Friday, September 23, 2016

Mourning the End of Summer: Sand in My Shoes

 My late mom's favorite season was Autumn; unfortunately, I never shared that sentiment.  I have always had sand in my shoes.  I was born in Brooklyn, and both of my parents grew up on Coney Island.  I was taken to Coney Island in the summer to join my extended family -- mostly from my Dad's side [my maternal relatives are Austrian with fair skin and prone to sunburn] but sometimes we would be joined by my mom's Coppertone-slathering, umbrella-sheltered family.  Somewhere in my dad's house are black-and-white childhood photos of me in a one-piece on a beach blanket and home movies converted to a cassette[sadly VCR -- not yet put on DVD] of an iconic 50s me with white ice cream from a melting pop dripping down my face, and a confused "I can't lick fast enough; what am I gonna do?" look of total perplexion on my face.

Later, when we moved from Bensonhurst to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, and my paternal grandparents moved to the Nostrand Projects right on the next block from the Sheepshead Houses [an adjoining NYCHA "project"], we frequented quieter Manhattan Beach.  Manhattan Beach wasn't in Manhattan; it was on the same strip of Atlantic Ocean as Coney Island to the east.  It was quieter and wasn't "bad" like Coney Island was starting to become.  "Bad" was another way of saying that there were increasing numbers of people of color -- African-Americans and Puerto Ricans [back then, anybody who spoke Spanish was Puerto Rican]. 

When I was 11, we moved to Long Beach, Long Island and my fate was sealed-- I would forever have sand in my shoes.  I studied for my end-of-year New York State Regents exams in the sun on a beach blanket.  My teenage years were filled with beach bonfires and all kinds of beach parties.  I told my mom I wanted to one day have a wedding on the beach with all the guests in flip-flops; she replied that I was a crazy hippie.  When I was deciding on a town in France to spend a summer studying and perfecting my French, it's no accident that I chose Boulogne-sur-Mer on the English Channel, where I attended classes in the morning and headed for the beach every afternoon.  My foray into living out of state was a four-year stint in Los Angeles, never far from a beach.

Lately, my beach stomping-grounds has become Rockaway, Queens, New York.  A once-bustling, then-crumbling stretch of the Atlantic which is part of the New York City beaches.  Rockaway is reachable by subway and MTA bus, and -- like all the city beaches-- free to visit.  An interesting thing happened after Superstorm Sandy; Rockaway experienced a revival of sorts, largely thanks to a huge contingent of young hipster artsy types from Brooklyn and Manhattan.  

                                                    My favorite Rockaway "poison" -- a Michelada which is a Modelo
                                                                Mexican beer with lime, clam juice and tomato juice in a glass rimmed
                                                                 with coarse salt and spices.  On the plate is ceviche [raw fish "cooked"
                                                     in lime] over a disc of quinoa

We accidentally discovered 97th Street after I read an article online about fish tacos being sold near the Rockaway boardwalk, and immediately was brought back to fish tacos I lunched on every day on a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico in the late 1990s.  I dragged my friend Louise one afternoon on a mission to Rockaway Tacos and discovered our new beach obsession.  That was late July, 2014 and we went back every weekend for the remainder of that summer.  And during Summer, 2015.  This 2016 summer, I was robbed of my July, dealing with my endoscopies and belly-hole issues when it was tough to leave the house.  The 97th Street boardwalk has become my second home, along with the Low Tide Bar and all the various food concessions that serve up everything from ceviche [fish cooked in lime] and pierogies to BBQ pulled pork and veggie juices.  And the most wonderful thing is the beach "mats" they lay down so that wheelchairs can go partially on the sand.  And I read [although sadly I don't have anyone willing and able to help me], that you can rent beach wheelchairs [with big wheels] that someone can push me in, on the actal sand and in the water.  Yes, I need someone young and/or strong who is willing to help me rent this and push me. 

I am dreaming of a permanent or even semi-permanent [summer] home/rental in the Rockaways.  I am determined to make something like that happen.  For right now, I am mourning the summer and trying to make my fall and winter productive enough to make some dreams come true for next year. In the meantime, let's hope for no broken bones, nor belly holes spouting stomach acid or half-digested food. 

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