Brooklyn Noir
those terms are defined in articles ten, three and seven of the family court act.

Endangering the welfare of a child is a class A misdemean-or

If caught, that’s a year or less in jail. No one with even half a brain in his head gets caught.
    Canarsie Pier’s stink of briny rot rendered plausible what otherwise seemed unlikely: that Canarsie had once been a sleepy fishing village. Ninety years before Dad and I stood at our jump-off point for more sophisticated practicing—“a whole new level,” he’d said—most of the neighborhood’s few thousand residents, mainly Italian immigrants, made their living fishing, crabbing, clamming, or oystering Jamaica Bay’s rich waters and beds. By the 1920s pollution and the Great Depression had destroyed Canarsie’s shell-fishing industry. Shellfish, aquatic homebodies, were loath to travel far from home, and they generally remained inside the calcareous houses they built for themselves. Food was delivered to their bodies by built-in siphons that drew water into their shells for filter-feeding: first capturing food, then spitting out water. I’d guiltily consider the attachment of shellfish to their houses whenever Dad and I collected shells at Brighton Beach: Every shell in our dry, deadly hands was once someone else’s house! How selfish to bring back to our home, for frivolous ornamentation, the self-made homes of other beings who’d have preferred to stay put, soft bodies encased under solid cover, however temporary and illusory the protection might be.
    If sedentary living made clams and other shellfish susceptible to accumulations of high concentrations of human-made poisons—bacterial coliforms from sewage, polychlorinated biphenyls from industry—the Bay’s fish traveled for food, in mobile homes of skin and scale, to mixed and open Atlantic waters, so fish weren’t as vulnerable to dire accumulations of pollutants. In warm weather, crag-faced, gravel-voiced old-timers would cast long for eel and fluke or snag butterfish or samplings of Jamaica Bay’s increasing population of Canarsie White Fish—floating used condoms—right off the Pier’s decaying edges. Word on the Pier, from above, state and federal environmental officials, and from below, locals, people like us, was: “You can fish, but you can’t clam.”
    Canarsie Beach Park was part of Gateway National Recreation Area—not a
National Park
, as if a park was too much to wish for; we needed to maintain realistically low greenery expectations—but a
Recreation Area
Still, the place was Federal enough to have behatted, uniformed rangers. And rules. The Department of Health had officially and consistently declared Jamaica Bay unswimmable for fifty years: No primary-contact recreation—activities in which bodies made direct contact with raw water, especially total bodily submersion—allowed. Secondary contact recreation, like fishing or boating, where skin contact with water was minimal and ingestion improbable, was permitted. Clamming, I guessed, was ultra-forbidden because it required getting the whole body into the water to dig.
    Practicing here, jumping off Canarsie Pier into Jamaica Bay, to simulate the worst potential payout of our gamble with gravity—falling together off a bridge into deep water, which he risked every day, just not while toting me along—required forbidden primary contact recreation. Immersion in Jamaica Bay “violated Federal rules,” Dad warned, voice somber, conspiratorially soft, “As in,
the Feds
You get it?”
    “I got it.”
    Bench-pressing hadn’t been practicing; it was pre-training, basic conditioning, a barely callisthenic, chicken-feed beginner’s warm-up leading us to this. To Canarsie Pier. For the
for-real practicing
—if those particular words, strung together and placed next to each other, made sense. Which they didn’t.
    Dad started when he was fourteen. Until his death at forty-five, every workday of his life, he was

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