What I did on my summer vacation, so far.
This is exactly the sort of thing I would have made up about my summer vacation when I was in third or fourth grade and never did anything except play jacks and watch quiz shows on daytime TV. It was stultifying. I had to lie every year on my Summer Vacation essay and say I'd been to a farm in Canada, or to Amsterdam, where I saw people in wooden shoes, or that I lived in a trailer (this seemed to me the height of exoticism), or went to New York, where I rode the subway, which I imagined was like a roller coaster, and ate in an automat. I liked the idea of those little windows full of food.
All last week I commuted to work by ferry from Rockaway. Monday, I drove to the ferry dock, which is about three and a half miles from home and takes about seven minutes. I took the A train home. Tuesday, I rode my bike to the ferry, which took a solid half hour. I arrived parched, and the man who I think is the first mate gave me a bottle of cool water. I have my favorite seat on the ferry: top deck, along the portside rail, as close to the wheelhouse as possible. I brought my chart of New York Harbor along and successfully identified such sights as a water-treatment plant in Brooklyn ("Sewer" on the chart). I got sprung from work in time to catch the last ferry home, at 5:30, and was reunited with both my vehicles. I stuck the bike (or half of it) in the car and drove home.
Wednesday I drove to the ferry dock again. It was a gorgeous day. The beach at Coney Island is Felliniesque in the morning: locals carrying parasols, plump old ladies in bathing caps and one-piece suits dipping a toe in the water. Just west of the amusement park is Seagate, the gated community, set off by a jetty and a group of pink and yellow and baby-blue cabanas. Then come big Victorian houses and a lighthouse. The next landmark is the Verrazano Bridge. The boat stops at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and among the regulars who get on here are a hardboiled blonde and two guys who look like undertakers or railroad executives. They come directly up to the top deck and put their briefcases and Duane-Reade shopping bags on the chests containing the life jackets, behind the wheelhouse.
The Queen Mary 2 was docked in Red Hook. It is HUGE. The Statue of Liberty is tiny and green. The ferry offers a great view of the synthetic waterfalls of the Danish artist. A guy in a yellow golf shirt got up and came over to the rail to look at them. "I don't get the waterfalls," he said.
Thursday I rode my bike to the ferry again, shaving almost ten minutes off my time by taking the direct route instead of cruising the boardwalk. It was another gorgeous day. "And not humid," said the guy who marked my ticket on the ferry. (He pronounced it the way my father did: "you-mid.") I stayed in the city late and took the A train home again, so on Friday morning I would either have to walk or take the bus to the ferry. I fell back on the A train, crossing Jamaica Bay at slack tide. There was a pattern of chevrons on the water, like a wake, but no boat had made one.
Friday night I got to take the ferry home. The Wave, Rockaway's weekly paper, reported that the Friday night ferry has turned into a party boat. Actually, every night the ferry is a party boat. I found myself longing to be a man and sit with other men at a long table, wearing shoes and no socks (the Mediterranean look) and a shirt with a subtle stripe, drinking beer and laughing, having sandy hair and blue eyes. I purchased a can of Budweiser for the trip home. Oh, all right, two cans of Budweiser (it's a two-beer trip). The finances of the ferry are fairly ruinous: Six dollars a trip (I bought a forty-trip ticket for $216, which gives me four free trips or a ten-cent per trip discount), plus $2 to get the subway up to midtown, and another $6 for beer if I get the ferry home—that's $14, or seven times the price of the A train. But it's heaven, and a small price to pay for it. Also, Friday, though I didn't morph into a man and get to sit at their table, a neighbor whom I know from Connolly's, the best bar in Rockaway, recognized me, and so I had all of New York Harbor and a drinking buddy, too. He helped me put the bike in the car and I gave him a ride home.