Ramblings: The beach in September

I love the beach in September. Just after Labour Day the beaches are much quieter, and there is more room to spread out and enjoy the sound of the waves breaking on the shore (as opposed to people shouting and blasting music from every side). September has always been my favourite month in NYC (even though it signifies the end of summer and the beginning of autumn which is always followed on by cold, cold winters…): the air is cleaner and les muggy, the sun is still shining and warm and the nights are cooler. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the warm sand, relaxing right by the water and soaking up the sun, never knowing if this will be the last time you will make it to the beach before the cold sets in.

The Rockaways have always been my favourite part of NYC. I’ve written many times about my trips to the beach, to Rockaway Park or Fort Tilden (when you could still go there before Sandy). A 45 minute subway ride from my home in Bushwick finds you in the middle of a lovely beach community, with miles of beaches to choose from, a perfect place to get away from the oppressiveness of the city and the humidity that coats everything through-out the summer. There have been years when I have spent at least a day per week on the beach, and then other years when I have struggled to make it out there more than a couple of times a month. I have to say that I have done better this year than I did last year, and mainly because I felt the need to support the place that I love so much after all of the devastation that happened there during Sandy. The first time I walked down the street towards the beach the boarded up places (especially the Sand Bar, a regular stop-off place for my friends and I), made me sad, although the fact that so many businesses were back open and ready for customers surprised me and made me realize how hard people had worked to go on with life even after part of it was destroyed. The beaches themselves were completely different. Smaller, with only partial boardwalks, the rest swept away during the hurricane. Fort Tilden closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches that were still accessible, comfortable with all of the amenities that one would need. I’ve always preferred the Rockaways to Coney Island – it’s more laid-back and less noisy (and there is always Pickles and Pies deli where you can buy sandwiches and fruit, not just places where you can only get fried food like hot dogs and fries). Coney is fun, but the Rockaways are my real place to go to, to relax and swim and be in the sun. 

I realised this week, listening to the Psychedelic Furs and contemplating the future while lying in the sun on Beach 106, that this is probably my last summer in NYC and that my future visits to the Rockaways may just be that – visits. There are oceans and beaches all over the world but this one will always have a very, very special place in my heart. Today some of the beaches are “closed” (although if you listen to the construction workers they will just tell you to walk over the dune and hang out on the beach – that no one is going to stop you from going there), but only because there is still so much work to be done to clean up after Sandy. I just worry that we will get hit by another super storm again this year… Or next year. Hopefully the work done will help avoid the extent of the damage that we all suffered last year. Right now a huge man-made dune has appeared all the way down the beaches, exposing a large pipeline (carrying water?), and the beach is even smaller, especially at high tide. But the same feeling is still there, it will always be the same place, no matter what the natural and man-made changes are… And it will always be a place that represents freedom, happiness and beauty in my heart. Hopefully I will still make it out there a few more times until the end of the month as I still want to finish a photography project I started using film earlier on during the summer. Fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until October. 

Ramblings: Summer in the city

It's summer, my favourite season of the year (closely followed by early autumn, spring and then, last of all, winter). We didn't really have a winter this year, and spring was a strange one too, but this summer has already been a scorcher, and we are only half way through July. I've already had my holiday this year, so I will be spending the rest of the summer in NYC, working and hoping to make it to the beach as often as possible. I love the heat. Granted, I prefer dry heat, desert heat, but I would much rather be sitting around the humid heat in the city than having to climb over piles of snow that a blizzard left behind in the winter. I'm not working as much as I was before I went to California, so I am planning on making the most of my time off and going outside.

I hear people complaining about being "stuck in the city" over the summer months. I don't know how you can be stuck here. If you want to get out of the heat the nearest beaches are only a subway ride away. There are Coney Island and Brighton Beach for those who don't mind tons of people and not-so-clean beaches, as well as a really cool boardwalk and amusement park (everyone needs to ride the Cyclone at least once in their lives, although once is probably enough). My preference has always been the Rockaways and in more recent years, Fort Tilden. If you need shops and bars and restaurants and public restrooms nearby you should probably stick to the Rockaways (Rockaway Park, the last stop on the A shuttle train being my favourite), but if you prefer wilder beaches where nobody is going to bother you (i.e. where you can drink, smoke, bring dogs, go topless etc), then Fort Tilden is just a short 10 minute bus ride from Rockaway Park. Just remember to bring food and water, because there is nowhere to buy it there. Fort Tilden starts just after Jacob Riis, and you can walk all the way down to Breezy Point if you want to. It seems to have become more and more popular over the past few years, but I tend to go during the week where it's more bearable than the weekends. I even slept on the beach overnight last year - not really allowed and to be honest, a little scary - and I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was definitely an experience worth its while - see my blog post about that night HERE. Outside of the city beaches there are many, many others that are only an hour or so away on the LIRR, my favourites being Smithpoint and Montauk.

I'd rather go to the beach than to a pool in the summer, seeing as there is nothing better than jumping in the waves and running in the sand, so I've never really checked out any of the public pools in the city. Now that the McCarren Park Pool is open again (and it's free), I suppose that would be a place to go if you want to swim (although it's probably going to be packed and full of screaming kids on summer holidays so I am going to give it a miss). I wish public pools were open at night - I love swimming in the dark, even if I tend to freak myself out with irrational thoughts of great white sharks hanging out in the pool, just waiting to bite my legs off. The shark thoughts are a recurring theme in my life - every time I am in water I think about sharks following me. I should probably avoid going to any location where sharks really tend to hang out... Although I still dream of going to Hawaii one day, and living in a garden full of hibiscus flowers by the beach...

Summer is always going to be the time when you can walk around in as little clothing you want without feeling self-conscious, dive into cool bars to get out of the heat, stay up until the sun rises and watch it from your rooftop, have BBQs on rooftops and in tiny back yards, sunbathe in the parks, jump through open fire hydrants with the neighbourhood kids (yes I do do that), make summer playlists and listen to them on the way to the beach, eat loads of fruit and vegetables because it's too hot to face any heavier foods, eat tons of ice cream and gelato and walk around the city during a summer storm, jumping in puddles and hoping that the rain will bring a slight relief from the oppressing humidity (it never really does). It really is my favourite time in the city which is why I will always continue to go on holiday before or after the season starts.

I'm going kayaking down the Delaware River later this week, and we will probably camp by the river too. I will hopefully not fall in and be unable to pull myself back into the kayak again, and will also hopefully not be eaten by a bear (although I would love to see one). I'm more likely to be eaten alive by mosquitoes though! I think I have already decided to leave my phone in the car on this trip - it will be quite nice to not be reached for a day...