Feed on

sorry walt (you blew this one)Yes, yes, yes everyone makes mistakes & bloggers ain’t an exception (quite the opposite) but ya’ll know that already. What does it say about scholarship, however, when erstwhile “authoritative” sources perpetuate baseless urban legend? Take the case of Buttermilk Channel. According to more than one chronicler & lots of other yokels, the waters between Red Hook & Governor’s— or Nutten—Island were once shallow enough that, at low tide, the future farmers of South Brooklyn could drive their moo cows back & forth for grazing, picnics, volkfests, rodeo, cricket.

This is, if you’ll pardon my interspecies expression, total horseshit. Why does it persist? Because most people are dubs. Even Whitman, writing his “Brooklyniana” series in 1862 was fooled & it is he— usually a fine journalist— who bears at least some responsibility for promoting this nonsense, even if the articles for the weekly Brooklyn Standard were published unsigned. Uncle Walt didn’t invent this whole cloth mind you, he was merely repeating the confabulation of others but, from Gravesend to Gowanus to Greenpoint, in the words of John Wayne, it’s “getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous.”

cows go glug glug glugAccording to the authoritative 1766 British map of Brooklyn, the depth of Buttermilk Channel varied from three to five fathoms. As one fathom is, I recall from the reformatory, six feet, unless it’s Babe the Blue Ox or some Seabring cows who can swim really really goddamn well… they ain’t wading too far into the water. (Walt– an experienced printer & carpenter but no seaman– didn’t understand the ecology of tidal estuaries well either. Come back Pierre, or, The Ambiguities: all is forgiven.)

BUT WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE ROCKAWAY: Phil Ochs loved John Wayne— & John Ford. I’m a Lee Marvin man myself, thus The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). For others, including the great poet & critic, Geoffrey O’Brien, & Dylan-savvy novelist Jonathan Lethem, it’s The Searchers (1956). When Phil Ochs committed suicide on April 9, 1976, he didn’t use a gun, nor did his family need travel far to find him: he hanged himself in his sister’s apartment. Upset over the sale of Astroland at Coney Island? You’ll live! Ya’ll should have been here back in 2000 when That Scumbag Rudy Giuliani had the Thunderbolt razed and all of the flea market vendors tossed from their Surf Avenue stalls. Coney still moments, a few of them at least, afterwards but those twin outrages marked the end Coney, neither grand with amusemenwhen people were shorter & lived near the watert nor deep-fried mystery religion. Jock-sniffing the public-subsidized baseball placebo, like the goddamn Mets or Yankees needed your money to survive? No thank you. The real Gil Hodges Memorial is still called the Marine Parkway Bridge & it’s one of four ways to Pinakotek*, with one Luc Sante working that Playland midway as only the truest sons of Old Walloonia dare. Hey ho, let’s go!

* the others being Howard Beach to Broad Channel then over the Cross Bay Bridge; taking the ass end of Rockaway Boulverard & zig-zagging through the Five Towns a bit (shout to Young Thomas Pynchon) before popping back into Far Rock (no tolls); of course, the subway: Beach 90th, conductor, & step on it!

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