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Tuesday, July 11, 2000
By Paul Ford
For summer days and sweet romance.
The Staten Island Ferry, an orange concrete bathtub, travels out into the harbor from Battery Park to Staten Island many times a day. It is free to ride. It provides a view of the lower portion of Manhattan and the industrial docks of New Jersey, and it shares its waterway with pleasure boats and enormous blocky container ships.
“In the summer it was the only way we calmed down, we could get away from the city for a minute. There were slashers on it. People were hysterical. There are sometimes people who jump off. A man was chased, he fell off the side. It was winter, at night. The water was pitch black. They never found him, or if he did wash up the papers never reported.”
You can see the Staten Island Ferry in the distance from the elevated subway stop on the F line, at Smith & 9th Street in Brooklyn, if you stand in the right place at the right time.
“It's big, it's made of concrete. When I took it one morning I had been out drinking and it was 6 in the morning. I saw the Statue of Liberty and I began to cry. It's small, green, smaller than it's supposed to be.”
To ride the ferry, take the 1-9 train downtown to the last stop, South Ferry. Get out and go up into the terminal. Wait and follow the crowd. You do not have to go inside the boat.
“Paul, really, it's an ultimate cheap date. And four out of seven times, the Ferry has ended in sex for me. Good pizza in the East Village and then go down on the train and get the ferry. $20 for the whole night max if you pay for the train and skip drinks.”
When you get to Staten Island, you get off and walk with the crowd. Soon, you'll see a sign that points back towards the Ferry. Follow it and go through the terminal, then get back on the same boat.
“The right way to do it is to stand in the front both ways, to go out looking at Staten Island and to come back looking at Manhattan. So you save up the skyline for the return trip. And try to get the John F. Kennedy, it doesn't take on cars, there are seats on the side.”
Anywhere else, Staten Island would be a place to visit, but in New York the Manhattan tractor beam sucks people away to brighter lights and crowded restaurants. In Staten Island there is a fine Italian Grotto to the virgin which may receive landmark status. There is a mall and an enormous garbage dump, and an above-ground rail system. Long beaches line its shores, dotted with marinas, and huge bridges are planted in its side.
“When we were coming back I looked over at you there and the harbor, the buildings and the wind. I thought I would say, `may I take your hand.'”
“But not a peep.”
“I brushed my hand against your hand. I apologized, about 4 times, but I did it on purpose. Pathetic.”