Open to the public since 2003, Governor’s Island is a great summer retreat when one wants to escape island life on Manhattan. A repurposed Army base, this summer-only hideaway has been on my “to see” list for a while and I was glad to make a trek to the island, despite the simultaneous HOPE conference.
There is a short ferry from Manhattan’s Battery that takes about ten minutes or so of actual travel time. Besides some great views of Brooklyn, the statue of liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan, most of the northern part of the land is open to the public. I was surprised to see a sand-filled beach beer garden and an abundance of table vendors from ice-cream trucks to recycling campaigns to political activists. All of this in front of a backdrop of closed military barracks and parade grounds makes for a surreal sight.
Renting bikes is popular here and so are collisions or near collisions among urban-dwellers who don’t get out of the city much. But, if one can manage to avoid a handshake with a bicycle, sitting and watching the water traffic is entertaining enough. By the way, the island, the ferries and the walking is free (as in beer)!
I recommend visitors bring water and snacks with them as the on-island carts are very much aware that you are stuck on an island. Also, when the military left apparently so did the sanitation system as most of the toilets are port-a-potties. But, besides these realities of island-life, it really is worth the trip on a nice day and besides central park, it’s probably the closest open-air escape from the city.
After almost two months, I finally finished Gravity’s Rainbow, which happened on the train into Manhattan. It was certainly an experience (the book that is, not the train. Although once someone did once throw a bra at me on a bus…) and was one of the most challenging books that I’ve read.
The plot follows the main character through early post WW-II Europe on a quest for the S-Gerät, a mysterious component to a German Rocket. But most of the almost 800 pages contain episodes of interconnected ancillary subplots dealing with pavlovian experimentation, graphic S&M, black market drug dealings, technical details of aerodynamics and adventures in a Rocketman costume. It is purposely obfuscated; often it is unclear to the reader who is speaking and events aren’t clarified until pages after they have occurred. Even then, I wasn’t sure if what I had previously read was what really happened. The description of post-war Europe, “the Zone,” felt a lot like cyberpunk to me where non-existent governments gave away to organizations with the most power.
But, with GR now behind me, I went to Brooklyn. Starting off with a coconut fried donut and chicken Swharma at Smorgasburg, my wife and I went to tour the Brooklyn Brewery. Just a few blocks from Smorgasburg, not only is this tour free, but you can grab a draft beer and bring in (or have delivered) your own pizza to enjoy
in the warehouse pub. The half-hour tour is more of a one-room explanation since they are currently in an expansion phase, but the guide provides an entertaining history of the company as well as an overview of the brewing process. One of owners learned to home-brew in a bathtub while he was a journalist in a beer-verboten islamic land and decided to make a company out of it (with real equipment). With a logo designed by Milton Glaser, (the I love NY guy), the brewery has a local, casual feel and is at home next to the East River, surrounded by studios and cafés. I felt right around the corner I could stumble onto the Gabriel Hounds jacket from William Gibson’s Zero History.
Baudolino was lying around, so I’ll pick that up for the weekend, but after this Brooklyn trip, I’m going to catch up on the latest cyberpunk with Gothic High-Tech.