The Place: The banks of the Gowanus Canal.

The Cast: Hilda, 36, graphic designer. Fjord, 41, art handler. Ermine, 2, pre-K waitlistee at Packer Collegiate Institute (#3,402). Fitzsimmons, 4, Miniature Schnauzer, pro bono therapy dog.

The Scene: Hilda nibbles a salmon canapé while Fjord savors a glass of '07 Syrah. Ermine pushes aside her pesticide-free, locally-stitched chew toy in favor of a Funyun bag filled with damp rocks. It's silent, save for the soporific whirr of the nearby excavator, punctuated by distant horn blasts from the expressway.

Across the way, a majestic mountain peak of trash looms over the Gowanus, or, as savants of Brooklyn's literary heritage have taken to calling it, the River Icks. The Porta-Potties stand sentinel over the many fish carcasses drifting to and fro in the frothing "waters."

"Fjord," Hilda says, lingering over the final canapé. "We need to talk about the tree sweaters."

Fjord gulps at his wine. "Jesus" he thinks. "Again?"