Andrea Hill and Paul Jacobsen

August 10, 2010

Andrea, Paul and I have been planning to go out in the boat since last winter. They said that they were house sitting in Red Hook, so I suggested that we take a trip in the Gowanus Canal.

We set out early and the tide was higher than I have ever seen in the Gowanus. In some places it actually was coming over the bank.

Up ahead something strange was happening in the water; a large upwelling, as thought huge amounts of water and air were coming right up from the bottom.

By the time we paddled past there was only foam.

We asked a man on the bridge if he had seen the upwelling. He turned out to be the right person to ask. He was monitoring the water quality after some new aeration pipes were set into the canal. “That is probably some pressure being released in the pipes. I would steer clear of it.” he said.

“Do you think those pipes will work?” We asked. “Well right now they are working a little too well.” We paddled carefully past his monitoring equipment,

and maneuvered around a floating containment boom that seemed to be containing a lot of sludge.

At the end of the canal we could see the new pipes and facilities that are aerating the water.

It looked just like a washing machine for water,

and we could see part of the Gowanus Canal swirling around inside through a little window.

Along the way, Paul told us stories about growing up in the area.

It turns out that he grew up just a few blocks away.

“Did you ever come down here as a kid?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Paul. “We mostly hung out in abandoned lots.”

I guess the canal smelled even more gross 20 years ago.

We all marveled at how different everything looks from the water.

There seemed to be so much activity along the banks:

cement mixers,

getting ready to move into the city,

and barges filling up with trash.

I realized that I am usually out on the weekend and now here we were in the middle of a working canal on a busy week day morning.

Presently, we floated into a huge oil spill.

We sat mesmerized by the patterns on the surface of the water.

Our conversation turned naturally to the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

As we left the last bridge in the Gowanus,

and paddled out into the bay,

a light rain had begun to fall.

I thought I knew a shortcut,

so we slipped under a low pier.

My friend Andrew Sloat showed this to me years ago.

We came out on the other side into a barge parking lot.

It was strange being in so close with huge ships.

I tried not to be nervous as I thought about them nudging up against each other in the water.

We paddled past a pretty tug,

and we were out in the open water again.

Andrea pointed out her house, you could just see the building where she lives on the southern tip of Manhattan.

The water seemed clear and smelled like the ocean out here, not like where we started out.

We could see the Statue of Liberty across the bay,

and further out the barges line up to drop off cargo.

“That is where ‘Real World: Brooklyn’ was filmed.” said Paul.

“Now the whole world is the ‘Real World’.” I thought.

There is a little beach at the end of Paul’s mom’s street,

where they were house sitting,

along with Paul’s pet rabbit.

Paul showed me a painting that he made. He described it as an indoor Utopian landscape.

“When I painted it 8 years ago, I didn’t think that it was possible. Now I think we can do it.” he said.

“Thanks for taking us out!” said Paul and Andrea. “Thank YOU!” I said, “I learned so many new things about Red Hook!”

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