1999-09-04 / Columnists

Boyle-ing Points

by Kevin Boyle

With the waves raging lately I thought it might be timely to print this story sent to me by Steven Driscoll, a Wave devotee. Steve says it’s the beginning of a novel he’ll never finish. If you think he should carry on, email him at stdriscoll@yahoo.com

"It’s not like I killed a preying mantis. Or did something really bad." Farrell’s blowout fortieth birth-day party was at least three years ago, but he still had the reflexive teenage, wiseass smirk.

"No, you idiot, you just scratched BeeBee’s car."

Locals Rule. Scratched into the black Isuzu Trooper with a house key. Nice move.

"Nah, man. It’s the dude from the City. I seen him up on the beach."

"I’ll see ya. BeeBee’s gonna be pissed."

"You think that’s BeeBee’s?" Doubt and distress merging at Farrell’s nose.

Callaghan stood on his pedals, rolling away. "That guy only comes on the weekends."

"You really think that’s BeeBee’s truck?"

Thirty feet down the block, Callaghan called over his shoulder. "Look on the back seat. There’s a Rockapulco T-shirt."

He wheeled a few more feet then heard Farrell moan, "Sh---."

Callaghan swerved by a series of potholes and summer litter---broken styrofoam coolers and empty sun lotion tubes--- then had to hit the brakes as two certifiables suddenly came off the sidewalk. Smoking cigarettes, one wearing a knee-length London Fog, the other a paisley vest, talking---yelling at each other about somebody named Phyllis. She threw a cat out the window and stole Wally’s radio.

Locals Rule.

40 year old men keying cars, potholes, trash, lithium dudes popping out like toast from cracks in the sidewalk---nursing homes brimming with more. Locals rule---what a place to be a xenophobe.

Keep rolling. More paradise lost.

You couldn’t ride by the rubble, two city blocks worth, without hearing the roller coaster, without smelling the beer and hot dogs. Not if you lived in Rockaway Beach when Playland was here. Gone almost twenty years. Callaghan belched, a hot dog burp. Tasted like hell. Just like the old days. Somebody hung a sign on the sagging cyclone fence. Once a Jewel Now A Dump. The sign was starting to look like garbage, starting to blend. Like Callaghan.

A delicate ocean breeze ran through each nub on his two day beard and made him turn left toward the boardwalk. Good thing, too. If he’d kept going straight along The Boulevard he would’ve been on time for work. Ruin a reputation that way.

The balding, fat tires of his bicycle almost froze halfway up the ramp to the boardwalk as the breeze flashed into a gust. Not enough to make him think about getting a bike with gears--but still. Oooh, man, the wind was a bitch sometimes --- good thing the only hills in Rockaway were the ramps to the aging boardwalk.

So many of the boards were loose it was like riding the bike along piano keys. The wind section, ladies and gentlemen, coming off the ocean... vocalists supplied by nursing home loonies on every other boardwalk bench, and piano by the boardwalk itself. A friggin’ 24 hour concert. Callaghan broke into a loud, generic dee-jay voice: "Rock, rock, rock away in good old Rockaway with the Boardwalk Band."

He looked over each shoulder, expecting somebody to be laughing at his stupid ass. A couple of seagulls looked too embarrassed to laugh. They shook their beaks then burst into flight, an escape from cycling dee-jays. He’d be checking into one of the nursing homes soon enough, dribbling down the front of his shirt. The future was sandwich bag clear.

Callaghan pedaled for a few seconds with his eyes shut, letting the ocean wind cleanse him of all encroaching thoughts of despair, paranoia, and hopelessness. Ah, if it weren’t for these ocean breezes Callaghan could’ve, been a profound pessimist. In a way he resented the healing magic of the ocean breezes because it stunted his ability to go to bottomless, dark --- hellish ---places. Uncharted depths. Like the rich guy said, if it weren’t for money he could’ve been a really great man. The ocean was his million dollars. Robbed him of profundity.

He opened his eyes, pulled the bike to a stop, one foot resting on the boardwalk railing. Small green waves broke a hundred feet off shore. In the distance he could see a dozen or so breakfast surfers looking like scattered dominoes, their black wetsuits held up by the green water against the pewter sky. Waves or no waves it’d be nice to get wet. Lock the bike on the railing and jump. Just body surf.


At the sound of his name his foot slipped off the railing and he stumbled, the bike’s pedal scraping him across his achilles. Trying not to grimace, trying not to look like a schmuck.

"Easy, Cally."

"Hey, Jenny. How was it?" The surf he meant. She was in a wetsuit, black with hot pink stripes running up the ribs.

"We gotta do something about this. Look, there’s ten guys out there. Six of’ em ain’t from the beach. And it’s not like it’s a good day or anything." She shook her wet hair, spraying Callaghan in the eye. "They don’t live here. Pay taxes here. They don’t support the stores. Nothing. They just steal the waves."

Cally nodded---he agreed. Then Cally shook his head---damn shame. Jenny was one of the surfing McGowans---a Rockaway family serious about surf, more serious about turf. Locals rule. Farrell was her cousin---who wasn’t a cousin in Rockaway? She’d no doubt approve of him scratching the car---probably gave him the key.

Maybe the idea to scratch the guy’s car.

He could feel her eyes on him, suddenly appraising. "When was the last time you got wet?" Checking him out, testing his loyalty. "You been out since you got hurt?"

A concussion. Six weeks ago. Speared a small sand bar. "You gotta get back on the horse, Cally."

"I know."

"You’ll be like those tires on your bike. M.A. overnight."

M.A. Middle aged. At least she hadn’t noticed the way he was feeling---could’ve sworn he wore it on his sleeve, already.

"Serious, Cal. It’s getting too crowded."

Jenny ran her fingers through brown hair made stringy from long hours in the water. A whisper of a smile flashed in her eyes. "We gotta get together and be more hostile." She gave the finger to two guys she’d probably never seen before.

Callaghan rolled down the boardwalk ramp onto Shore Front parkway. Wind knots were cut in half, fifty feet from the boards, it was 10 degrees warmer, stickier.

He pointed the bike west, wishing he could reach back to the past---and punch it hard.

Boyle-ing Points:

After spending a vacation in Maine a couple of summers ago I mentioned that the state had many things to offer---but one of them wasn’t moose. You could find Rocky and Boerwinkle on the TV; you could find Moosehead beer in the package stores. Every log cabin had a moose head above its fireplace mantle and the only street signs in the state warned of moose crossings. Fact is, you’d have an easier time finding a politician interested in helping Rockaway than spotting this fairy-tale creature.

Apparently the Maine tourism board got wind of my observations because they started stocking trails and shopping malls with moose.

Long-time Boyle-ing Points fan, Kerry Cox of Bellemore, sent word that on her last day there she saw an honest-to-goodness moose. Sounds like bull to me.

**Rockaway’s loss is Broad Channel’s gain. Bill Nolan, who gave heart, soul and vocal chords to the Rockaway Fighting Irish football program is taking his coaching abilities to the BCAC. What a coup for Marty Feeney and the boys in BC.

**Happy birthday to the beautiful Kathy Raphael.

**Friday night---tonight to most readers---is the All Male Revue at the Rockaway Rugby Club. I was slapped around by someone named Sharon who said I neglected to mention specifics on where and when I plugged the event last week. Sharon, it’s Friday night at 8 p.m. at the clubhouse which is beautifully located at 113-06 Rockaway Beach boulevard AND YES---it’s very much open to the public! But women only until midnight! In fact, the Fisheads are hoping for a big turnout of new faces.


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