Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Coming Full Circle

Last weekend we went on the Circle Line for the 3 hour cruise around Manhattan. It wasn't a completely spontaneous decision, as we had had a coupon for a while and had planned on using it before the weather got too cold, so a 60 degree day in November, albeit a bit dark and misty, presented a good opportunity. Running slightly late, we almost missed the boat but just made it as we grabbed our tickets, got a quicky goofy photo of us taken by the souvenir photographer as we pretended to be from somewhere else (Europe maybe?), and ran aboard ship, joined by several hundred others. Some older couples, some younger. A lot of foreign accents. Men in trench coats with cigars and serious looks on their faces, women with scarves around their hair and heavy red lipstick. Children restless and looking for the hot dogs and candy bars. But everyone began shooting madly with their digital cameras the second the boat pulled out of the harbor, and they shot madly for nearly 3 hours straight. Manhattan seemed peaceful and quiet, almost ghostly as we indeed did a circle around it, as if everyone had gone for the day. You couldn't see the people on the streets, the crowded subways and buses, the packed stores and restaurants. There were the outlines of things, the shapes of coastline and trees, buildings, horizon lines, and at the northernmost point at the mouth of the Hudson, the shape of the landscape as it was originally, back when the Dutch settled here. We saw Lady Liberty up close, and Governor's Island, Yankee Stadium and Randall's Island, Riverside Park and Carl Schurz Park, across the street from where I grew up. We learned that the East River is really ocean water, as it has the high salt content of the ocean, and that there is no one buried at Grant's Tomb, and that Mark Twain saved Ulysses Grant from bankruptcy by suggesting he write his memoirs, and it worked. We learned where the war memorials were, and that the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle was built to look something like the Twin Towers, and it kind of does. We learned that the Lincoln Tunnel was not named after Abraham Lincoln, but rather an engineeer who worked on it. We saw the dellicate arches of the George Washington and Brooklyn Bridges up close, the sound of cars rumbling overhead like a dull kind of drumming. For three hours, there was suspension and greenery and history and the feeling that you get when you know you are part of something bigger. At the end, we looked at each other and laughed a little, thinking how we were probably the only people on board who lived only ten blocks from where the boat was docked. At the end of the ride, we celebrated our newfound identity as New York native/ tourists, but purchasing our cheesy souvenir photo for 20 bucks, which came complete with a mounted background of the Manhattan skyline in all its glory.

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