21 August 2011 |
“What do you think Thomas Eakins would think of this?” asked my father. We were standing on the Schuylkill Banks admiring Miss Rockaway Armada, the floating circus made entirely of trash docked under the Walnut Bridge. Visitors were invited on the “Armada” to lay down on the waterside bed—think Nile houseboat, 1960s—attend a personal lecture, have a ride on the three-person bike-pedaled Ferris Wheel, make music in a sound chamber, have a seat at the galley—really a farmhouse table spread with purple figs, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne glasses filled with lemonade. It was there, at the sunken table, I discovered the answer. It was obvious, really. With nowhere to put my feet, I slipped slipped them in the river. Sure, it was a bit filthy—a few feet away a slurry of garbage and debris had collected—but it was also magical. With the sun setting and the breeze running through the gauzy curtains, I felt Eakins’ pleasure, the body at one with the river, the river animating the city.