Hot Times…

Turns out that during a heat wave, it’s a really good idea to do an art project that involves going to the beach. We were having a really rotten time of it here in New York, so after a bit of breakfast I slithered out of my apartment and made my way towards Deadhorse Bay.

It was the perfect place to go given my state of mind. I had gone to see the new Terrence Malick movie the night before and was feeling very existential. Maybe not existential, but “exist-y”. On the continuum of life. Those of you who know me, know that Malick is my favorite artist. I feel like we’re trying to say a lot of the same things. And he’s also a fellow (according to wikipedia) Assyrian! What are the chances?! So now that makes, me, Terrence Malick, and Andre Agassi. We’re really taking over!

At Deadhorse Bay, one can see and feel this continuum. Definitely the continuum of garbage. Three centuries worth at least. Some of the stuff has been there so long, or been so battered and shaped by the elements that it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s man made and what’s not. The old garbage is mostly glass and ceramic, along with a surprising amount of leather insoles. Also some old bones. They used to render horses at Deadhorse Bay (there’s a clue in the name!) and the leather strikes me as kind of poignant. Looking at skin and bones that have been used by us, along with the glass; all these natural materials breaking back down to the elements from which they came…

Along with the continuum of garbage, the continuum of life is just as apparent. You can almost trace evolution from the algae, to horseshoe crabs, to cartilaginous fishes, to bony fishes, to birds. Lots of birds. Which I was very happy to see.

The cartilaginous fishes seemed to be having a particularly tough time of it…

A coconut! I wonder if we’ll get a coconut palm in Brooklyn…

Oh My God! Is this where rum trees come from?! It’s right next to the coconut! We’re gonna have such a good time!

There was no one on the shore but me and a young woman looking for interesting junk. I didn’t enlist her help in filming my bottle tossing as I feared seriously creeping her out. I’m looking like a heavily bearded ruffian at the moment. Nothing like being alone on a beach and having a swarthy guy saunter up and ask you to take pictures of him! Am I right, ladies?! So I just set up a tri-pod. I have a couple of funny videos of me tossing these things, but I can’t figure out how to format them for uploading. But here’s a picture of the bottle out on the bay…

The tide was coming in, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I was hoping it wouldn’t just wash right back in. The drawing inside is of an Audubon’s Shearwater that I really like. It was actually a little hard to part with, but them’s the breaks. I tossed the bottle and it started drifting pretty quickly in a southeasterly direction. Since the tide would still be coming in, I’m going to assume it was heading round the bend and would pass under Marine Park bridge and into Jamaica Bay. But who the hell knows.

It was nice to hike back out through the woods between Deadhorse and the road. Really a lot birds. And somehow these small patches can seem pretty wild. And I guess a little creepy. There was this pair of gloves discarded by the base of a tree. I’m assuming from a serial killer. As some of you may or may not know, in addition to the heat wave, we also have a serial killer in New York who’s ditching bodies in the coastal woods of Long Island. This patch sort of fits the bill. I could picture him: “Whew! Too hot for any more serial killing today! Ugh, what should I do with these damn gloves?… I totally don’t feel like washing them… whatever, I’ll just leave ‘em here for next time.”

I saw a dead mouse too…

I then headed to Ft Tilden along with the sweaty, huddled masses of hipsters yearning to breath free, and heartily, of the salt air. This time of the year, big potions of the beach are roped off for nesting birds. The beach at Riis Park is very wide, so really there’s room for everyone. I saw a few nesting pairs of oystercatchers right off the bat. I’ve always liked these birds. I think it’s because they look sort of dorky, like some sort of Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit) creation. Their call also always cracks me up. It’s so insistent and spazzy, as if they’re like, “AH! AH! OH MY GOD! AH! WHAT?! AH!”

Here they are, looking fairly calm:

I eventually made my way to a somewhat less crowded stretch. For anyone who’s wondering, the water was perfect. I managed a nice swim before getting down to some serious tanning littering.

This toss proved to be a bit more difficult. I felt odd about people watching me, but I also didn’t feel up to introductions and explanations, so me and the tri-pod went about our business on our own. We were just about at slack tide, but it was still coming in a little. I waded out, tossed it, then got back to the beach to make sure no one ran off with my camera and to see what would happen.

It washed back up in about five minutes.


This was demoralizing. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m tossing these in the most populous city in the country and that they could well be found in five minutes depending on where I’m at, but still… it felt pretty lame.

So I picked it up and swam it out about 50 yards and tossed it again. I lost sight of it really quickly, so I went back to the towel confident that my little vessel was well on its way to England.

Well, I got Europe right, because about 15 minutes later there was an Italian (I think) guy taking pictures of the bottle washed up on shore. He seemed very nice, but I must say, the feeling was akin to nursing an injured bird back to health, releasing it, and having it promptly snatched by a hawk. But, going with the whole cycle of life feeling of the day, I figured that was fine. I also figured it was my cue to clear out.

This bottle has a Cory’s Shearwater in it:

The bizarre part of this story is that I have yet to hear anything! From aforementioned assumed European – or anyone else! Which is truly odd because there were plenty of people on the beach. But maybe it makes sense. If you were alone and came upon such an attractive artifact, surely you’d claim it. But with a lot of people around, maybe you’d just assume it must belong to someone there. Or you don’t want to look greedy? Who knows. This is now in college psych experiment territory. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting…

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1 Response to “Hot Times…”


  1. 1 mthew June 26, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Lovely drawings. It would blow my mind if I found one of these up the Gowanus, (getting it out of there might be a challenge, though), where the tide can bring in all sorts of things, like the many jellyfish a few years back. You may want to considering slipping on one of the charter fishing boats that head out of Sheepshead Bay to launch your messages into the Bight.


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