Water Rats and Wharf Shantys

The sea is eternal. It is always the same, unless it changes. The thrashing of the waves cresting again and again as they have since water felt into shape on this earth. Living on a boat for a week, the sound in the bay was gulls, the fish jumping, and mosquitoes humming in my ear. An unusual situation in that these boats were not well-kept yachts, but derelict crafts abandoned by their owners when the economy (first) crashed in 2008 and then reclaimed by artists who tied them together, decorated them in various ways, and rent them out to all comers in order to share this floating art installation cum motel on a small sheltering bay far from the centers of power of NYC and Masters of Commerce of Wall Street.

This repast was a break from the work-a-day world and crashing noise of the city other than the gigantic jets taking off and landing every 12 or fewer minutes. On the boats, a variety of near-do-wells visiting to party for the night, various kids from the office, programers, teachers on summer recess, and the odd dancer who just can’t admit that she works for The Lion King, even though she has no reason to hide such a fact, so obvious was her employer. The caretakers, a collection of art-driven hobos and sea travelers, just returned from a river voyage in India and deep in planning for a trip to Panama, attest to the potential of a life lived between the lines even if they do call into question as to whether these sort can indeed survive the Change as predicted by mm. Orlov and Kunstler, and especially m. Orlov who himself is a champion of the boat as ultimate Dooms Day Prep vehicle, let alone a world of bills, nonextant retirement and sundry other constraint we slaves d’wage believe we shall overcome.

Bethatasitmay, there is something eternally enchanting about the idea that the water is an open potential to a life lived according to one’s own vision and the elemental forces of mother nature, who may crush you without any hard feelings at any hour. It is as dangerous as it is captivating to listen all day and night to things chomping on one another in and by the waters. There is so much potential, it is a wonder that we have created such a wasteland out of so much of our coastline. At low tide, the effluvia of so many ages is amassed from plastic bags and bottles to broken glass and rusting iron and other reminders that we have indeed created a veil of trash that describes the entirety of our continents. The projects – public housing for you more polite – have gathered the comparative population of people to compliment the mulch in the waters. The zombies. The drugies. The excess humanity our industrial age has produced, consumed, and requires since well before Dickens wrote whatever he wrote. These discarded objects and persons have been hanging on the edges of the city, the edge of the water, but this is changing.

The art collective of ships had enjoyed a short respite from the glare of our Police State. No city where I walk seven blocks and see eleven foot patrol, where helicopters routinely pass overhead, where cameras monitor our children in our schools in order to prepare them for further monitoring in stores, streets, offices, and one day the bedroom, could stay a presentation of counter-culture, no matter how nestled in the ghetto it is. In the short time of a month the neo-hippie commune had been visited by no less than every fire truck in the area, the police, the building inspector, the hazmat team, City Hall, community relations, and sundry other agencies all intending to piss their mark on the door jamb. On the second night of our stay, we were greeted by three vans, two cars, and about twelve or so auxiliary police, including two White Shirts (Weißehemden) several of whom were discussing some small matter with the gate keeper while letting us know te fascist powers could breech our compound at any moment. This collection of abandoned craft are far too fitting a commentary on our current state with this “art camp” although perhaps it is a statement unintended by the artist and observers who think to party openly and into the night a statement to raw authority. We assembled, however, were not castaways but college and university educated whelps and wankers of a middling sort.

Outside the gates that open only unenthusiastically, the craw of Da Hood yawns. A few short blocks the other way, a new city is opening up. This city is not individuals building shacks, not reclaiming land by communities, not middle class workers building bungalows, but a planned community that looks more Disney or Spear or Terrafimi than even Anytown Main Street USA, Berlin, or Rome could ever have imagined. The chemlawns, the private roads, the warning signs to passersby that hesitation will result in arrest, that parking will result in towing, and that all roads may be paid for by the city, the entire clusterfuck ensured by city bonds and tax breaks paid for by everyone for the benefit of the builders and assurance of the few, and this city of dreams is growing, looking to swallow those abandoned blocks and tower blocks of sad breeding fools. This enclave of hipsters and wharf rats is wedged between those two waring forces of our age – the masses of stinking poor and those stinking rich. Oppositional forces pulling down all as each side drowns in their lot. The waters continue to shift according to the tides, climate change or not. The squatters hunched in their projects push to buy beer with food stamps and seem to avoid the potential of living on the edge of the ocean, so tied in poverty they are blinded by such opportunities. The home owners filling up the condos perhaps unable to enjoy the surroundings either too afraid of the “locals” or working two jobs in order to pay for Zoe’s braces, Cloe’s college, and Trevor’s ADD medication.

It is good to still be in the middle. Able to just enjoy life as it can be, if not just for a while. Will this art camp succumb to the Police State? Will the boats be zoned out of existence by the Disneyification of the beach? Will our ship of state share a similar fate, being squeezed by these fundamentalist positions of Late American Capitalism? Who cares, for now, the fish jump, the gulls cry, and a DHL freight plane looms overhead screaming a trail of rich black smoke it will take up all the way to Heaven.

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