Monday, August 31, 2009

Kayaking in Central Park

In a rain that alternated between drizzle and steady we unloaded kayaks off the Confluence Watersports eighteen wheeler, ripped and cut the plastic shrink wrap off brand new kayaks, carried kayaks and steel barriers from Bethesda Terrace down past Bethesda Fountain, and set up the Confluence & Eastern Mountain Sports Paddle Sports Center (photo top right) near the lake at Bethesda Fountain. It was all part of the fifth annual “Adventures NYC” hosted by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and “Backpacker” Magazine.

Being hearty outdoor types, most of us were wearing waterproof rain jackets or paddling jackets as well as hats but were starting to feel chilled in the wet morning air. Goosebumps could be seen on arms and legs. As the noon opening time approached, we were all wondering how many people would brave the elements in order to kayak in Central Park.

By 1:00 or 1:30 PM the rain had stopped. While the Sun never really came out, the sky did brighten, the air warmed, and our jackets and hats started coming off as we started warming up. While a few brave paddlers ventured forth to paddle in the rain, once the rain stopped a crowd started lining up (photo at right second from top) to sign the wavers that would allow them access to the Paddle Sports Center and to kayak in Central Park.

The Paddle Sports Center area was staffed by representatives from Eastern Mountain Sports, Confluence Water Sports, and Stohlquist Waterware. Eastern Mountain Sports representatives included management from base camp in Peterborough, New Hampshire as well as guides from area stores, including four guides from the Eastern Mountain Sports flagship store in SoHo. (Alex, Maria, Ashley and yours truly, photo right, third from top).

My job from noon till 4:00 PM was to hand out paddles (photo right, fourth from top) and offer a brief introduction on how to hold it. With paddles ranging from 210cm, 220cm, 230cm and 240cm I tried to size up paddlers as they approached and to give them the best paddle for their size, but as my inventory began to dwindle I sometimes gave paddlers the only size I had regardless of their height. At least twice during the day I totally ran out of paddles and had to wait for paddlers to come in off the lake before I could outfit people waiting for a boat.

At 3:30 PM we closed down the waiting line but allowed anyone already in line to paddle, even past the 4:00 PM closing time. Between noon and 3:30 PM we had 375 people sign waivers, and most of them paddled (photo right, fifth from top). This was 125 people below last year’s 500 paddlers but still respectable considering the weather. Paddlers ranged in age and experience. Some paddlers were as young as five and controlled their boats better than some of the adults. Several families chose to paddle tandem kayaks. At least one dog ventured forth onto the water with its human companion.

At the end of the day, as boats became available, those of us who had been working off the water during the event by having people sign waivers, assigning and fitting PFDs, handing out paddles, or getting people into boats were given the opportunity to paddle. I grabbed one of the first boats available, a Wilderness System Tsunami 120 or 125. Classified as a Touring boat I would have preferred something longer and in the Sea Kayaks classification but did not want to wait until one became available.

I had paddled an old Wilderness System Sealution for a short distance on Jamaica Bay and liked it, so this was my second time in a Wilderness System boat. The newer Tsunami definitely shows some R&D improvements. Paddling the Tsunami I passed under the Bow Bridge to the larger western side of the lake and then came back under the Bow Bridge and paddled to the Loeb Boathouse, then back to the fountain area. I was probably on the water for no more than half an hour, but it was a half hour of kayaking in Central Park!

In spite of the rain I had a fun day interacting with the public and helping introduce many of them to their first kayaking experience, as well as becoming acquainted with Eastern Mountain Sports Guides from other stores, Eastern Mountain Sports management, and representatives from Stohlquist and Confluence Watersports, plus a few others (more in later posts). The day was just one more reminder why New York City is the greatest city in the world in which to live and work, and why kayaking is one of my passions.

You can view my other photos from the Adventure NYC day and the Confluence and Eatern Mountain Sports Paddle Sports Center at my Picassa album.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NIKWAX Sandal Wash Really Works

I am not in the habit of endorsing products. Nor have I offered many product reviews, though I may post some in the future. This is my first.

I recently purchased and used NIKWAX Sandal Wash and highly recommend it. I used it to clean an old grungy pair of Teva Sandals (photo right) that had recently been submerged in Jamaica Bay, NY, a new pair of Teva Sandals I have worn around town but have not gotten wet, a pair of Birkenstocks with pretty soiled foot beds, and a really stinky nylon watch band, all with great success (all pictured botton right, Teva still with Sandal Wash applied, Birkenstock and watchband cleaned and dried).

I had no concerns about using NIKWAX Sandal Wash on the Tevas since Tevas are designed to be wet. On the other hand I was a little concerned about using it on the Birkenstocks even though the NIKWAX Sandal Wash label listed Birkenstock. I was concerned that the water rinse as well as the NIKWAX product would discolor or weaken the Birkenstocks since they are made of leather as well as cork and glue.

I briefly ran cold water over the Birkenstock foot beds, applied the Sandal Wash as directed, washed, rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel, and then set the Birkenstocks out in the sun to dry. What a difference. Not only does the foot bed look better, it also smells fresh and some of the original nap has returned.

Even though NIKWAX does not claim that its sandal wash can be used on stinky nylon watchbands, I thought that since a nylon watch band is not much different than the straps on Tevas that I could safely do so. Since the watch on the strap is water resistant I ran the watch and band under cold water, applied and scrubbed with NKWAX Sandal Wash, rinsed, and allowed the band to dry. Now the band smells almost as good as new.

I have used other NIKWAX products to clean and waterproof leather boots and have been doing so for years, but I had an aversion to using the Sandal Wash. I thought that a sandal wash could not do anything more than a good cycle in the clothes washer, which I have done with my Tevas in the past (but never my Birkenstocks). The next time my Tevas, Birkenstocks, or nylon watch band stinks, I will reach right away for the NIKWAX Sandal Wash.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Myrrhlyn Goes Kayaking

What a day to forget to bring my camera along, our dog Myrrhlyn’s first kayaking trip! Late Saturday afternoon we took Myrrhlyn to the Sebago Canoe Club, hauled our sit-on-tops down to the dock, and with Myrrhlyn in the cockpit of my wife Vicki’s kayak we paddled out under the Belt Parkway Bridge into Jamaica Bay. We beached just beyond the bridge to see how Myrrhlyn would handle the beach and surf. He loved the beach, stayed close to us, but would not walk out into the water from the beach. He did, however, climb up into the cockpit of my wife’s kayak which was half on the beach and half in the water. Balancing himself as the kayak rocked to and fro while he worked his way out to the stern, he jumped from the stern into the water, waded out until he had to swim, and then swam out to as where we were standing about knee to thigh deep. He did this three times.

With dark clouds building and evening approaching we loaded Myrrhlyn back into Vicki’s boat and headed back to Sebago. Midway we rafted up and Myrrhlyn climbed from Vicki’s boat into mine. After paddling with Myrrhlyn in my boat for awhile we rafted up again, had Myrrhlyn climb from my Kayak back into Vicki’s, and then headed into the Sebago dock.

Back at Sebago we hosed down our boats, our gear and Myrrhlyn.

All in all we probably spent less than two hours at Sebago, but it was two hours well spent. We are now convinced that Myrrhlyn is indeed a water dog. I have yet to determine if he is a mountain dog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Upcoming Adventures NYC in Central Park

There is a pretty big event coming up in Central Park on Saturday, August 29, 2009 that I have not yet been hearing much about, Adventures NYC. If the weather cooperates, this could be a pretty fun, exciting and informative event for anyone who enjoys adventure from summit to shore. Most likely I will be present, probably working with The Wilderness System and Eastern Mountain Sports Kayaking Center at Bethesda Terrace Lake, and probably taking pictures to accompany later blog posts. Visit the hot link above for more information and come out to Central Park on Saturday, August 29 to play in the country's largest urban adventure playground.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Introducing Myrrhlyn

Drum roll please!

Myrrhlyn came to live with us Thursday. He was being sheltered under the name “Dusty” at Wilma’s Orphan’s Inc. “Dusty” was also Hermes’ name when we adopted him and Wilma was my mother’s name. More synchronicity?

We went to visit Wilma and Dusty a week ago. After our visit Wilma processed our application, contacted our references, and approved us adopting Dusty.

Wilma delivered this cute bundle of canine energy Thursday morning. The photo of Myrrhlyn at right is not the best picture but it is the first, taken as he was approaching our home.

We had been thinking about names and had narrowed the choices down to three or four but decided to wait twenty-four hours after Myrrhlyn came to live with us before finally deciding. He have chosen a Welsh variation of the name of the magician, seer, and teacher of Arthurian Legend, a variation which also alludes to one of the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child, a gift often used for the embalming, funeral incense, and Christian liturgy. The Welsh variation also recognizes our love of Celtic tradition and lore as well as interest in Celtic Christianity.

Myrrhlyn has been with us for nearly 48 hours. He is affectionate, intelligent, has a lot of puppy energy, and has had very few “accidents” in the house. His vet records estimate that he was born March 24, 2009. He appears to be a Chocolate Lab but is certainly a Labrador Retriever Mix.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Acrostic Adoration

The Psalm for this coming Sunday, August 16, 2009, is Psalm 111. It is an acrostic Psalm. To help worshippers hopefully better understand and appreciate the acrostic form, I have quickly written my own acrostic adoration. It is not very polished but I think it illustrates in English the acrostic form.

Acrostic Adoration

Awesome God!
Benevolent LORD!
Covenant Maker!
Dearest Creator!
Ever-loving Redeemer!
Faithful Sustainer!
Great and wonderful is our LORD.
Honor is due God’s holy name.
In the sanctuary sing our Sustainer's praise.
Joyfully praise the one who frees us.
Kneel before the one who forms us.
Lift your voices to the Holy One.
Make a joyful noise to the Holy One of Israel.
Never forget God's praises.
Open your mouths in praise of our LORD.
Praise the Maker of heaven and earth.
Quail and manna our Creator gave us in the wilderness.
Reigning over us is our Redeemer.
Sing praises to our Sustainer.
Think often about our awesome Lord.
Understand the Great I Am.
Vast and awesome is our Sustainer.
Worthy of praise is the one who frees us.
eXcellent is the one who forms us.
Yes, the Holy One is excellent and awesome.
Zealously we worship the Holy One of Israel.

© 2009 John Edward Harris

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Former Students on the Web

Did Socrates take any pride in Plato? Was Plato proud of Aristotle?

From the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2007 as adjunct faculty I taught one Religion or Philosophy Course (some former students pictured at right) a semester at Davis and Elkins College, a small Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related liberal arts college in the mountains of West Virginia. The course I taught most often was Introduction to Philosophy, in which I tried to employ the Socratic Method to draw my students out of the cave of unenlightened ignorance into the daylight of informed self-critical reality.

Perhaps the greatest reward of teaching is to see students and former students grow and mature. I am aware of at least three of my former Introduction to Philosophy students currently on the web and as their former teacher I proudly highlight them here. Check them out and let them and me know what you think about their work.

Tim Armentrout describes his blog breath made visible as the blog of a “West Virginia guerrilla mountain poet” whose writing “is primarily spontaneous and goes largely unedited.” His photos remind me of our shared home state and his poetry expresses the edgy feel of a critical, irreverent but thoughtful and self reflective young adult unwilling to accept the status quo. Tim started blogging in May 2006.

Eric’s Blue Reverie is a somewhat eclectic blog that Eric Stover started in May 2009. Eric describes himself as a smart ass but I think of him as a young, budding entrepreneurial free thinker just now finding his niche in the world. I am looking forward to reading where Blue Reverie goes.

I do not think of Vince LeGreco as a blogger per se but as the creator of the online “OH-NO Comics Featuring Whiskey Falls” which soon move to its own site at Vinnie’s illustrations remind me a bit of the Simpsons. His subject matter appears to focus on uncovering the absurd and median of everyday life with a bent toward some self-effacing humor and a tinge of social criticism.

I invite any other former students of mine currently on the web to let me know of their presence, or to alert me in the future if they start blogging.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Crossing the Last Crevasse

Over two weeks have passed since our dog Hermes (photo right) died. Though I have previously posted to this blog about his death I have procrastinated writing a suitable tribute. Perhaps I have been hoping that as more time elapsed between his death and my writing this tribute that the interim would either offer me more perspective or lesson the grief, or both. Now I am confronted with the likelihood that a puppy will be coming into our home within days. While no dog can ever replace Hermes, I think I need to cathartically write now rather than later in order to make some psychic space for the fourth dog in our life.

Hermes was rescued along with another dog from under the porch of an abandoned house during a snowstorm by Andrea in January 2005. Even though Andrea and her soccer coach husband Matt already had two small children and two dogs, they took Hermes in, and called him Dusty. Andrea and Matt took Dusty to a vet for his shots, hoping to find him another home.

A few months later a few young women from the soccer team at the college where my wife served as Chaplain brought Dusty to a Blessing of the Animals Chapel Service. Dusty and my wife almost immediately connected. He came to our home shortly after for a trial visit. By the next morning I had renamed him Hermes, after the talking dog Character in Jostein Gaarder’s #1 international bestseller Sophie’s World. I was teaching undergraduate Introduction to Philosophy at the time as adjunct faculty and had been using Sophie’s World as the primary text. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hermes was not a good dog. HE WAS A GREAT DOG. Our Hermes never talked to me in this life, except with his love, companionship, loyalty, protectiveness, and barks, but it seemed that his vocabulary of words he could understand when we spoke was constantly increasing. He was fiercely loyal and protective. He was a good, well behaved puppy and a great companion on a lot of hikes in West Virginia’s Otter Creek and Dolly Sods wilderness area as well as New York’s Shawangunk range. He went backpacking with me at least twice, and car camped with us at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore campground on Ocracoke Island, NC.

It is said that tragedy and bad news comes in threes. Not long before Hermes died our good friend Whitney’s dog Ellie died. Elle and Hermes were doggy friends. A couple nights before Hermes died, Ellen’s dog Nina died. Ellen is a member of the church I serve and her dog Nina would often come with her to church events, so in many ways Nina was a canine friend of the congregation. Hermes death was the third death of a dog we knew in the period of just a few weeks.

I do not at all believe in superstition but as an amateur Jungian I do place some credence in synchronicity. While Hermes’ death being the third death of a canine we knew in a matter of weeks might be counted as coincidence, I cannot count as mere coincidence the fact that Hermes died two years to the day after he moved to New York City. Nor can I ignore the fact that the day after he died a thief stole a statue of Saint Francis (far right in photo at right), patron saint of animals, from off our front stoop. What I am supposed to learn from all this has yet to be discerned. Meanwhile, my wife and I still have not made any decisions about where to scatter Hermes ashes. There is still time for that.

In preparation for writing this post I have read, for at least the third or fourth time in the past thirty five years, John Muir’s classic short story and tribute to a dog named Stickeen, a dog that travelled an Alaskan glacier with Muir in 1880. Unlike Stickeen, Hermes never crossed a narrow ice bridge over a glacier’s crevasse. Hermes did, however, cross streams by walking and swimming, scramble up rocky slopes, and sit out thunder storms with me as together we hiked and backpacked. Thus, in the spirit of Muir and borrowing Muir’s words about Stickeen, I fondly and teary eyed write about and in tribute to Hermes “Doubtless he has left this world—crossed the last crevasse—and gone to another. But he will not be forgotten. To me [Hermes] is immortal.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kudos to Companion Cremation Services

When our first dog Sunny died he died at our home in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle and the next day I drove his body to the crematorium. When our second dog Cassi was euthanized by the vet at a clinic in central West Virginia her body was left there to be picked up by a crematorium. When Hermes died at home lastweek we wondered what the options were for cremation in the New York metropolitan area.

I discovered on the ASPCA website some very helpful informtion about what to do when a pet dies at home. The information included a link to Companion Cremation Services.

I called the number for Compion Cremation Services, explained our situation and needs, and was told someone would come to our home in a hour or two to pick up Hermes’ body. An hour and a half later, John D’Arienzo arrived. I experienced him as professional, sympathetic, and even pastoral. My wife experienced him as pleasant, quiet, and introspective.

John arrived carrying a large canine body bag because I had informed the female on the other end of the phone when I called Companion Cremation Services that Hermes had weighed around 80 pounds. John asked for some basic information about Hermes and about me but there was a minimum of paperwork, a one sided form. I escorted John upstairs to the bedroom where Hermes' body was lying under a window air conditioner, I helped John place the body in the body bag. He zipped up the bag and together we carried the body bag down the stairs and out to John’s SUV.

John informed me how much the pickup service and cremation would cost but never asked for payment. He said I could pay late, that the ashes should be available in about a week, and that someone would call when the ashes were ready. This was a Tuesday Morning.

The following Monday I received a phone call informing me that the ashes were ready. I think John would have delivered them but I wanted to pick them up, in part as part of the grieving process but also because I wanted to see the Companion Cremation Services facility myself.

Companion Cremation Services is affiliated with D'Arienzo Funeral Home, Inc. in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Located on a somewhat quiet and mostly residential side street, the facility was clean and modern looking. I was particularly impressed and comforted when greeted by Winston upon entering the facility. Winston is a dog. How appropriate, I thought.

John took a white cardboard box out of a gold paper bag, opened the box, and pulled out a gold tissue paper wrapped tin. In the tin was a sealed plastic bag of ashes. Also in the paper bag was an envelope containing a certificate of cremation. A black ribbon with the words “Beloved Pet” was tied to the bag.

I asked John what I owed and handed over my credit card. I thought the fee was very reasonable.

Should your loved pet die at home in the New York Metro area, I highly recommend Companion Cremation Services. They provided excellent service. Unfortunately, my wife and I still have to decide how, when and where we will dispose of Hermes’ ashes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Summit to Shore Week from Hell

Monday, July 27 to Sunday, August 2, 2009 was a Summit to Shore week. July 27th was my first full day off from my two part-time jobs in over a month, so I took advantage of it by taking our dog Hermes up to the Mohonk Mountain Preserve at the Northern end of the Shawangunk Mountains and together we hiked up to Bonticou Crag, one of the more prominent natural features offering one of the most outstanding views in the Gunks, and a hike I had been wanting to do for a long time. A week later, August 2nd, after Sunday morning Worship, I was able to paddle a circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay with my paddling friend and water blogger colleague Bonnie. A summit on Monday plus a shore on Sunday equals a summit to shore week.

This summit to shore week was week from hell, however, and as some readers may have notice, I did not post an entry all week, because five to six hours after Hermes and I were sitting on the summit of Bonticou Crag (photo right), Hermes was dead. The hike up to Bonticou Crag from the Spring Farm Trailhead was a moderate three mile circuit. Hermes showed no signs of having any problems as we hiked up to the crag. We rested several minutes on top before heading down. On the way down, however, Hermes started to drag. Even though he had drank his fill of water and we were descending rather than climbing, he was moving more slowly, wanting to rest more often, and panting almost constantly. I kept offering him water and he would drink his fill. By the time we made it back to the car I had to help him up onto the tailgate and into the car. I let him drink his fill of water, turned the car air conditioning on full blast, and headed home.

Hermes was a veteran hiker. He had accompanied me on several day hikes in West Virginia's Otter Creek and Dolly Sods Wilderness Areas, to the top of West Virginia's highest peak, Spruce Knob, and back, including a mile plus bushwhack through brush and thicket, and the Gunk's Sam's Point Nature Preserve as well as the Mohonk Mountain Preserve. Many of our day circuit hikes were over ten miles. He had also accompanied me on two overnight backpacking trips in west Virginia's Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. He had his own pack and would often carry his own food and water, but not this day. Hermes was used to hiking in wilderness and mountainous terrain. Our most previous hike was a circuit around the Trapps, hiking the lower and upper carriage roads the day after Thanksgiving.

When we arrived home and I went around to the rear of the car to allow Hermes out I noticed that he had evacuated his bowels. I helped him from the back of the car onto the ground. He could barely walk the quarter block home and I had to carry him up the steps to the house and up the inside stairs to the bathroom, where I placed him in the bathtub and bathed him.

Carrying him into an air conditioned bedroom I placed Hermes on a couple towels on the floor underneath a window Air Conditioner. He was still panting and no longer wanted to drink let alone eat. I was hoping the refreshing bath and quiet, air conditioned room would eventually calm and soothe him. Eventually my wife Vicki came home from work, joined us in the bedroom, and sensed that Hermes’ condition was more serious than I suspected. As soon as Vicki joined us Hermes breathing almost immediately became more shallow and slower and then he experienced some spasms, as if he was going to throw up. I went into another room to call the vet and while I was on the phone Vicki yelled to me that she though Hermes had died. I came back into the bedroom and confirmed it. We both broke out in tears.

Our best guess is that Hermes suffered a heart attack even though he was not yet five years old. He was a rescue and we knew nothing about his lineage or the first few months of his life and it is possible he had a congenital condition we did not know about and the vet had not detected. I will certainly be writing more about Hermes at a later time. For now I simply note that both Vicki and I miss him. While no other dog can ever replace him we are investigating nearby animal shelters for a dog in need of adoption that might bring some the joy and companionship into our lives that only a dog can.

Monday, August 3, 2009

After the Storm

Earlier in the week Bonnie had proposed a Sunday circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay, but since put in was scheduled for the morning I knew I would not be able to participate. When she later moved the launch time back to 2:00 PM I signed up. The float plan called for us to launch around 2 pm., ride the flood tide up past Howard Beach, hit the Wharf right around a pleasant time for dinner, and with decent conditions be back to the club around sunset. We were instructed to bring deck lights since there was a good chance we would be finishing in the dark. Originally the weather forecast was looking pretty good and I was looking forward to an enjoyable Sunday afternoon and evening paddle.

By Saturday the forecast had deteriorated to a prediction of showers and thunderstorms mainly in the afternoon. Bonnie was still willing to paddle but thought it best to start at 3:00 PM instead and to cut the trip down from a circumnavigation of the full bay (around Broad Channel) to a circumnavigation of the western side of the bay (around only Canarsie Pol and Ruffle Bar and the west side of Broad Channel). Just for fun, Bonnie prepared a couple of Google maps showing roughly what she was proposing.

The full circumnavigation would include a pretty long stretch where marshes and shoal water would keep us pretty far from shore over on the far side of Broad Channel, the preserve, and East Pond. The shorter route would include a lot more options for places that we could paddle to for shelter if we saw something coming and also not putting Broad Channel between us and the club and the Wharf as well as allowing for more options for changing the length of the trip by taking a more direct route instead of the meandering over through Broad Channel depending on what we ran into.

By Sunday morning however the weather situation had deteriorated. Bonnie cancelled the official club trip due to increasing probability of thunderstorms but noted that a couple of us are still going to meet at the club to see if we could at least sneak in a much closer to home, shorter paddle, with the weather calling the shots.

Bonnie phoned me around 11:30 to see if I still wanted to paddle. I did. We agreed to still meet at the club in the afternoon. Around 1:15PM it was raining pretty heavily. Nevertheless I was about ready to walk out the door to the car to drive to Sebago when Bonnie called again. We briefly talked about the afternoon and we decided I would pick Bonnie up at the bus stop and together we would go on to the club where we would evaluate the weather. Although five people had originally planned to join the trip, the paddle was now down to a possible two, Bonnie and me.

As I drove to pick up Bonnie I was listening to the weather on my vhf radio. Severe thunderstorms with possible cloud to ground lightening and high winds were predicted to move in from New Jersey and enter New York Harbor around 1:00 PM and then move further east by 3:00 PM. I arrived at the bus stop a little ahead of bonnie and sat in the car through a downpour. The weather radio reported possible water spouts over Raritan bay, pockets of heavy rain, and possible urban flooding. Bonnie arrived a little after 2:00 PM, ran from the bus to the car though the rain and climbed in the passenger’s seat. I updated her on the most recent forecast and we agreed to drive to the club and wait until 3:00 PM before making a decision to cancel paddling altogether, postpone paddling until later in the afternoon, or to head out into the bay.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the Sebago Canoe Club, folk from the morning’s Audubon bird watching paddle were preparing to head home after a wet morning’s paddle. Officer of the Day Andy, and Nahum, who also hoped the weather would clear, remained at the club. The rain continued but appeared to be lessening. By 3:00 PM it was barely raining and the sky to the east was clearing. The only warnings on the weather radio were for urban flooding. All the storms had moved out to the east. Bonnie and I decided to head out into the bay with the hope of at least reaching Ruffle Bar. We were in the water by 3:30 PM, Bonnie in her usual Yellow Romney and I in a Red Montauk. It was the first time I had paddled the Montauk, a club boat, which I later learned had a broken skeg.

At first paddling through some nasty effluent from the sewage plant up Paerdegat Basin we quickly paddled into cleaner water after passing the docks. Even before reaching the Belt Parkway Bridge I fell in love with the Montauk. It seemed to be handling well, moving well, and I felt very comfortable in it. The thigh braces hit me just right but I decided I needed to to adjust the foot braces a notch to gain just a little more leg room.

At the Belt Parkway Bridge I gently paddled into a few pilings, wedged the bow of the kayak between the pilings for support, and managed to readjust the foot braces without having to take off my spray skirt and get out of the boat. I was now really ready to paddle.

We decided to head toward Ruffle Bar. Even though we were paddling into a head wind and with one foot waves were making good time. An hour later, almost to Ruffle Bar, we decided to go ahead and paddle to the Warf for a bite to eat. Ninety minutes after leaving the Sebago dock were standing on the dock at the Warf, 416 Beach 116th Street, Far Rockaway. We both ordered a bottle or Corona. Bonnie ordered steak with fries. I ordered a hamburger as well as some fried shrimp with onion rings. We shared the fries, shrimp, onion rings and view of Jamaica Bay with the skyline of Manhattan far off in the distance (top photo right).

An hour later, recharged and refueled, we paid the waitress, climbed back into our boats (second photo right), and with the sky continuing to clear decided to go for the full circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay. We paddled east, under the Cross Bay Bridge and then under the MTA Subway Bridge carrying the A line. We then turned north and paddled with Broad Channel off to our left and Kennedy International Airport to our right. Had it not been for the occasional Jet taking off from Kennedy we probably would have been in the nearly complete silence of Jamaica Bay. At one point, with Bonnie paddling paddling off to my right and JFK behind her, it looked as though she was paddling for a landing as a jet took off behind her (third photo from top, right).

At the top of the island we paddled under the northern MTA and Cross Bay bridges and headed east toward Canarsie Pier and home. The longer we paddled the more hopeful we were that we might actually get to see a sunset (fourth photo from top, right). Around 8:15 we were rewarded. On water nearly as calm as I have seen Jamaica Bay and with only a slight breeze Bonnie and I both stopped paddling in order to pull out our camera’s and take pictures of the sunset (fifth photo from top, right). Once the Sun had set to our right we noticed a nearly full moon emerging from behind the clouds to our left. It was a nearly perfect setting.

With the Sun now down and some paddling still ahead of us Bonnie and I rafted up, opened our day hatches to retrieve our deck lights, and helped each other prepare for night paddling. With lights from Canarsie Pier and from as far away as Far Rockaway, as well as the lights from traffic on the Belt Parkway and the Moon for illumination, we could see fine. Even though I was now wearing a headlight, I did not turn it on. Our deck lights, mounted behind us, and the green and red warning lights mounted on the front of Bennie’s Romney were not meant to help us see but to make us more visible to other boaters, even though we had seen no more than three or four other boaters all day.

Under moonlight (bottom photo, right) we paddled past Canarsie Pier and toward the Belt Parkway Bridge at the entrance to Paerdegat Basin. As we approached the bridge we could hear drumming. Someone was sitting near or underneath the bridge keeping rhythm on what sounded like a djemba. The primitive and exotic sounding rhythm combined with the glassy smooth water and the moonlight was hypnotic.

By 9:00 PM. Five and a half hours after departing, we were back at the Sebago dock. We carried our boats up to the wash rack and hosed down paddles, spray skirts and boats. We put the boats away, changed, chatted with Nahum who has also just returned from a row, and were leaving the parking lot by 9:30 PM.

At 15.3 miles, this paddle was my second longest to date and the longest since October 2008 when I paddled 15.5 miles with Walter and Tony. Bonnie is a great paddling companion, experienced, competent, a strong paddler. Jamaica Bay never ceases to surprise me. The hour long dinner break at the Warf was a great break about a third of the way through the trip. The sunset and the moonlight were added bonuses. We almost had the bay to ourselves as the nasty weather earlier in the day apparently kept recreational power boaters off the water. This paddle after the storm is one of my more memorable paddles, a nearly mystical retreat from the everyday. And as you can read on Bennie’s blog, the best paddle she ever cancelled.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

About August's Header Photo

August’s Header photo features our dog Hermes resting on a rock trailside on his way down from a hike up to Bonticou Crag along New York’s northern Shawangunk Mountains and part of the Mohonk Mountain Preserve. Over Hermes’ shoulders, to the east is the Hudson Valley. The photo was taken Monday Afternoon, July 27, 2009. There is a longer story related to this photo but I will save that narrative for later.

In Memory of Ken Ragbir

Ken Ragbir
November 26, 1964 - June 14, 2009

I’d like the memory of me
To be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an after glow
Of smiles when life is done,
I’d like to leave an echo
Whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing
Times and bright and
Summer days.
I’d like the tears of those who
Grieve, to dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.

* * *

Kenny was born in Trinidad, grew up in New York and never led a dull life…
Carefree he lived his days…Days that turned into years…
His life’s achievements are too many to list but for all who knew him his memory will be cherished forever…
Some of you may remember him as a boy…so cute and bright…
Some of you may remember him as a teenage…coming into his own identity…
ASome of you may remember him as an employee…hard working and very handsome in a suit…

Some of you may remember him as a friend…the all out good-time party guy…
Some of you may remember him as a loved one…always the one to make you laugh out loud and share a story (me ah soon come), a hug and a smile in good and bad times…
His daughter Ashley will always know how much he truly loved her…
His mom Lilia and dad Joe will always know that as their only child he was a true treasure in their lives…the diamond that glittered in the snow, the gentle autumn rain, the soft starlight at night…
…if tears could build a stairway and thoughts a memory lane, we would walk up to heaven and bring you home again…
Since you will never be forgotten we ppledge to you today a hallowed place within our hearts in where you will always stay
Lord put your arms around him, don’t leave him on his own, for today he is far away, his first away from home.

* * *

Peace, my heart……
Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.
- Rabindranath Tagore

* * *

Om asato maa sada gamaya
Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya
Mrityor ma amrit m gamaya
O Lord, save me from the path of untruth and lead to the path of truth,
From darkness of ignorance lead me to the light of knowledge,
Save me from disease and death and lead me to immortality
* * *

We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We are were meant to learn some things,
But never meant to stay.
Our destination is a place,
Far greater than we know,
For some the journey’s qwuicker
For some the journey’s slow.
And when the journey finally ends,
We’ll claim a grat reward
And find an everlasting peace,
Together with the Lord.
* * *

In lieu of flowews. You may make donation in Ken’s name to one of the following charities:

St.Jude’s Children Hospital

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

New York City Food Bank
A Friednd Forever
In loving memory of Ken Ragubir
* * *

The road sometimes rough but once said he aint heavy
I knew of a good-hearted man, they called him Kenny
Poised in his ways, grounded firm in his stand
Fully in control of his will, afraid of no man
In seconds to the signal, he was ready set, go
Never an excuse of how high or low
He brought so much laughter, never requiring an applause
Always open to listen obediently to the cause
A bit too outspoken, but never worried about the consequence
For the wisdom of his age, he always knew what would make sense
But on that dreadful Sunday evening, his judgment destined his fate
Og the pain is too unbearable, why couldn’t this day wait?
But the last chance he took was favorless to brave
He miscalculated his perception, his memories went vague
An out of body experience, yet his presence can be felt
He left in our memory his greatest wealth
And though out of sight yet bounded deep within
Ken will always be remembered, as a great human being.

Written by Jimmy Seenath on behalf of R&M Ambulette Crew
* * *
The phot at top right as well as all the text above were provided by Ken's family and friends. I did not know Ken in life but have come to know him in death. Through the chance circumstances of time and place, the power of the internet, invitations from strangers offered and accepted, strangers willing to trust and reach out, I have come to know a total stranger after he tragically died in a motorcycle accident on the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens on June 14, 2009. As a result the vastness and anonymity of New York City has become more personal and smaller. Namaste, Kenny.