It was Friday evening after a busy work week. In this city, although you can really do anything and everything you want at any hour, if you’ve got the cash of course, finding peace and relaxation can be difficult. I asked for a few suggestions in the office and was surprised when a coworker said, “You’ve got to check out the IKEA in Red Hook! Take the ferry!” I’m all for easy-to-assemble furniture and Swedish sensibilities, but is IKEA really an escape? No. It’s big and it’s blue. But the five dollar ferry, and Louis Valentino Jr. Park just up the street will take your mind off just about anything.
The water taxi, which you pick up at the pier at the end of Wall St., provides fresh views of Brooklyn and Manhattan. You get in a little closer, see the movement of cars and the inner-workings of the nation’s first “suburb”. But if you’re in it to take pictures, be careful. This thing hauls!
It’s when you pull into Red Hook that the views really get interesting. I’ll spare you the industrial shots, although one could say it’s all well and good. Instead of actually going in IKEA and wandering a maze of furnishings with names like Flurgen and Murgen, walk up to Coffee St. and bang a left until you hit, Louis Valentino Jr. Park. You’ll know when you do. This is what it’s all about.
The man in this photo, let’s call him Morris, has been fishing this exact pier since he was 12. Now in his early 50’s, he told me of when the pier was wooden and you had to watch your step or you could fall through. There were also times he said where certain people in the area might want to push you through if you looked at them the wrong way. He’s thrilled at the revitalization the area has seen. But for Morris, all that really matters is the fishing. “Caught a 38 in striper last week. Whoo boy, some nights this is some good fishin.”
Other Brooklynites gather for sunset as well. Some are families, others on a date, and some, like me, just there to take it all in. Each finds peace in the park.
As a Water Taxi passed I realized I’d missed the last one from IKEA. Woops! Luckily, there are a few busses that run routes from Red Hook to downtown Brookyln and Fulton Mall. The stop is in front of the IKEA, where you made the left to get to all this good stuff in the first place. Even though you feel a world away, it’s actually easy to stay until last light, when the sky begins to burn.
Then, the moment we’d all been waiting for. No one talked as the sun dipped behind the Statue of Liberty, melting into the swamps of Jersey. At least I don’t think anyone spoke. I’d reached the place I needed to find — peace and a focus on the beautiful moments this city and this world provide. My zen status was broken when Morris turned and said, “Beautiful, man. One more sunset. Now all I need’s a sunrise tomorrow and I’ll be cool.” He cast his line and I walked to the bus smiling. Had I just found philosophy courtesy of IKEA?