Sunday, July 12, 2009

I left the apartment to take my usual ride over to the studio. However, I had this slight idea that I might take a detour on the way to the studio, maybe take a side trip to somewhere or other. That side trip ended up being a trip to Jamaica Bay.

I've thought about this trip since I moved here but I've always been put off by what a pain in the ass it is to get to any distant in the boroughs--it's not really a navigating-by-feel action. I usually memorize the route to a certain point, stop, get out the map and memorize the next segment, ride, stop, get out the map, etc. Utilizing this method, I made my way through Maspeth and Ridgewood (where I stopped at a CVS and got some sunscreen and water as realized that I was no longer going to the studio) and Glendale, down Cypress Hills Ave which bisects the Cemetery of the Evergreens. (Never heard of it before.) Sat in Highland Park for a bit to rest up and drink some water and then continued down through East New York (shitty! Almost hit by a white minivan who couldn't wait another three seconds until the street opened up for him to pass safely so he tore past me with about five inches between his raggedy-ass van and my left handlebar), New Lots, and over along Flatlands Ave to Carnasie and turned south toward the Bay.

Ended up finally at Carnasie Pier. The wind--which I had been riding in to for the whole trip--was ripping off Jamaica Bay and the water was white-capped, choppy and tea colored from sediment. Carnasie Pier is not an attractive pier and, really, not much like a pier. More of a little stumpy nub that pokes out into the bay for 75 feet or so. The pier resembles a lot of parkland in the outer boroughs I've visited (Flushing Meadow/Corona Park in particular)--it's clearly near the bottom of the parks department maintenance list. Everything in on the pier was probably built new back in the mid-80s and then essentially left to fall apart--cracked pavement lined with weeds, rust and peeling paint, two or three big shuttered buildings--probably rental areas or clubhouses--and, of course, port-a-potties instead of actual bathroom facilities. Still, for all of that, there was a lot of life and activity on the "pier"--kids riding bikes, loud burly guys drinking beer and casting lines, families picnicing and flying kites, a group of older couples Scrabble on cardtables, some guy letting his girlfriend fix his cornrows, etc. I had a nice sit and a squint and the water for about 15 minutes before getting back on the bike and heading west along the bike path.

After about 10 minutes of riding, the path climbed a gentle hill to a drawbridge where I took the panoramic photo. On the other side of the bridge, I found a path leading down to the beach. Walked the bike down there and poked around for about 20 minutes--found a lot of wee snails living in the muckier bits of the sand, a lot of beach grass, and, or course, a few carapaces of horseshoe crabs. What was more surprising was finding horse shoe prints in the wet sand--horseshoe crabs AND horseshoe prints. I couldn't fathom where a horse could possible come from down here. I wandered away from the surf and up to the dry white sand to have a sit. Then back on the bike where I soon passed the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy. Suddenly, I could fathom the origin of those horseshoe prints.

More milage taking me west. I notice a high, grey scud of cloud moving in. I fell in behind two women on road bike decked out in riding gear. They were going at just about the perfect speed so I kind of paced them for a few miles, past Plumb Beach and back onto the street on Emmons in Sheepshead Bay. I had two options here--either cut up Bedford when I got to it or continue along toward Coney Island and head up Ocean Parkway. The ladies chose Bedford so I followed them and--after a few blocks--struck up a conversation with them. From then on we rode along the lettered avenues--W,V, U,T,S, the alphabet unspooling backward like a sobriety test--as a dangerous, fuck-the-rules bike gang, man. Well, not really but it was nice having a little companionship on the ride. One of the riders--I didn't get her name--peeled off at Brooklyn College and the other, Lisa--a grade school art teacher and former competitive cyclist--and I rode on together for a few miles. She split off at Prospect Park and I continued up Bedford through Fort Green and South Williamsburg where I was treated to the Hasidim gamboling about in full Sabbath black including those gigantic, circular fur hats--the hirsute rings of Saturn minus the planet. (I passed another cluster of Orthodox women--well, children mostly, in their early teens--dressed in an entirely out-of-time fashion as if it were 1947.)

Got off Bedford and hit Kent, rode under the Williamsburg bridge and into Greenpoint. I stopped at Papacitos to get a few pork tacos. Stopped at a bodega to get two beers and a bottle of much needed water and then rode over the Pulaski and hauled the bike down the stairs on the Queens side. Into the studio, two beers and a short nap before saddling up again (I was waaaay to punch-drunk tired to work--the image of the drawing is from Friday) and heading home for a shower and the end of Watership Down.

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