Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fire Island

A subway to Atlantic Terminal, some waiting, then catching a real train to Jamaica, Queens, another wait on the platform, surveying fellow travelers - I notice a tall skinny man in his early 60's, perhaps, with sinewy calves and a serious, stuffed, blue, hiker's backpack We all transfer to a double decker train so full that we stand all the way to Bayshore, about 50 minutes. I manage to grab a seat for about 10 minutes at the end, opposite a slack-mouthed girl whose pink laundry bags sits on the seat beside her. I glare her to death. She doesn't care.

We pile out at the other end, ignore the white shuttle vans loading passengers for the ferry, and walk along the pleasant, green-gardened street to the small harbour. Naturally, we miss the ferry.

Soon, another queue forms. Dogs, babies, double strollers, overtanned and overfed persons and underclad ones, spilling out all over, superthin and perfectly dressed, diamonded and sequinned, mini dresses, wedge heels and bare feet. Lapdogs. Everyone plugged into their smart phones. A big storm breaks black over us as we cross the water, lit by flashes of green lightning and pursued by a flat wind. We text our hosts. They ask where the hell we are.

And then we dock, and pour off. Dan waits for us, two massive rain ponchos in his bicycle basket, and he rides off ahead of us to tend to his barbecuing chicken We pull our single suitcase through the puddles, following the route we remember and suddenly realize: we are alone. There is nobody here.

The mass of mewling, squealing, bickering humanity has melted into the side paths and auto-free passages of Seaview, Fire Island.

Enormous white hydrangeas are in bloom against the purple sky, intensely blue spires of ubiquitous Vitex line the pathways. We pull the string on the latch in the gate, which swings open, and step into the other world. Swimming pool, flowers, herbs, house, deck, grasses, sand, bay. Grilling dinner.

A short weekend of long walks, cold drinks, good food, hyenic laughter at charades, ignominious tumbles from a paddleboard into a clean ocean, and then a reluctant, foot-dragging reverse to Brooklyn. On the station platform, waiting for the New York-bound train, I see the skinny backpack man. He is gnawing a loose, limp leaf of romaine lettuce from a plastic bag.

Where has be been?

Dan, Nancy, and Arianna? Thank you!


  1. I miss California less when I read this.

  2. I've never been to fire island. Is it still the gay mecca it used to be? Or has it been gentrified by the wall street yuppies?

  3. Oh my! I just don't handle crowds like that anymore. Such a reward you had at the end of the road, but such an ordeal. Being a West Coaster, I will have to Google Fire Island because I know nothing about it.

  4. Bow Street - the beaches really are lovely...

    Thomas, yes, very much so - everyone has partitioned themselves off into more or less separate communities - gay, lesbian, Jewish, WASP, partiers, renters. etc, side by side. I actually don't know where the Wall Streeters are (Hamptons?)

    Autumn Sky, but it's part of the cultural fabric :-)

  5. Such lovely pics! I endlessly adore my little brooklyn garden, but now I'm thinking it's time for a beach venture...

  6. What a lovely essay. Dit klink beautiful.

  7. brooklyn blooms - ah, but it's always nice to come home to the gardenssss

    arcadia, baie lekker, maar nogal duur om daar uit te kom en 'n helse gesukkel met die mense op pad...ek was heel knorrig. En welkom terug, btw...

    Janet, you crack me UP! I thought you were some South African Janet. Well done, and thank you :-)


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