Last night I decided to do a quick run at 7:45 p.m. Why, I do not know. I thought I could beat the darkness if I kept it to 30 minutes. Not so much. As I ran east down Delancey street towards the East River I realized, “Wow, you’re an idiot.” When I reached the river, I turned north, ran up to 10th street, back over to Avenue A, then back down to my temporary home on Norfolk and Rivington. It was about 2.5 miles, mostly in darkness. Good job! Then I came home and ate a grilled cheese and half a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. Goooood job.
So, this morning, in order to burn off the calories (that, I may add, I am gaining back as we speak by eating a very tasty sesame bagel with creamcheese), I decided to do the run again… Now that it was light out, I could go wherever I wanted. This time I turned south at the river, ran under the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, passed the Fulton Street Fish Market, and ended up at South Street Seaport.
Only 120 years ago, this place was the shipping hub of Manhattan. Brothels and bars lined the streets, and goods were constantly moving, moving, moving, trading trading trading. Now most of the slips are empty – the boats have moved to the deeper waters of the West Side.
I stretched next to this little sailboat, The Pioneer, which was built in Marcus Hook, PA, in 1885 to carry sand mined near the mouth of the Delaware Bay to an iron foundry in Chester, PA. (According to the South Street Seaport Museum). To paraphrase, she was then re-rigged as a schooner, which is essentially a delivery truck on water, and then restored in the 60s to work a dock-building business. Now she’s a commercial tourism vessel that carries tourists around Manhattan. We all get reinvented in life, eh?
Australian tourists – I may add. As I pulled my quad for a stretch I heard the unmistakable accents directly behind me. “Cahm luke et thees sheep!” Corny corny — but I felt proud to show off my history to them, and I was glad to know they’d be sharing theirs with me in a little over a week. I looked toward New Jersey and tried to picture looking out of Sydney Harbor, the opera house to my side. I teared up a little and felt something I’ve been feeling a lot here lately, knowing I’m about to leave: I love this f-in’ city.
On the way back I stopped at what was the original electricity hub of Manhattan. On Sept. 4, 1982 — 100 years before I was born — Thomas Edison lit up one square mile of this little island from a building on Pearl Street.
From here: Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street electricity generating station introduced four key elements of a modern electric utility system. It featured reliable central generation, efficient distribution, a successful end use (in 1882, the light bulb), and a competitive price. A model of efficiency for its time, Pearl Street used one-third the fuel of its predecessors, burning about 10 pounds of coal per kilowatt hour, a “heat rate” equivalent of about 138,000 Btu per kilowatt hour. Initially the Pearl Street utility served 59 customers for about 24 cents per kilowatt hour. In the late 1880s, power demand for electric motors brought the industry from mainly nighttime lighting to 24-hour service and dramatically raised electricity demand for transportation and industry needs. By the end of the 1880s, small central stations dotted many U.S. cities; each was limited to a few blocks area because of transmission inefficiencies of direct current (dc).
100 years before I was born! That’s it! Now I’m sitting in a cafe on Clinton street blogging on a laptop computer with wireless internet. Only two generations ago Manhattan didn’t even have electricity. I wonder what my grandkids will have to play with. Let’s hope they get on that George Jetson shower-clothing gizmo by then! And flying cars people. Flying cars!
P.S. My Aussie twin is sitting in the corner. Powerbook, cell phone, big black Jackie O sunglasses. In one week the roles will be flipped!