Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Argument For a Better Policy

Early Friday afternoon I had the kayak on the roof of my car and was once again on my way to the Hudson. And just as I had done several times before I drove down a steep hill surrounded by very nice private homes and pulled up to the small grassy stretch of the Hudson River walk way that was a suitable put in. I will add, and take from this note what you will, that there is no “no parking” sign there. It's not that I didn't see it, it's that it's not there.
It was a beautiful sunny day as I put my boat on the water at a very low spring tide and took a moment to admire the baby geese that seemed to like the spot. I decided to head south so that I would be fighting the tide going out and riding it coming back. I would paddle along the Manhattan side, having emotionally recovered from the experience of the preceding Friday and done all my training on the NJ side so far this week.
As I crossed the mostly calm waters I was rewarded with the sound of excellent jazz drifting over the waves. While at first I could not identify the trumpet player, as I drew closer I was able to see, and eventually pull up to, a wonderful musician with his instrument faced out over the Hudson, as though he where playing for the fish. I sat there and listened to him for a while, reflecting on the fact that I too own a trumpet, and that if I could play like that, or even get out twinkle twinkle little star without having to read the notes, then I would probably would have made less enemies in the dorm building that I'd lived in. I sat, letting the music wash over me while making sure the waves didn't.

I headed south close to the shore. There was a bike trail just above me and the cyclists would look down and smile and I would smile back and nod. One particularly pretty one earned a wave. One woman called out to me that it looked like I was having fun and asked if there was room for one more. But as I pulled near she could see that there wasn't. I apologized and move on with a “have a nice day”.
Before long I was in midtown and large docks with pier numbers written on them jutted way out into the water, so I could no longer hug the bike path full of happy people. Many of the docks had the words “Coast guard protected area, stay clear 100 yards” or something like that, written on them. I cruised by only a few feet away hoping that the sign didn't apply to me. If someone from the coast guard is reading this and intends to hunt me down, know that by a “few feet” I mean a hundred yards.
I passed what appeared to be a ferry hub, making for my most challenging bit yet. At times I had to speed up as fast as I could to let them pass behind me and at other moments I had to stop to let them move in front of me. These efforts where made trickier by the constant waves sent through the water in every direction by the wake of the boats and the knowledge that that would not be a good place to fall in if I was disinclined to find out what one of the NY waterway ferries looks like from underneath while a life jacket insured that my view would be very very close.
Soon however that was all behind me. I passed an aircraft carrier, and a boat with what looked like a small British Airways jet on its deck. I passed a helipad which was the source and destination of much of the helicopter traffic that had been flying over me throughout the day. And my watch's alarm went off, indicating to me that the time had come to turn around.
I crossed the river over to the NJ side putting myself again amongst the ferries, though farther from their port there were fewer of them and they where farther apart, and before long finished my crossing.

The NJ side of the river is boring.
As I approached the small section of the Hudson River Walkway where I had put in I pulled into a sort of a sprint to get the most out of my training and was soon exhausted and taking my boat out of the water. I picked the kayak up on my shoulder, grabbed the paddle in my other hand, and went to the car. Aside from the considerable weight of having the kayak on my shoulder, my short walk to the car was made more difficult by the fact that I couldn't find it. Now, I am the sort of person who loses things, but there was only one parking spot, and no matter how many time I tested my memory, I was still sure, that that one parking spot was the place where I had left the car. This obviously presented a sort of a challenge. I put my kayak down, my mind somewhat befuddled and began looking for the car. Clearly somebody had moved it, maybe they had only moved it a little.
In my rambling walk I had come to realize that my car had either been towed or stolen. There was no reason to think I had parked illegally so I tried to remember if I had locked the car. I usually lock the car, but not always. I didn't know.
I came upon a woman speed walking in the street with an outfit indicating she was exercising and would rather not be bothered. “Excuse me” I called. She didn't answer so I tried again. I got her attention and asked her if cars were often stolen (in this extremely wealthy neighborhood). No? Is there a reason why my car would have been towed? No? She recommended that I ask some of the construction workers at a house nearby, maybe they had seen something.
I walked some more and found someone who I think would have been very helpful had he spoken English. But he didn't. An American today, in many parts of the country, should know some Spanish. But I live in Israel, know Hebrew, and need to learn Arabic next.
I soon found a woman holding a leash with a small dog attached to it. I began by explaining to her my problem. “Umm, I've lost my car. It's a red station wagon. Have you seen it?”
“Where did you leave it?”
“I left it down by the Hudson River Walkway.”
“Oh. We call that the beach. Are you sure that that's where you left it?”
Yes, I was sure. She too was sure that it had not been towed since, while parking anywhere in the community was technically against the rules for nonresidents, they weren't “sophisticated enough” to tow a car. Most likely, had it come to the attention of the community authorities that a car was inappropriately left there “they would have left a sticker.” She asked me again if I was sure that I remembered where I had left it.
I was still sure.

She explained to me that she was particularly invested in helping me because she had lead a neighborhood campaign to restore the missing no parking sign.

I began to thank her for her help. I explained to her that I would walk home and come back to pick up my kayak with a different car on Sunday. I asked her if she thought my kayak might get stolen (or towed?) She wasn't sure, clearly I was not having a lucky day.
A woman drove by in a station wagon and asked what was happening. The station wagon was the same as mine, only a different color. Had she taken mine and painted it? No, the inside was much too clean and had a girl named Hannah in it. I was quite sure that if I had left a girl named Hannah in my car I would have remembered. Either way, she kindly offered me a ride.
“I couldn't help but notice that your car has roof racks.” I said.
“May I put my boat on them?”
“Sure, go right ahead. Can I give you a hand?”
On my way home I listened to the two young ladies in the car explain to me that their school was having a bakeathon for a walkathon for an important cause.
And I lived happily ever after. That is, until I had to deal with the people who towed my car.


  1. see? you DO have plenty to write about, even if you havent began your journey... who would have thunk that training on the Hudson could be so adventurous?

  2. I actually have more to write then I do time to write it, so only the thoughts and happenings that I can easily organize into a story format are making it up for now. I'll hopefully make my next posting about the clear water festival which I will be kayaking to, volunteering at, and then kayaking from this weekend. It's a 25 mile trip.