A ride on the wild side

It was a soundtrack movie moment with a familiar refrain:

 

Wind whipping through my curly hair that was knotted up in a bee’s hive bun above my head; salt water spraying from an occasional wave, leaving drip-drops on my sunglasses; two revved up engines making little wake in its path, with nothing but the sparkling sun reflecting on the river; and, most of all, the shadowed skyline of the sexiest city in the world being dwarfed as we hightailed it towards the GW Bridge (more affectionately known to New Yorkers as the G Dubs.)

A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

Walking we were not, but boy did we ride. In fact, it felt more like flying at times as the 28-foot boat we were on, named the Lone Shark, ripped up the Hudson River, past the Richard Meir buildings in the West Village, Chelsea Piers, the Intrepid, Trump City, and Grant’s Tomb until we slowed down near Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, at the tip of Manhattan.

My captain for this incredibly spectacular boat ride, was David, one time known as That Fling I Had Over Spring Break in College That Turned Out to Be More Than a Fling.

***

It was a soundtrack movie moment with an unfamiliar refrain:

 

After meeting a blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned Californian on the dance floor at a forgettable club in Puerto Vallarta circa 1999, my college roommate and I ended up on his family’s sailboat after-hours, where he and I retreated to a small cabin to lay google-y eyed next to each other as our hearts became the drum beat to Ben Harper’s acoustic guitar riffs.

As any college junior who meets a guy after one too many drinks on Spring Break might’ve thought, I figured our fairly cliché evening would end there. Instead, David and I kept in touch via our now-outdated Hotmail accounts. He’d send an email from whatever port he was in or whenever he could get his satellite phone to connect in the middle of the sea, and I’d happily reply from the computer labs back at Syracuse University. It was storybook romantic.

Dozens of letters later, he came to visit me that summer in Long Island, and then again in Syracuse during my senior year. By then, things were different—as they almost always are when a fairytale romance gets a reality check thanks to the lack of sea, sunsets and something alcoholic to sip without a proper ID—so when he left, the dreamy letters came and went less and less.

We did keep in touch, though, and a few years after graduating I visited him in Baltimore where “Slow Dance”, his parents’ sailboat, was docked for a few weeks. We drank white wine with his lovely mother and he took me to an art museum on his scooter. We then picked apart blue crabs at a restaurant in the harbor, and for a brief instant, I wondered if maybe we could be  “We” again.

Real life seemed to beckon, though, and we lost touch. That is, until 2010 when we found each other on Facebook and exchanged quick, 200-word life updates. Then, as you do after the initial connection, we kept in touch “from a distance”—literally, and figuratively—by silently liking each other’s photos and status updates over the years, with the occasional private message thrown in.

A few weeks ago I got one saying he’d be in the New York Harbor with a boat he’d been the captain of for a few years. Would I like to meet, he wondered.

It’d only been about, I don’t know, over a decade, so I responded: “That would be so fun! I would love that.”

***

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo 
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…

We sat idling for two Amtrak trains to pass before the bridge could lift and let us cross over to the East Side into the Harlem River. As Lou Reed sang, we flip-flopped back and forth between just humming along with the volume up, and exchanging details of our pasts with the volume down. While drinking La Crema Chardonnay from awesomely boat-proof wine sippy cups, we covered past relationships, jobs, travels, family updates, and then some. Strangely, it felt like no time had gone by; our lives having whipped past us before our very eyes—both of us expressing our keen awareness for the wild rides and discoveries we’d been lucky enough to witness along the way, much like at that very moment.

Maybe it was the wine, or maybe the sun, or maybe just the pure enormity of the current moment meshing so seamlessly with the past, but it was incredible to still feel so connected to someone I hadn’t seen in over a decade—without it having to “be” anything more. I did feel romanticized by this city surrounding us, though; a city he came to as a visitor; a city I’d soon be leaving as a…well, what am I now?

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo 

Once the bridge opened, we head down on the East River, past Yankee Stadium, under the 59th Street Bridge, by the Chrysler Building and the Empire State. I pointed out Greenpoint, Brooklyn on the left, followed by Williamsburg and DUMBO and then suddenly we were under the Brooklyn Bridge and back downtown where he picked me up hours earlier at the North Cove Marina in Battery Park—itself a landmark to me, as I’d often run or ride my bike around it wondering who were the lucky passengers that got to sail away from this shiny port.

This time, I was one of them.

With the boat in neutral, we gazed around at the city, both of us unfazed by the rockiness created by the traffic around us. To our left, the Staten Island ferry was returning to the mainland, and to our right, ferry boats I’d taken many times with the masses were preparing to head towards Governor’s Island. Then, as if this circumnavigational journey hadn’t already solidified itself as an unforgettable New York City-slash-Life experience, we rocked up to Lady Liberty—as close as we could get without being in the no-go zone. David made me pose for dozens of photos and the sound of the camera’s shutter echoed over the boat’s speaker system making me feel like Queen Bey.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo 

Back at the yacht, which was docked at a marina on the Hudson’s Jersey side, we went for a dip in the jacuzzi—because, ya know, that’s what someone who gets picked up on a boat from North Cove Marina for a four-hour, private ride around Manhattan does. (Squeal)

The sun set behind us, and we watched the skies around lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower turn pink as our finger tips turned into raisins from the warm water. By 8p.m., we were famished so we head back across to the city where I gave him an abbreviated tour of the West Village and we ate dinner at Piccolo Angelo, a classic red-sauce, mom and pop Italian joint on Hudson Street. We shared ridiculously huge mussels in ridiculously garlic-y white wine sauce and then each gorged on our own meaterrific entrees, all while continuing to yappity-yap. Following our feast, I brought him to Magnolia Bakery for the only thing one should get at Magnolia Bakery: banana bread pudding. We ate spoonfuls of it while walking back to the PATH train where we said goodbyes that felt more like see-you-agains.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo 

I’m not sure when I’ll see David again, but thanks to the wonders of social media I know it’ll be a “when” not an “if.” Fully riding around the island of Manhattan with a private captain, two bottles of Chardonnay and Lou Reed on the decks, however, will likely remain a one-time-only, movie-like experience—the soundtrack of which will forever play in my memory.

Whaddaya think?