When you grow up in any of the coastal states in the U.S., “going to the beach” is at the top of your summertime list from as soon as you are old enough to tiptoe into the ocean, until you get serious about work and forget about having fun for the next couple of decades.
It’s not that you don’t go to visit the shore. We all do that, even in the middle of the winter, to see the gulls fly backward against the incoming winds, early enough to watch the haze burn off along the shoreline … and the best place to think quietly without any interruption.
I actually prefer the coast in the winter. It’s relatively empty, at least of people. The sky is a great blue bowl overhead … and when the wind comes in, the seagulls really do fly backward until they give up and sit in the water until the winds die off.
Living on the “right coast,” the Caribbean has been our go-to tropical islands. Garry was addicted to Bimini. I didn’t go as often as he did, but I loved St. Martin and later, St. Thomas, Aruba, Antigua … and most particularly, I really loved Jamaica.
Maybe it was the coffee? By the time Garry and I were able to spend time in the Caribbean, I had pretty much given up buying souvenir tee-shirts, but on the other hand, I came back from Jamaica with four pounds of pure Blue Mountain coffee beans. It was the best coffee I ever had in my life and I still dream about it. Well, you know what I mean. Daydream. Not night dreams. My night dreams are way more complicated than coffee.
Also, there was something about that island. When we landed (by cruise ship) in Jamaica, we had already learned to not buy the pre-packaged tours from the ship. Go ashore and find a guy. Because there was always a guy who would pop you into his cab and if he liked you (we were always very likable on cruises), he introduced us to his mother, family, the places at which he really ate. The food was amazing and served in someone’s backyard on an old wooden table with folding chairs.
He showed us where to find the best coffee beans for a couple of dollars a pound, rum so strong no one could drink it — not even Garry and he could really drink! — and the beaches only local people knew about.
We spent two days on Jamaica and when we had to leave, I stood at the railing and watched Jamaica disappear around the curve of the earth. I wanted to go back and never leave.
I still want to go back. Jamaica was the island that called to me.
And there we were, at the beach. Most likely, Jones Beach. Back then I lived on Long Island and it was the beach to which we usually went.
Summer. Probably 1970. My son was already walking, but in that funny way toddlers have. Half a stagger, a bit of lurch, a hint of trot, topped with a dollop of falling over. I was with friends who had brought their children, most of whom were my son’s age, more or less.
One friend had gone to the food kiosk and come back with big sandwiches for everyone. In New York, we call them subs (I think short for submarine, probably because of the general shape of the bread). These are given different name in different regions. Whatever you call them, they are big sandwiches on little loaves of bread. Filled with chicken Parmigiano, meatballs, or maybe roast beef or Italian cold cuts. Hogeys? Grinders? Feel free to fill in your own word.
We settled down on our blankets to enjoy the food.
My son had been told we were having sandwiches. He obligingly came over to see what was going on. He smiled brightly, then poured a handful of sand into my sandwich.
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