[Above: boots and feet tired of being stood on at Jay Street]
After an i.n.t.e.r.m.i.n.a.b.l.e wait at Jay Street Borough Hall in Brooklyn for an A train to the Far Rockaways in Queens, we were under way. Vince had made this trip before, but it was all new to me. He was leading me to the ocean.
Below: the view through the subway car's windows. I had no idea. That's JFK. Water on both sides of the train line. We had taken the A back from the airport after dropping my mom off at the end of October, and that had given me a brief taste of the wetlands that are also New York. We had seen reeds and quiet water and cormorants and herons and ducks. And houses on stilts.
Now we were going further.
We got off at Beach 90th Street, about forty-five minutes after starting the ride. We passed a community garden near the beach, between clapboard houses that spoke of salt air and thin winds.
The expanse of sand was not very lovely in and of itself. But looking at the tracks left by seabirds I felt myself exhaling a little. I'd been holding my breath.
A surfer paddled out into the surfless, cold sea.
We found an empty bench on the wide boardwalk and parked for our picnic. Saucisson from Stinky on Smith Street, chicken sandwiches from the last night's leftover pot au feu, cornichons from Sahadi. Kir rouge. Us, wrapped in our coats.
A pale moon rose over the ranks of apartment blocks as jets descended, making their final approach for JFK.
We didn't stay long. Long enough to eat our lunch, to sniff this iodine air, to hear the small waves breaking on the length of beach, long enough to see another view and remember other places where the sea speaks.
Back at the station, we waited. The A train does not arrive in a hurry. I saw a pigeon with a Clint Eastwood shadow. We had to travel backwards before we go forwards because of construction on the platform.
Playland. Boarded-up houses; new, paper-thin condominiums.
The view from the station towards the inlet, on the opposite side of the sandbar to the ocean, was distinctly more upbeat.
It was a very well lit station. With not a single bench. Three contractors were fighting on the side under construction. One of them did not like receiving calls after 2pm. Even though it made no sense, I understood what he meant and silently took his side.
On the way back we kept our eyes open for the river otter Vince swore he had glimpsed on a beach on the way out.
We did not see it again. Or the piece of wood it may have been - the tide had come in. But we think it was an otter.
Our fellow passengers were sleepy...
Broad Channel, just past this point, below, will be our stopping-off point next time: the entrance to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
We will need binoculars for birds. 320 species of birds have been noted here in the last 25 years. Says Google.
And perhaps one river otter.