Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On a Lark with Jane

Regular readers of this site may remember the first entry in our "Serious Ladies of Staten Island" series. In that post, we followed Miss Goering, Jane Bowles' character from Two Serious Ladies, on her journey from the house she had rented on an unnamed island to the catch "little train that meets the ferry." Bowles herself lived with husband Paul in a rented farmhouse on Woodrow Road on Staten Island for just under two years (1938-39). According to her biographer, Millicent Dillon, Jane would make the same trip--unlike Miss Goering, probably with company.

Let's pick up Miss Goering's journey from when the little train reaches the "tip of the island," which would have been Tottenville:
...the rain had stopped and the stars were shining again intermittently. She had to walk down a long narrow boardwalk which served as a passage between the train and the landing peer of ferry. Many of the boards were loose and Miss Goering had to be very careful where she was stepping. She sighed with impatience, because it seemed to her that as long as she was still on the boardwalk it was not certain that she would actually board the ferry.... 

The narrow boardwalk has been replaced.
The boardwalk was only lighted at intervals and there were long stretches which she had to cross in the dark. However, Miss Goering, usually so timorous, was not frightened in the least. She even felt a kind of elation, which is common in certain unbalanced but sanguine persons when they approach the thing they fear. She became more agile in avoiding the loose boards, and even made little leaps around them. She could now see the landing dock at the end of the boardwalk. It was brightly lighted and the municipality had erected a good-sized flagpole in the center of the platform....

There are few traces of the ferry slip. No flagpole.
"Why, people have been living here for years," she said to herself. "It is strange that I hadn't thought of this before. They're here naturally, with their family ties, their neighborhood stores, their sense of decency and morality, and they have certainly their organizations for fighting criminals of the community" She felt almost happy now that she had remembered all this.
Bentley St. to the ferry slip (courtesy NYPL)
For a few moments Miss Goering is the only person waiting for the ferry. In time, a group of young people arrive. Miss Goering is swept up with them as they board the ferry. Miss Goering accosts one,
     "Young man..., would you mind telling me if you all are actually going on some lark together in a group or if it's a coincidence?"
     "We're all going to the same place," said the boy, "as far as I know."
     "Well, could you tell me where that is?" asked Miss Goering.
     "Pig Snout's Hook," he answered. Just then the ferry whistle blew. He hastily took his leave of Miss Goering and ran to join his friends on the foredeck.

In the next post: In search of Pig Snout's Hook!


  1. I'm thinking about starting a petition campaign on to bring back the Tottenville-Perth Amboy ferry line.

  2. Why is it that, without seeing more than the remaining scant trace of the old ferry slip, I like it so much better than the new one?

    Power of imagination?

    Hatred of the present?

    Perhaps a bit of each.

    In any case, very interesting investigative work here David.

    Sad that a book this wonderful should need reviving, happymaking that you're reviving it in such a fascinating way.

    Almost everything that ever was, had to, at some point, actually be located somewhere.

    (Why do I say "almost"?)

    Wittgenstein said a point in space may be useful as a starting point for an argument.

    I think maybe a point in space has its own identity, before and after all the arguing.

    Possibly that's the curious thing about fiction.

  3. Well, I believe what he actually was said "is", not "may be". And the "useful" -- I'm afraid that's my invention too.

    (Why am I trying to give Wittgenstein a break?)