When we offered up two pairs of tickets to Open House New York's East River boat tour this Wednesday to readers who could provide us with the best passage related to that contentious body of water, we looked forward to reading a variety of responses, drawn from history, poetry, literature, policy, and film. What did we get? Entry after entry quoting a Seinfeld episode in which Kramer opts to swim laps in the East River for exercise, becoming rather smelly in the process. There were a handful of other quotations and anecdotes, including a rather personal blow-by-blow from a runner who had to relieve himself while running alongside it. Hey, variety is the spice of life. Read on for the two winning entries, and a bunch of other, erm, colorful descriptors of our favorite borough-dividing, probably polluted tidal strait. Without further ado...
Winner #1) From the TV show Seinfeld, episode 152, "The Nap":
KRAMER: Well my swimming pool problems are solved. I just found myself miles and miles of open lanes.
JERRY: What is that smell?
KRAMER: That's East River.
JERRY: You're swimming in the East River? The most heavily trafficked overly contaminated waterway on the eastern seaboard?
KRAMER: Technically Norfolk has more gross tonnage.
JERRY: How could you swim in that water?
KRAMER: I saw a couple of other guys out there.
KRAMER: Floating, they weren't moving much. But they were out there.
Winner #2) From "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," by Walt Whitman.
...Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide...
And even though they didn't win, we still appreciated everyone's submissions. Here are a few more of our favorites. And yes, we received that Seinfeld gem more than once.
?"Hey, you know what I think it is? I think it's that East River. I think it might be polluted." -Kramer, from Seinfeld
?I am currently reading The Great Bridge by David McCullough and have found John Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, to have been a truly fascinating individual who died in the early stages of the erection of the Brooklyn Bridge. While not mentioning the East River, per se, the passage discusses John Roebling's death and its relation to the Brooklyn Bridge. It's the bridge, I believe, that is one of the truly defining characteristics of the East River and why I submit the following. The passage is by the Brooklyn Eagle, in or around the time of Roebling's death in 1869:
He who loses his life from injuries received in the pursuit of science or of duty, in acquiring engineering information or carrying out engineering details, is as truly and usefully a martyr as he who sacrifices his life for a theological opinion, and no less honor should be paid to his memory. Hencefore we look on the great project of the Brookly Bridge as being baptized and hallowed by the life blood of its distinguished and lamented author. ?Lola Ridge's poem, "East River": "Vomit back into the darkness your spawn of light ... The night will gut what you give her."
?From "The East River Blueway Plan" by Urban Omnibus: "The East River has historically been perceived as intimidating, unclean and?over the past 80 years?very separate from the people living next to it. ... The infrastructure there creates a really hard edge, and all of the buildings built over the past 80 years have turned their back to the river. Part of the challenge is to get residents to turn around, to realize the river is there, to be aware of it and to start to use it more."
?Kellogg, in the movie Serpico: "Word'll get out. Before it's all over, they'll find you face down in the East River."
?"The East River was created to distinguish the beauty of rural Brooklyn from the mean streets of Manhattan." -me (Ed. Note: from one brash reader!)
?My favorite passage from the East River? That would be mine...and perhaps not what you had in mind. Last fall, I was jogging on the East River with my partner, when my stomach started to rumble. A mile and a half from home, I began to feel my upper lip sweat, a foreboding sign of the passage ahead of me (and what would pass through me...a moment forever known as the Great East River Passage of 2012).
I told my partner, "You keep running, I'm turning back." The distance ahead of me seemed to stretch on for miles on end. I saw my life of successful bathroom breaks flash before my eyes. "I am not going to make it," I panicked. The East River to my left, the FDR to my right, there was nary a bush for me to hide behind. My pace quickened, as I desperately tried to make it home.
Without any notice or invitation, it arrived. I knew the moment couldn't be avoided. I squatted, behind a 4 inch tall plant, on the East River running path, in full view of the FDR...during rush hour on a Friday evening. As soon as it started, it was over, and I continued on my way, uncertain of the journey ahead of me.
I made it home without further incident... But the East River running path will forever remind me of my ultimate New York City moment... shitting in broad daylight on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in full view of the FDR. Carrie Bradshaw, eat your heart out!
?"I shall take all the troubles of the past, all the disappointments, all the headaches, and I shall pack them in a bag and throw them in the East River." -Trygve Lie
· Win a Pair of Tickets to OHNY's Next East River Boat Tour [Curbed]
· East River Boat Tour [OHNY]
· OHNY East River Boat Tour Tickets [EventBrite]
· Open House New York coverage [Curbed]