The Barge Man And The Pigeon Boy

June 22, 2010 could possibly be the longest day in the history of days.  Several lectures and a bus tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard was not enough.  No, no.  

Lunch at Bubby’s and a quick visit to the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s DUMBO section was also not enough.  No, no.  

American Stevedoring, Inc. was calling.  Complete with its sign in and show your ID to the guard and be chaperoned by a worker–one for every five visitors–the trip to the Mary Whalen triggered some vertigo but also offered some great insider views to the still-significant shipping cargo industry on the water. 


Then the sweet seduction of Red Hook swept over the group.  We had to stay.  We had to visit Fairway.  We had to go to the Waterfront Museum, featured in A Hole In A Fence.  We had to watch some juggling. We had to watch On The Waterfront while sitting on a barge on the waterfront.  Ah, Red Hook, you sing the song of the sirens with your very paltry offering of public transportation.

Quite honestly, Red Hook is a pretty funky town and it has a sense of seduction because of its off-the-beaten-pathness.  The barge master, David Sharps, leads an interesting life, having juggled and worked and lived on barges for most of his adulthood.  He also juggled for us, not just balls, but also vases.  He rang bells, too, but for that, you had to be there. 

The culmination of the evening was watching the Brando film on this barge.  The perk–the now-grown-man who played the then-pigeon-boy called up on the phone to chat with us.  The guy’s name is Thomas Handley, and in the movie he plays Tommy, but Richard Handley, of CityTech, our ever-exuberant chipper leader, refers to him as the pigeon boy in the film.  (The two Handleys are of no relation).  The talk was fascinating in that Tom Handley worked on the waterfront after being in the movie and was able to offer us his take on the film versus real life.

And then?  We watched the film.  Rain poured down outside, one of those New York City summer rainfalls that are torrential, the kind that takes out umbrellas.  And we sat and watched the film on the big screen.  The sun going down outside.  The lights of the bridges coming up.  Half falling asleep but still watching, experiencing the waterfront as it was and as it is all at once.

Capt. Christina


About Christina M. Rau

Poet, blogger, writer, editor, professor
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