Thursday, August 7, 2008

Staten Island Ferry

This year we bought a ticket package to seven Staten Island Yankees games. They're much cheaper than regular Mets or Yankees tickets, and the A-level minor league teams deliver fun baseball. The players are also young, without the inflated egos and salaries of major league stars, and are thus happy to talk with the kids and sign autographs. Although I love the games, my favorite part of these trips has been the ferry rides to and from Staten Island. First, it's free - one of the best tourist attractions in the city. Plus one gets a view of the harbor, the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, Governor's Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. After a night game, the late-evening return trip is even better, with the spectacle of Manhattan lit up like a Christmas tree. When I ride the ferry I get a sense of an older New York, like the one I encountered as a teen reading The Stories of John Cheever:

“These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with river light, when you heard Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat. Here is the last of that generation of chain smokers who woke the world in the morning with their coughing, who used to get stoned at cocktail parties and perform obsolete dance steps like ‘the Cleveland Chicken,’ sail for Europe on ships, who were truly nostalgic for love and happiness, and whose gods were as ancient as yours and mine, whoever you are.”
This was the first New York I encountered - the postwar city with Cheever's fictionalized grittiness and nostalgia for a vanishing way of life. Sitting on one of the older ferries, chugging through the dark, oily waters of the harbor, one gets a sense of Cheever's "river light" - even if much of the city has now been "sanitized for your protection."

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