The sun had risen in the east, but who could tell. The sky was grim, the sea the color of lead. We stood onshore, blew a whistle, and watched him approach in his small, leaky, aqua blue outboard. He wore a knit hat pulled low on his forehead and motioned us in. He had a smack of the sea about him, so we sang, "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!" Inside the boat was a half-foot of water, a Russell Stover candy box, and a wet corduroy pillow. He moved us out, following a waterway that we were sure would lead to the uttermost end of the earth, but we just went 30 feet or so and got off at the island where he lives—some 2000 square feet of old docks roped together about 60 feet behind Macy's in the Kings Plaza Shopping Center. His island is in the backwater of Jamaica Bay, in Mill Basin, tied to two sunken boats on one side and a big pole on the other. He calls himself Super Mario, and he lives alone on the island with his dog, Rags—"If he doesn't bite, I do"—and his neighbors, two wheezing swans and 16 or so ducks. He describes his existence as "kind of Robinson Crusoe," sleeping in a 200-square-foot wooden hut with two storm windows, some copper cookware hanging over a woodstove, a bed, a jar of peanuts, and a 1970s beige microwave that belonged to his friend Ray's Uncle Joey, though it is just for show as he has no electricity—"Don't want it, I'm self-sufficient." He has an outhouse. He gathers his firewood from the shoreline. "If it's free, it's... More >>>