So now we come to my favorite part of every trip to Coney. The place where I leave my landbound troubles behind and walk down to the water.
I love beaches. Any beach. They’re very elemental places. You can’t put your feet where the Earth, Wind and Water come together and think about bullshit. Dreams and fantasies, yes, especially those, but never bullshit.
A beach is the only place on a round planet that you can go to the end of the world and look over the edge.
I have said these things before, maybe on this very blog, and I’m going to keep saying them, because they’re part of my truth. Sometimes I think I’m like Antaeus, and I need to draw my strength from the Earth, but unlike Antaeus, there are only a few places I can do that. My parent’s home is one. My college is another. Then there are the beaches. I go to Coney not just to cool off and eat greasy food, but to draw strength.
One thing I used to do, once I reached the East end of the Boardwalk and walked out onto the sand, was to check out the houses that opened onto the beach and wish one of them was mine.
…not so much. Still, you go down a little further…
…and it gets better.
Turn and look to the West…
…and it just stretches on forever.
So I put my feet in the surf – a moment of cold, then I’m used to it; the water is actually quite warm, it’s just that the day is so hot – and start walking.
For me, the best part is the walk itself. Get in the water up to my knees, put some rock and roll on my iPod, and fade into another world. I’ve mentioned before how much I love to slip away into that universe of American Rock & Roll, and while the stereotypical face of that world is a monolithic gotham or an open road through the wastelands, wild summer nights and burning beaches are just as ubiquitous, and as necessary as roaring motorcycles.
Many times, when I’ve walked that beach alone, I’ve imagined being a teenager again, walking that boardwalk with my girl at my side. Thanks to my lady for helping that little dream come true.
Ah…but you can’t take a picture of any of that, can you? So let me show you some of the sights you can see in this world on the way:
…and as you get in closer to the center at Stillwell….
Fortunately, at least you can walk under it now…
…but on the other side, past the commercial center at Stillwell, you start to see more scars from Sandy.
Of course, the most fascinating sights of all are the people.
I’d show more, but this is still Brooklyn, and you can’t necessarily count on people’s reactions if you start clicking away at them while they’re in their beachwear, expectation of privacy be damned.
It’s a shame, really. Most of the people you see at Coney are just regular folks like you or I, with a bit of belly or some cottage cheese in the seat. Most know their limitations when it comes to beachwear, some don’t.
But then there are the perfect ones. The young gods, carved from ebony or ivory or mahogany or topaz. You don’t fall in love with them; it would be like falling in love with a mountain or a storm or fire. But you admire and adore them.
I wonder what it’s like to be that perfect. Is it hard work, or did they roll a critical success on the genetic dice? Some combination of the two, surely. Do I envy them for their perfection, or does it just mean that their sense of loss will be even greater when time takes its inevitable toll?
And you keep walking.
I should warn anyone thinking of following in my footsteps here, walking barefoot on wet, hard-packed sand can get to be like walking on concrete after a while. The feet and the ankles, they ache. What’s more, there’s a belt of broken shells collected just below the waterline, the remains of sea gulls’ dinners. I tried to take pictures, but they didn’t look like anything. Instead, take a close look at this rock:
And here’s something else to consider:
What you’re looking at right there is the true face of Coney Island. If they didn’t truck in tons of soft white sand every year, that’s what you’d have: a beach of broken shells and gritty sand.
But I avoid the hazards and continue, until I reach:
This is the Final Jetty. The end of Coney.
Oh, the land continues, but beyond this jetty is a gated community:
…so as far as us common folk walking the Coney Island beach are concerned, the world ends here as completely as the world beyond the wall in the Rue D’Auseil.
So I stand at the jetty and I look out to sea, drawing my strength from the Earth and Wind and Water, and I think of many things. Youth. Love. Stories. The shining horizon. The things I want to build and make with my life.
I’d have more to show you, but as I said, it was hazy that day, so I couldn’t get a good picture of the lighthouse.
Finally, heavy-hearted, I turn from the sea and head across the now-burning sands to start the journey back to the land. And that will be our next and final post before the story begins on Wednesday.