HUDSON RIVER SOJOURN - New York City connections

August 7, 2019

NYACK - Tide rising again.  Wind out of the south. Morning dawning on the Hudson. Calling for rain. Rainbow over Nyack and the Tappan Zee.

Nyack is on the river’s eastern shore.  On the western shore, I see a light coming down river.  Then I realize it’s the headlight of a commuter train hauling workers from towns up the river into the city. The rumble of the steel wheels on steel rails, the distant whistle, confirm for me it’s a train and not a vessel. But not the clangining.  That’s the slapping of halyards against metal masts on sailboats bobbing up and down on the Hudson’s waves in this mooring field just offshore Nyack.

We left Manhattan behind yesterday, aboard Nellie Peach, passed the mouth of the Harlem River, the Coast Guardsman on Channel 16 advising mariners of a person reported in the river.  “Mariners in the area are advised to keep a lookout and render assistance as needed.”

Render assistance. 

The black man in a wheelchair, both legs missing, used green, plastic-gloved hands to push his way down the Fifth Avenue sidewalk. White hair, a yellow bandana folded and tied around his forehead.

He boarded the kneeling bus using a special ramp.  That ramp and its possibilities gave the broken man some of the dignity of a society that cares.

He fumbled through a wallet filled with cards and dropped one to the floor of the bus, and then another.  I picked them up and handed them to him. He nodded thanks. Then we spoke. Engaged. Between my aging hearing and his mumbling I didn’t discern much of what he said; but enough to gather some of his story.

He said he was a veteran.  I asked how he had lost his legs. He said something about Beirut in Lebanon. 1986.  The bombing of the US embassy. A responder. Telling me bits and pieces of his story while we were riding a bus downtown to the 911 World Trade Center Memorial. This is a city that knows about responders.

He knew something of Delaware - Wilmington, Dover. Said he had grown up in the Virginia Beach area.  Mentioned family names, names and connections important to him. As I write this, I realize that his incoherent mumblings remind me of Silas in Robert Frost’s Death of the Hired Man. 

The veteran, with a plastic bracelet on his wrist that said FALLING RISK, mentioned two names familiar to me.  Holloman and Matthews. There are Hollomans in the Lewes area where I live. Connections. 

He departed the bus a few blocks north of the Battery.  Thinking of his sacrifice, I thanked him for his service.  “God bless you,” he said. His benediction as he left. I heard that much clearly.

Countless stories along the Hudson.

When we finally departed the 79th Street Boat Basin, we slid out into the river at low water,  just as the tide was changing. An hour later, Becky at the wheel, she noted that our speed was increasing. The current was taking hold, pulling us up the river, under the George Washington Bridge, past industrial Yonkers, then past Hastings on the Hudson, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and finally into the mooring field off Nyack.

More to come.  So much. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading.