Blog Party V: Five Favorite Places
I've never learned how to swim, despite living in a beachfront community my entire life and going to a high school with a large indoor pool. I took lessons, and I've managed to tread a little water and even move around a bit, but eventually I end up submerged and sputtering if my feet don't find solid ground. So I was somewhat wary when some of my neighborhood friends wanted to go to Splish-Splash, a fairly new water park in Eastern Long Island. When my friend's mom dropped us off, I couldn't believe that for a mere $17, we could go on any of the rides that towered before me, as many times as we liked. The lines for some of the bigger slides were the worst part, but the slides themselves had me running for the end of them again the second I hit the water. Drifting in an inner tube on a river that circled the whole park was one of the most tranquil experiences of my life. I'd return with one of my friends a few years later to recapture the experience, only to stay in that river a little too long without sunblock and get the single worst sunburn of my entire life. I awoke around 1 AM that night as the red expanse of my shoulders decided to crack and blister. This didn't stop me from taking a girlfriend there a few years later and while I remembered the sunscreen, a hug from her on the ride back caused me to swerve a little on the expressway and attract unwanted police attention. They pulled us over and after a few questions, let a couple of scared kids off with only a warning. Last weekend, the drummer in one of the bands I play in told me about a trip he took with his fiancée and her kids to a water park out East he’d never been to before, and I smiled with recognition. The prices have gone up, but the place sounds as much fun as ever. Even now, I can close my eyes and imagine myself floating along a river under cooling waterfalls, or rocketing down the inside of an enclosed slide.
When one of my friends from high school went off to college, his parents decided to move as far East as possible, building a home at Montauk Point. When he graduated, he'd move around a lot, living in Manhattan, Europe, and Brooklyn. But while in school he'd spend Summers with his folks, and would always have a bunch of us out there for Independence Day weekend. Some years I could stay out there longer than others, depending upon what day of the week the fourth fell on and when I had to be home for parades. I have a lot of great memories of the private beaches, of sitting around roaring bonfires and drinking. As I've said, I'm not the greatest swimmer, and an undertow once took advantage of my weakness. I was standing in the ocean when a large wave started approaching. I began running as fast as the water resistance would allow, even as the water pulled at my legs in the opposite direction. The wave crashed down upon me, spinning and disorienting me. Somehow, I found an inner calmness amid the murky green depths, and as the particles of sand began to settle and my vision cleared, I began kicking and propelling myself, recalling what I could of my high school swimming lessons. When my hands hit the ocean floor, terror gripped me and I knew I had swam in the wrong direction. I twisted around, kicking off the bottom with my feet, my chances improved now that I knew which way was up. I gasped as I broke the surface, and saw nothing on the horizon but water. I turned and saw the shore, further than I would have expected it to be. I began kicking toward it, alternately pushing forward with my toes as got into shallower water and begging God not to let another wave strike me down while I was so vulnerable. Miraculously, I made it to shallower water and eventually staggered out to shore, shaking. I made my way up to the towels where some of the others were relaxing, and relayed my tale. Nobody had seen what had happened to me. I almost died, but I do that a lot, and overall it was still a fun weekend.
The town of Northampton is a quaint little artistic community that my friends and I made several road trips to back in our college days. As aspiring comic book artists, we were drawn to the Words and Pictures Museum, founded by Kevin Eastman. In my current job, it’s fairly common for me to receive original paintings from many well-known artists for the book jackets I design. Back then, I had never seen original paintings or drawings, only the printed final results. To see illustrations presented in a gallery setting was truly inspiring. To be able to see up close how my favorite artists manipulated paints and inks was exceptionally enlightening. Northampton itself was a remarkable place for a group of kids from New York. On more than one occasion I'd been hit by a bike messenger while crossing an intersection in Manhattan. I often joked that it was the only city in the world in which it was advisable to look both ways while crossing a one-way street. In NoHo, there were crosswalks with no lights, and signs saying “Yield to Pedestrians”. When friendly drivers bade us to cross and waved, we all suspected a trap. There's only one place on Long Island I've since encountered such a crosswalk, in the city where I currently work, and while most of the time drivers obey it, I often see a lot of yelling, horn-blowing, and fist shaking as they whiz past pedestrians “getting in their way.” The last time I visited NoHo I had a girlfriend with me, and while the museum had closed we still had a nice day visiting the campus of her nearby alma mater.
I've known Rey since my freshman year of college. The first day of school, he was wearing a trenchcoat, mumbling a Nirvana song to himself, and erasing stray pencil marks on a drawing with a kneaded eraser he had molded into the shape of a small turtle. I thought he was a bit strange but the Spider-man drawing he was working on was impressive, his style reminiscent of Todd MacFarlane's. We wouldn't become friends until my second semester, when a mutual friend introduced us and suggested we collaborate on a comic book that ultimately never saw the light of day. I found Rey to be a kindred spirit, someone who shared my comic interests and offbeat sense of humor. Where I thought, he acted, never too embarrassed to express himself, entertain, and make new friends. About four years after we graduated he recommended me for the job I currently have, and we've been coworkers for nearly six years. Given the length of our friendship, and the fact that his cubicle is not five feet from my own, I'm embarrassed to say that I cannot recall precisely WHERE in Pennsylvania his wedding was held. I do know that it was a camp in the middle of nowhere, and that I carpooled with two other college buddies. Besides our road trips to Northampton, we'd all gone on several memorable camping trips to various places, including Chincoteague, Virginia, and The Poconos. Rey's wedding was to be held at his bible camp, so it doubled as one final camping trip for our crew. We enjoyed fresh country air and slept in cabins. Somewhere amid the fields there was a mall, one sliver of civilization, and the night before he was married a group of us went to see The Sixth Sense. Not only was I introduced to the twisty goodness of M. Night Shyamalan that night, but I was reminded of what I liked about Rey when, at the moment of the movie's now infamous revelation, he cried out: “He's _______?! This is the BEST movie EVER!!!” to a startled audience. The next day, Rey married his dream girl, today the mother of his two children, and embarked on their honeymoon. Those of us who remained at the camp went out to see The 13th Warrior that day, and as Rey's younger brother gave a running commentary about the costumes and weapons throughout the picture, we realized some things are genetic. These days, most of my college friends are married, and a few have moved and had kids. I'll always remember that wedding weekend as the last camping trip we went on, even if I don't know the name of where we were.
Located at the northern part of Manhattan, The Cloisters was one of my favorite museums to visit when I was in college. It was different from most of the others in that, while they were buildings to house art, The Cloisters itself also WAS a work of art, historical architecture preserved. Getting there was quite a journey, and once we arrived at the entrance we had to walk through a park to reach the museum itself. Amid sloping hills, tall trees, and jagged rocks, it was very easy to forget that you were in the city, and in the present day. Going to The Cloisters was the closest I've ever been to traveling through time. I also have fond memories of visiting in the winter with my classmates, and sledding down a hill on an overturned car hood and holding on to a rope for dear life. It's strange how so many of my memories of fun places include incidents in which I could have been killed or seriously injured. Maybe there's no excitement in life without risk.
Montauk Point, NY.
Wow...I'm exhausted. Surprisingly, I even had to narrow my list down and eliminate places like Winston-Salem, North Carolina, notorious for being the only place I've ever flown to in my life. Of course, it was easy to strike this from the list since other than play with my college pep band at a basketball game that our team lost, all I really did was hang around a bowling alley next to our motel and eat a lot of Taco Bell. I need to take another vacation or five or else it will be another two months between parties for the Nexus. Hold those boats or planes or trains, and save me an extra ticket! Let's see where you've been:
Labels: Blog Party