July 23, 1980
When the water is this low, it stinks of dying fish, as if someone opened hundreds of tuna cans and left them to rot, with the scent of a little drying sea weed.
The duck droppings little the shore where the water used to flow – giving this place as bad a reputation as the Port Authority men’s room on a Saturday night.
As much as I love this river, I have come to understand that it is not always a nice place or a pretty place, or a place most people would find comfort in.
On warm days like this, we also get the stench of burnt flesh as the homeless men cook (god knows what) on their trash can fires on the other side, raising a haze that fills the air as the day closes and the sun sinks, and twilight sneaks upon us.
A crow caws in some complaint, apparently unable to find a place to land, part of the saga of the night’s start, his dark shape almost invisible against the growing dark of sky.
From this side, sunset is still visible just over the mountains that took their name from such times as this, peaks glowing orange as the sun sinks behind them.
Soon the moon and stars take reign over this place, and the sounds seem louder, the cawing of the crows, the coughing of the hobos, the rumble of the falls.
Sometimes, I can see the sparks of something rising out of the smoke stacks of factories that still labor into the night, sparks hidden in daylight and fumes, but made visible now as the dark comes.
Sometimes, I can smell the putrid scent that spills out of the pipes from the chemical plant – poison discarded into a low river so that by morning, carp float belly-up in oozing green pools that lack of rain won’t wash away – fish eyes frosted over with death, while the oily ooze from the car shops floats on top of all like blood.
Even the fishermen are frustrated, abandoning their lines to stand and stair, the glow of their cigarettes illuminating their angry eyes.
Other parts of the river are better even during this drought – but the state puts up signs not to drink the water, or swim in it, or eat anything out of it, as if what we see flowing at our feet could be called water at all.
We get predictions of rain, and with those, a promise of cleansing, and I walk without umbrella, waiting for the first drops to touch my face, as darker clouds, not made by man, slowly move across the face of the moon.