Yesterday Danusia and I went out to Rockaway beach to take care of some business. It was something personal, so I won’t get into specifics, but here idea was to go out to the ocean for a swim and unwind from the process. That’s what I love about Danusia, the way she can take something mundane and make it a symbolic ritual.
We are lucky enough to have friends who own a house on Beach 98th street, and we were allowed to spend the night there after our ritual.
Getting out to Rockaway beach in the mid afternoon, the first order of business was to get some stuff to eat, so after dropping our stuff off we headed to the local shopping area ten or so blocks away to do so. As we were preparing to do this we noticed it was getting dark, and wondered if the sun had gone down behind the adjacent house when we heard the first rumble of thunder…
Lighting storms and the flat expanse of a beach don’t mix, but hopefully it would pass quickly. We set off for the store in a fairly steady rain.
The beach crowd streamed to the subway stop down the block from us or queued up for the buses on Rockaway Beach Blvd. Others started filling up the local watering holes early. Sudden rain must mean really good business for those guys.
I had a little pink umbrella we’d found in the closet, and Danusia had a pink plastic poncho. We both wore flip-flops, not a great choice in rain. The wetness is no big deal, but the grit from the street mixes with the water and gets between your toes and under your soles, a distinctly unpleasant feeling; at least for me.
We made it to the Key Food on Beach 90th and got our supplies.
When we got back to the house there was a group of people setting up a birthday party right in front of our front door. My heart automatically sank. My friend had forgotten to mention he gave one of his employees use the space between the houses for his daughter’s birthday.
But we weren’t going to let this spoil our mission. After all, there were the “louts” as Jenny calls them from the other house next door, a house divided into rooms for rent occupied by SURFERS, white 20-somethings bent on drinking as much as possible and then talking and dancing as much as possible after a day of surfing…
The rain had abated somewhat, and a quick check of my weather app said the rain would pass soon, so we put on our swim outfits and headed to the beach.
The wonderful thing about the sudden downpour was that it cleared the beach of all but the stalwarts. It was still raining lightly, and there was an ominous stretch of dark somewhere over New Jersey just where the sky met the earth. But at least we could see it coming.
It wasn’t quite 5 PM and still plenty light so we could see where it was raining and where the sun was fighting to peek out in the distance. That’s the beautiful thing about the beach, you can see for miles and miles…
We found a fairly empty spot near a lifeguard as far away from the live band on the boardwalk as possible.
I’ve always hated the beach, I hate the sand on my feet and the cold water and I especially hate being knocked down by a wave and getting pulled under. But this was important, and I bravely waded into the rough seaweed filled water without hesitation hand in hand with Danusia.
After the initial shock the water was quite warm. The waves were pretty rough, so we waded out past the break line, or at least where most of the waves were breaking. We wave “hopped,” as Danusia likes to call it.
The rain continued, a little heavy at times, but hey, when you are wet you are wet, no? So what’s the difference? The good thing about staying three blocks from the bridge is you don’t need to bring much, so whatever we had, a couple of towels and our tops were fairly dry in the bag we had.
Normally I’m the one who punks out first, I start whining about leaving. But I realize now that it’s the sun that kills me on the beach, and there was no sun, just a steady drizzle on my head. I have to admit it felt a little strange. So this time it was Danusia that asked when I wanted to leave.
We spent almost an hour in the water, and though I was knocked down a couple of times I finally developed a technique where when I saw I was going to be swamped by a big wave I simply closed my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and floated into the wave, letting it buoy me wherever for a few seconds. For a bad swimmer like me that’s afraid of the water, that was an accomplishment.
We walked back to the house wrapped in our towels, and waded through the crowd gathered for the birthday party.
With both air conditioners running at full blast and the TV on loud, we managed to shower and eat dinner without too much distraction. We dressed afterwards and headed back to the beach to watch the sunset.
The rain had stopped and the beach was now mostly empty. The sand was wet so not so uncomfortable under my feet. We found our favorite lifeguard chair, the same one we sat on last summer when we’d spent ten days here watching Ezra and Jenny’s cats.
Form our vantage point on the chair I noticed a bunch of ATVs roaring up and down the beach. A Sanitation truck was emptying the garbage cans on the perimeter of the beach.
A helmeted woman on an ATV in a parks department uniform stopped in front of our beach chair. With a grand sweep of an arm, she invited us to get the hell down from up there, thank you.
We climbed down and Danusia borrowed a fresh trash bag from the closest trashcan and we sat on the edge of the high water line. We watched until the lights of the tree ATVs disappeared into the deepening darkness, then returned to our perch.
We sat, we talked, and we watched the distant lightning over New Jersey. Somewhere on the horizon there were fireworks, and of course here and there the sun bled through thinner sections of clouds. At nine we went back to the house.
Since the rain stopped the parties on two sides of the house went on. The bedroom is upstairs, where the windows face the sides, so we took the TV up with us and knocked out 70% of the sound.
I left early Sunday; I had a prior commitment and felt I had to fulfill it. Thanks to my subway app I caught the 7:04 shuttle to Broad Channel. I crossed the bay in a mostly empty train and looked at Kennedy Airport. I hoped to see a plane taking off and wasn’t disappointed. A jet reached hard for the sky as we crossed the bay, and at that moment I felt really clean, a lot cleaner than I’ve felt in some time.