Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Boat in Alley and Other Perplexities

The things that show up in our alley aren't typically blog worthy. It's mostly garbage, discarded furniture, and the occasional pile of construction waste. We live in a transitional neighborhood, with lots of tenants and lots of turnover. It's not uncommon to see what's likely the entire contents of someone's apartment stacked in the alley and around the dumpsters. This is understandable. People without a lot of financial resources or a strong support network often have to make tough choices, and make them quickly. If circumstances compel one to abandon the contents of an apartment and travel light for life's next act, that's what you do. The landlord and the collection agency will sort out the rest.

That said, there's a boat in our alley.

It's not a boat-on-a-trailer-boat, and it's not a canoe-leaned-up-against-someone's-garage-boat. It's an honest-to-God-derelict-vessel of the the 12ft power boat variety, a good two miles from any sort of navigable water.

While I'm sure someone knows this boat's story, it's a mystery ship to me. It showed up one day in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex and has since drifted to the alley proper. It sits there now, collecting its own strain of urban flotsam, jetsam and lagan.

At first I was indignant about the boat ("What is wrong with people?"), but now I kind of like it. It's grown on me and come to represent both a communal curio and a shared experience among neighbors. It's the sort of oddity that makes our little corner of the world what it is.

I don't think I'm alone in this sympathetic stance either. The boat in the alley strikes me as exactly the kind of thing our own James Thurber would have written about had he stumbled across it. In its sad state it becomes the perfect metaphor for every difficult journey. It came from somewhere, it's here now, and it's going to wind up somewhere else. That it's broken and woefully out of place only serves to make the story even more compelling.

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