Last night I lost another battle with sleeplessness, so I collared Whiskey, my six-month-old golden retriever and set out to do a walk I had been planning to do for more than 30 years.
We left the house just after midnight and except for sundry drunks, the streets were empty. As well they should have been. There was a fine mist over New York last night and not a dry place anywhere within the five boroughs.
Since I went to Columbia--I left over 32 years ago, I had been aiming to walk to the northern-most reaches of Manhattan--to Spuyten Duyvil, a creek at the top of the city that means in Dutch (who had, after all named it) Devil's Spout.
To be technical, Spuyten Duyvil started as a roaring creek between Manhattan and the mainland of the Bronx. It's since been widened, deepened and made navigable--turned into a flat, broad expanse veering off from the even flatter, wider Hudson River and into the Harlem River. The Columbia football field is within spitting distance and so is a giant sky blue "C," painted 100-feet-high in the escarpments that run down to the waterside. Many mornings, you can see the Lions' crew teams rowing on the waters, the big C serving as, I suppose, inspiration.
The walk from my apartment is a good seven miles. But my legs are strong and Whiskey's are young, so we headed uptown with the gravity of explorers charting un-mapped seas.
Walking slowly and increasingly damp, my puppy's coat now fully wet, the brim of my cap dripping with moisture, we made our way, inexorably north. It was a sad night. Straight out of a Southern gothic novel, only we were in New York. A night for a murder. A night for death.
But on this night, there was nothing.
No people. No conclaves of chattering Puerto Ricans. No seasoned cops killing time between donuts. No Con Ed men taking a break and having a smoke.
On occasion a biker on a beaten machine would ride past, more often than not caped in a large black garbage bag, like a torrential version of the Shroud of Turin. But these bikers were vectors and we exchanged no words.
We got down to the water where the creek once roiled. Where the Dutch once ruled. The devil was not spouting tonight, I think, but the sky was, the ever-present mist coating everything like gloom in a bus station when you're off to visit your wife's aunt in Jersey City.
Whiskey sniffed at the water and found it foul. She looked at me and said 'it's time to go.' And so we did, grabbing a Dominican gypsy idling on the street a few blocks from the liquid.
I was home before five.