So I have this friend. The only thing better than a friend, of course, is a friend with a boat. And I have that too. He’s on a teacher’s salary so it’s a modest vessel, but he yokes it for all it’s worth. Last summer he sailed the thing 1,000 miles up the coast and back, out of sight of land almost the whole time. Pretty impressive, I thought. So on Saturday, in the warmth of summer’s dying breaths, I joined him to untie the lines one last time and together we jibbed our way out Jamaica Bay, under the Verazzano Bridge, and up the Hudson River. We fought the fleeing tide for what seemed like hours, inching past the long silent streak of metal that we call home. At sunset we dropped anchor just beyond the city’s clawing piers and we slept the night in our wavy beds. It was beautiful.
In the morning we retraced our path like bees through the trees, sensing our way between roaring ferries, huge oil-tankers, and one massive cruise ship that grinded past like a glacier. But this time the tide was with us. The tide, of course, is something like a cosmic pulse, a pulse that can complement our life patterns, or clash with them. Go with us, or against us. And one could say that as we live, or sail, we lay down our rthyms, and our voice over that backbeat, and an ancient and sacred song is played. The result may sometimes be discordant, but for a few rare moments in everyone’s life, a harmony is found, and it rings true, like a golden bell. And for second, on that boat, I was sure I could hear it.
Unfortunately, most of the time these days, it seems as if Nature’s backing sound is being laid down by those two old studio favorites, The Bloody Fists, and The Smelly Trains. And the only bell I’ve been hearing is the predawn shriek of my alarm clock. So I wasn’t feeling very harmonious the other day as I stayed late at work to cover for a sick dean in the detention room.
There was only one kid in there, a Trinidadian girl who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She was in trouble for refusing to give up an “item” at scanning that had set off the metal detectors. After searching her they found a phone hidden in her bra. Phones are not allowed.
I was getting bored just sitting in there so I started to talk to her.
“Are you new here?” I asked.
“Yeah, I went to Crestwood before,” she said quietly.
“Why’d you leave?” I asked.
“I wasn’t going to class ovah der.”
“It wasn’t like here. There was fights all the time over der. Kids was always fightin’ and I was always cuttin’.”
“It was worse than here?” I asked, a bit confused. “That’s hard for me to imagine.”
“Yeah, it’s worse ovah der. I’m doin’ good ovah here.”
I guess I sometimes don’t really see all the small victories that occur at Patriot because I’m always so busy in the deans office, dealing with “the worst of the worst”, as our clients were once described to me. The crap de la crap. But upon hearing this sweet girl’s brief story of relative success and rebirth, I kind of felt nature’s back beat come in for a second, and my mind released some new colorful vapors on top of it. And I smiled.