On Sunday, I was out on the bike. An old grey Firestone (the tire folks) I call the "Grouse Goose." Don't ask. So I'm on the bike and the day is just lovely. I'm tooling along, looking like Clark Gable in shorts. I head around Astoria Park, which butts up against the East River. The views are stunning and dramatic, and it being September 11th, I feel like this city really is invincible. If I was supposed to be afraid of terrorists, I wasn't right then. If you head south past the park, you'll come to a giant hill. At the top of the hill is a sign: "Waterfront Pathway." Lovely, right? So I cautiously proceed down a steep hill (Firestone good at tires, not at brakes). As I do, I can't help but think, "Hey, this neighborhood isn't as nice as I'd imagine, being waterfront property and all." But it's day light, and today we're all Americans, so I travel on.
Certainly it's true that "Waterfront Pathway" does refer to a serene promenade that runs beside the East River, offering unique views of Roosevelt Island. What is not inferred in "Waterfront Pathway" is that you're now in the middle of a GIANT HOUSING PROJECT. Your bicycle promenade is their sidewalk. Strangely, for a former victim of violent crime while passing through similar neighborhoods, I was feeling fine. You see, the day was THAT LOVELY. A kind sun. Mild temps. Patriotism. Then, up ahead, I see them.
About one hundred yards in front, a gang of boys gather. Not a gang as in "Holy %$&?, the Latin Kings!", but in the "Hey, that's a large group of young men." I can see them, but I'm not worried because they look to be playing football. My anxiety rises, however, when I notice they are running to sit on the park bench that rests beside the path. "This ain't good," I think. As I get closer, they begin sitting very nicely. Quiet. Backs straight. Hands...out of sight. Never trust a kid sitting still. When I am about ten yards away, they begin counting. One...two...three! I pass them, and as I do hear the splat of water balloons on concrete.
First thought: "Whew. I'm dry." Second thought: "Pedal faster, Lance ArmWrong!" Third thought: "Wow. Those kids would make terrible pitchers. I was molasses, and they still couldn't hit me from five feet away. I bet these kids never play baseball."