.
Knights: Whoa!
Arthur: Where?

Inside a big stone building with curtain walls that is not Camelot.

Bishop Germanius: Nice place, for England.
Arthur: You can sleep in my room.
Bishop Germanius: Hmm. I hardly know you. But when out of Rome, do the pagans.

The Round Table.

Aide to Bishop Germanius: A round table! What kind of evil is this?
Sir Lancelot: It’s Modernist.
Sir Gawain: Sets off the carpet as well.
Sir Galahad: And look at the inlay.
Sir Dagonet: Arthur says that all men are created equal, and the round table signifies —
Bishop Germanius: Dagonet? Sir Dagonet? Never heard of you.
Sir Dagonet: Yeah, like you’d heard of Bors.
Bishop Germanius: But he’s really good. I like him already. Anyway, I have good news and bad news for your leader.
Arthur: What’s the good news?
Bishop Germanius: My men and I survive this movie.
Arthur: And the bad … oh, I see.
Bishop Germanius: Yep.

In the pub.

Knights: Look! We’re jovial and cheeky. This makes us sympathetic to the audience, since we have no scripted personal lives.
Sir Bors: I have a personal life. I have lots of little children and a big penis. See? They love me already.
Sir Lancelot: I carry three big pointy swords and am very pretty. Does that count?
The Other Knights: We are so not going there.

In the spooky Woad encampment.

Merlin: I am Merlin. I just wanted to say that.
Woads: Cool. Do you have any more scenes?
Merlin: Not really. Let’s go ambush Arthur. He hates that.

The Knights travel to the Roman Villa at Hamburgerus Hillum.

Sir Lancelot: And if I fall in battle, do not bury me in this foreign land, but burn my body and scatter my ashes on a strong east wind, so I may return to the place of my birth.
Sir Tristan: No way am I standing next to you in the big battle scene.
Sir Gawain: Knights, which one am I?
Arthur: You’re one of the “G” ones, you and Galahad.
Sir Galahad: Which one of us has the cool beard? I forget.
Arthur: Anyway, look. We’re north of Hadrian’s Wall in enemy territory. The Woads are all around us, the Saxons are invading with a staggering army, and Rome is preparing to withdraw from England. We need to rescue the wealthy Roman family from the northern wastes, evade the armies in our path, and make it safely home. Piece of cake.
Sir Bors: How many enemy men are there?
Arthur: About 60,000, including the CG armies.
Sir Bors: And how many are we?
Arthur: Including retainers, I count 11.
Sir Lancelot: I’ll just call you “Aragorn” then.
Sir Tristan: What’s a wealthy Roman family doing up here in the northern wastes? That doesn’t make any sense.
Arthur: Shut up. Everyone just shut up.

At the site of the Saxon invasion.

Cerdic: Brother, that is so not how you rape a wench. Someone kill some extras, while I admire my private parts.
Cynric: You’re so awesome, father. Can I kill some of the extras too?
Cerdic: Zip it and fetch my Harley. Oh, and go ambush Arthur, he hates that.

At the gates of the Roman villa.

Arthur: I am Arthur, King of the Britons. I mean, a Knight of Rome.
Guards: How do we know you’re Arthur?
Peasants: Because he hasn’t got any shit on him.
Peasants: We know, but we’ve been dying to say that for an hour.
Arthur: In fact, I am very clean.
Marcus Honorius: Hello, I’m fat, cruel, piggish, and stubborn, welcome to my home.
Arthur: We only want your son. He’s a favorite of the Pope.
Marcus Honorius: Some things never change, do they?

Arthur prepares to rescue the peasants, and good deeds are done.

Arthur: You’re all free, you know.
Peasants: Get a grip.
Arthur: My friend in Rome, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Pelagius, teaches that — wait, what’s behind that wall?
Guards: Umm … nothing.
Arthur: Citizen Honorius, tear down this wall!
Monks: Hello. We’re creepy Christians. This way to the mummified bodies.
Arthur: Look! A delirious child! And look, a beautiful Woad girl in chains! You fiends, what have you done to her?
Monk #1: Nothing! We haven’t touched her! Come on, we’re Christians! She’s a girl!
Monk #2: Ewwww!

The Knights, with the peasants and young Alecto, leave by the Eastern route.

Sir Tristan: The armies have cut us off from the South. We must go East, through the mountains.
Arthur: How do you know all this?
Sir Tristan: I have a hawk.
Arthur: And you what, speak Bird?
Sir Tristan: We have a special relationship.
Keira Knightley: Hello, I can say “Guinevere” in one syllable. Set me loose and I will paint myself blue. You may run a picture of me now.

The Woad goes ever on and on

Arthur: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like –
Keira Knightley: This.
Arthur: Oh. I see. Do that again.

Night, forest.

Merlin: Hello Arthur.
Arthur: I thought you didn’t have any other scenes.
Merlin: Just this one.

Snow along the trail; the Saxons approach.

Sir Tristan: Bad news, Arthur. There is a frozen lake ahead.
Arthur: Well that’s lucky.
Sir Tristan: No, it’s dangerous.
Arthur: Look. If it weren’t frozen, we wouldn’t have any chance of getting across it, would we? What would we do, swim across in armor, with wagons? Why is this road plunging into a lake anyway? For that matter, what is a huge road doing here at all? This is supposed to be a disused path through the mountains.
Sir Tristan: The Saxons are right behind us, too. And look what I found.

Tristan tosses a crossbow to the ground.

Sir Tristan: It’s Saxon. Armor-piercing.
Arthur: You do realize that the crossbow won’t be introduced into Europe for another 600 years.
Sir Tristan: Must be a prototype.
Arthur: Tristan, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for some time now.
Sir Tristan: Yes?
Arthur: Are you sure you’re in the right movie?

The caravan begins crossing the frozen lake. The Saxon army rides up behind; they are equipped with fearsome bad beards.

Knights: How can seven of us stand against this horde?
Keira Knightley: Eight!
Knights: LEGOLAS! You’ve come!
Arthur: Wrong movie!

The ice begins to crack.

Arthur: Patronus Patronum!
Knights: Arthur, totally wrong movie!

The Saxons plunge into the lake and the Knights are victorious.

Back in Camelot the walled stone fortress.

Arthur: We lost one of the “G” ones.
Bishop Germanius: The rest of you are now free. Hey, is that big army over there yours?

Before the gates, the Saxon leader meets with Arthur.

Cerdic: So you’re Arthur. Funny, I thought you’d be taller.
Arthur: Nice ride.
Cerdic: Thanks, it’s a Harley four-cylinder Indian. I rebuilt it myself.
Arthur: Sir Bors has a bigger one than yours.
Cerdic: No way.
Arthur: Like a baby’s arm. Wrapped around a moose.
Cerdic: It’s war then.

The Saxon army charges. Woads, now allied with Arthur, pour out of the woods and engage the invaders. From far back, a bank of trebuchets flings flaming masses of flaming mass at the battlefield.

Arthur: Nice work. You do understand that the trebuchet won’t be introduced for another 800 years. Let me guess – prototype?
Merlin: Just a little something I’ve been working up on the side.
Arthur: I thought that other scene was your last one.
Merlin: Sort of like magic, isn’t it?
Keira Knightley: Woooooo!
Arthur: Whoa!
Keira Knightley: Yes.
Arthur: What’s that you’re wearing?
Keira Knightley: I found some string.
Arthur: That’s what I thought.
Keira Knightley: So this is the big battle scene.
Arthur: Yes. And I must find Cerdic and fight him alone.
Keira Knightley: Why are all your knights running away from Lancelot?

The battle is joined, and is heavily edited to preserve a PG-13 rating. Cynric kills Lancelot. Arthur defeats Cerdic. Sir Bors has another child. There is mourning and rejoicing.

The Mysterious Forest.

Keira Knightley: Kiss me here among the standing stones and the free Woads will welcome you as King of the Britons.
Arthur: That’s not really going to work in this version. I’m Christian all right, but the Round Table has fallen and my knights are scattered. Lancelot is already dead, which eliminates the love triangle bit unless someone does some serious work on the backstory. This “Woad” business is never going to make it through another picture. There’s no Lady of the Lake, and we debunked the Excalibur legend when I drew the sword as a child from my father’s burial mound. Merlin’s a shaman, not a magician. We don’t need to leave the sequel door open; there’s not going to be one. People won’t stand for it.
Keira Knightley: That’s what they said about Highlander.
Arthur: Um … good point. But really, Excalibur was much better.
Keira Knightley: Was I even born when that came out?
Arthur: Er, no. Good point.
Keira Knightley: Kiss me.

Posted in General Musings |

Yo, Mister Tourist Dude!

Don’t. Yes, you, really, trust me. Don’t.

I know, there’s this burning itch to act edgy like a real New Yorker, and to jaywalk across 5th Avenue. First off, it’s probably just a heat rash anyway; but in any case you don’t cross against the light in front of one of those double-length MTA busses while it’s in the middle of making a wide turn and is hiding everything that’s coming along. And you know how they drive in New York, right? Especially the taxis? And you look the wrong way?

Just don’t. D o n apostrophe t.

Thank you.

Concerned in NY

Posted in General Musings |

Oh de Toilette


When it comes to overheard riffs, I could never come up with half of this stuff on my own. It’s kind of a proof of truth.

While tanking up on coffee over lunchtime today, though, I heard this. This one I could have made up, and if it hadn’t happened by itself I almost certainly would have one day. So call this a bonus point: the universe is keeping me honest. Or, if you prefer, God is listening, and she’s got a wicked sense of humor. And she wants me to behave while she writes the straight lines.

Thoughtful Speaker: I went to Cold Stone Creamery this weekend. I love that place. It’s awesome.
Not Really Listening: I love that place too.
Thoughtful Speaker: They just opened near me. I couldn’t decide what to get.
Not Really Listening: I never can either.
Thoughtful Speaker: I finally just got apple pie à la commode.
Not Really Listening: That’s great stuff.

Posted in General Musings |

Two Hearts Beat as Two


My friend Piano Man, an older gent, chased after a wacky young thing last month, and she clearly enjoyed being landed by a man who both owns a tux and looks good in it. He was expounding one night. “This is just one of those crazy times,” he said. “It’s everywhere. It’s not going to last, but people are just crazy right now. So we might as well enjoy it.”

Judging from a spate of hard landings recently, the June of Love has tractored into the July of Dubious Enchantment.

A blogger whose blog has been All About the Boy, broke up with the boy. A friend whose ex has been a plague is being plagued, again, by the ex. A spectacular friend just got a pink slip from her boyfriend who never half deserved her in the first place. Half? Don’t get me started. My Smitten did not read me the Riot Act, but she did leave the book on the table with a bookmark to the Riot Act, so I can go read it for myself any time I get too excited.

Riot act – you can read me the Riot Act
You can make me a matter of fact
Or a villain in a million
A slip of the tongue is gonna keep me civilian

No one writes walking papers like Elvis does. No one. And I guess this is the Other Side of Summer, then.

More to say on the subject, of course, but since it’s raining I’m off to meet Jess to see Dark Water, which should be dreadful fun. We’re celebrating her getting fired.

Yep, there’s something in the air, and it’s not just the downfall stench of Karl the Mouth, Dick the Dick, and George the Tool. It’s more personal than that.

Posted in General Musings |

Taking Steps


Sometimes getting from here to there takes an absurd amount of effort. Sometimes I get a bit tired of it. Sometimes I think we should spend less time on climbing over each other, and more time finding the elevator.

And may I just say that a society that goes out of its way to make exercise machines that are actually staircases that don’t go anywhere is probably a society that needs to spend a little Quiet Time. When I was a kid at school in the middle of the day we unrolled the mats and got little boxes of juice and then we said “Shhhh” a lot and some of us actually napped? Like that.

Future archaeologists are going to have a good laugh over us some day.

Digger: It’s another Stairmaster, Stan.
Pit Boss: Another one? Hey, Lem, it’s in good shape, too. Still plugged in.
Digger: They didn’t have a very enlightened sense of irony, did they?
Pit Boss: Not much. But they did elect George Bush, don’t forget that.
Digger: Yep. That was pretty funny all right.
Pit Boss: Or something.

And that’s not even counting Tom Cruise. Now he’s going to be hard to explain, down the line. Ah, don’t mind me, I’m just thinking in circles and circles today.

Happy Bastille Day! Off with their heads!

Posted in General Musings |

Of Course It’s Got an ‘Ole in It

Malcolm, in the Midst

“…If it didn’t ‘ave an ‘ole in it, it wouldn’t be a ‘oop, would it?” (That’ll separate the casual Monty Python gigglers from the true Monty Python geeks, that will.)

If it’s the second Monday of the month then this must be the crazed take-no-prisoners hoopy off-color burlesque love-fest that is Miss Saturn‘s Hulapalooza. It’s a giddy night, after a weekend that plunged off the rails for many — something in the air, or the aftermath of something in the news perhaps — and leave it to Miss Saturn to grab hold of abstracted distraction and turn it into a beautiful lunacy.

This ain’t the crispest show on the block, but it is the funnest. In among the widely appreciated costume malfunctions, the occasional hula hoop soars into the crowd. We whoop it back. Volunteers charge up for the Hoop Factor interludes, in which the goal is to keep the thing airborne for 30 seconds while still qualifying for a spanking from Miss Saturn. Because of course you must be punished for dropping the hoop, if you drop the hoop. So when in doubt, you drop the hoop. It’s a bit like letting the Wookie win. Some things you just can’t question. In any event, the evening titters on, and pandemonium rules.

“Work the pickup,” Miss Saturn advises one rapt contestant as she leans over to pick up an errant hoop. She’s bent over double, and she glances at the audience from between her legs. “Work … the … pickup.” She wiggles; we roar. “Hey!” she protests. “That wasn’t loud enough!” We oblige.

Pinkie Special makes her hooping debut to a fanfare of happy support, and Miss Saturn (no Hulapalooza Pepper entry is complete without a Miss Saturn picture) treats us all to chills, frills, and much much more. Groovehoops guy Malcolm the Spinning Ball of Light is mesmerizing, with and without hooping partner Bec; Malcolm is pictured above both because we normally only ever have pictures of girls and we might lose our massive Title IX Blogger Grants if we don’t give equal time, and also because, as Miss Saturn puts it: “Wow! What a package!”

(Bec is also mesmerizing with and without her hooping partner Malcolm, for those of you in the bleachers. But those pictures didn’t really come out except for the ones that came out too much, so.)

As midnight comes and goes, Miss Saturn grills a Hoop Factor volunteer from the audience. He’s some sort of Reverend, or perhaps the correct term is “ahem Reverend.” He’s vague on the details. “But wait,” she says, consternation clear on her face. “Does that mean you are celibate?” He explains that he is celibate, but not chaste. “So you just fool around,” she muses, even more puzzled. He explains that he goes all the way, but won’t get married, which is exactly what every single woman I know is busy complaining about without even dealing with religious vows.

“Ah,” says Miss Saturn, who is wise in this way. “Ah.” Reverend Mark, Reverend Mark, please come to the white courtesy dictionary.

Posted in About Last Night |

I Washed My Hands in Filthy Water

Swimming the Hudson River

I am none of the bodies, airborne or paddling, pictured above: I’m the one stationed on top of the boat and behind the camera, where the Hudson River is not.

Sunday’s sail on the Ventura is splendid in every way. Sunday is the kind of day that promises heat the way autumn promises winter; you can feel the stuff trembling in the air, wavering behind the trees, turning over in the cover of mute buildings. The call of the harbor is easy to answer — “Yes! Yes! Take me, take me!” — and we are at capacity on the dock, abuzz on board the boat.

Sky Captain laid in a handy stock of Aventinus, a dark and gorgeous wheat doppel-bock that turns lethal in relentless sun. Fortunately, I’m a professional, and kids don’t try this at home. Aventinus comes in creamy and layered, lively in the mouth with a forward wash of caramel and a thin raspberry trail in the finish. So does the next one. The one after that comes in like maybe you should turn off your cell phone. Otherwise you might go making 11 minute 42 second phone calls to cute girls you should probably leave alone after belting those in the sun and chasing with a pomegranate slushy margarita.

Oops. Well, what can I say. It’s summer.

The trick to swimming in the Hudson is to watch your tides, and Captain Pat has this game down. New York Harbor is a huge estuary basin, which means that it is actually an extension of the ocean that has powerful tides and mingles salt water with fresh. The tidal pulse runs 150 miles up the river, nearly half of the way along its full length. What this means if you’re not a naturalist is that right after high tide, down by the mouth of the harbor, the water around the boat is pretty much ocean water, which hardly ever dissolves the skin off your bones right before your eyes or turns anyone into The Toxic Avenger. So in you go.

I’m not much of a swimmer and the current is perky, so I stay aboard to, you know, man the guns and flog the loblolly boys and that. When I go swimming in deep water it’s more a matter of concerted not-drowning than easy enjoyment. But I’ll take my plunge on the next trip anyway, as I do every year. Taking those few panicked strokes in the Hudson River, anchored off Liberty State Park between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, gives a guy some decent bragging rights.

Note to self about pomegranate slushy margaritas: yuk. What were you thinking?

EDIT: An under-appreciated feature of this blog, by the way, is our “Last Year” tag in the right menu column — clicking that will bring you to whatever was happening around now in the summer of 2004. Sometimes this is not very interesting, but often it’s fun. Today the link is to this post, which does a pretty fair job of catching up to what last year felt like. This year’s summerhead is like last year’s summerhead, but with a five in it. And that changes the flavor.

Posted in About Last Night |