I remember discovering the Gowanus Canal when I was 15. Of course, I had seen it a million times, but only from the inside of a car as we drove to and from Brooklyn Heights or Carroll Gardens. In the 1980s, the area around the canal was fairly dangerous, or so it seemed to me as a short white kid from Park Slope. Anyway, at 15 I started skating to school, and the easiest way to get to Manhattan was down Carroll Street, over the Gowanus Canal Bridge near Nevins Street. I remember the smell of the canal back then, and occasionally stopping on the bridge and looking North or South. It seemed a kind of magical place, and still does.