Monday, December 5, 2011

Pulaski Yacht Club

For people whose only glimpses of the city are passing through on the Cross Bronx Expressway, the outer boroughs look like a vast, impenetrable mass of masonry and asphalt, indifferent at best, predatory at worst, the kind of place where you pray never to make a wrong turn or flatten a tire. Think Bonfire of the Vanities. God knows how people live in such hard surroundings.

So when you actually move here, it's a slowly unfolding surprise to find out that many of the kinder and gentler aspects of life as the greater United States knows it can actually thrive all over NYC too, sometimes where you'd least expect to come across them.

I took the picture above last weekend from the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which separates Queens from Brooklyn. Carefully moored along the Queens bank behind warehouses, weeds and barbed wire were this handful of neat little sloops. I wouldn't recommend swimming in that water, but otherwise this seems like a pretty good place to start a weekend sailing trip, minutes from the East River. Turn right for Long Island Sound or left for the harbor and the deep blue sea.

We lived for years in Riverdale in the northwest Bronx, not far from heavily wooded Van Cortlandt Park. I realized one day I was a 15 minute walk from a good city golf course, and even closer to a riding stable where you could rent a horse and trot quickly into forest so dense you could convince yourself you were on the Appalachian Trail. Personally, I don't golf or ride, but I'm just saying.

You can canoe the Bronx River, and I think I read somewhere you can even fly fish parts of it, with the added bonus that you might spot a rare orchid or a zebra, since the stream goes right by the zoo and the botanical gardens.

Thinking again about Riverdale, looking across the Hudson from our living room, the entire view was the New Jersey palisades, lofty stone cliffs, festooned with woods that were easily accessible across the George Washington Bridge. In the fall I never understood why New Yorkers drive five hours to Vermont or even take ship for Nova Scotia to look at leaves.

I had a sailboat in South Carolina and felt lucky, but it took me nearly an hour to drive to the lake where I kept it. If I had it now, I could keep it on Newtown Creek and get there on my bike in 15 minutes. All I'd need would be a pork chop for the Rottweiler that guards those warehouses.

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