2002-11-16 / Columnists

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter

Braving The Waves With Kevin Boyle

Kevin Boyle was warmly feted last week at a reception at the Harbor Light for the recent release of his new book, "Braving The Waves: Rockaway Rises and Rises Again." Now, anybody who knows Kevin knows that the situation itself must have been terribly excruciating!  Kevin usually writes about other people. For him to be the subject of any occasion almost borders on the absurd. Writers are often very private people who feel uncomfortable or even awkward being the recipient of accolades. The pen is our scepter that we wave to often deflect attention from ourselves. For Kevin, the pen has very often been his sword! Just ask Lew Simon, Al Stabile, or Ann Barbera. I think Kevin was perhaps the only local who shed a tear when the Legal Beagle packed up her briefs and moved away, taking with her much of his great witty material. Anybody who has ever read his Boyling Points column knows that nobody is off limits or exempt from his ridicule. Not even his own mother!

After all, if Mrs. Boyle can take it, then we should too! We all must admit how much we look forward each week to reading about whom he's boiling now, that is until you find your own name as the redeeming comedic ingredient in his literary stew. There have been occasions when Kevin has received phone calls from me very early on a Friday morning just after The Wave has come out; but of course he has caller I.D. and the preparatory advantage! You can mount a full court press, but he'll still win you over; and you'll hang up the phone not ever really knowing if he really meant what he wrote or not! All you know is that you just love this guy. Anybody else who would dare write some of the things he has written would at least have an unlisted number!  Not Kev! It's as if he actually enjoys dropping bombs on people's egos and then waits by his phone to hear the explosive effect.
     When I arrived upstairs at the Harbor Light, I immediately looked for Kevin across the throng of well-wishers, but he was nowhere to be found. Did he leave? Hmmm, you never know! Kevin has been known to poop out at parties and mysteriously duck out of side doors. But his own? Someone pointed me in his direction, and there was Kevin Boyle sitting, so typically, in a corner! Only this time, he was Kevin Boyle, the Author, signing first edition copies of his book for close friends, family, those who helped in the research, and members of the media who cued up to congratulate him. Having to write such nice words to each individual must have been really painful, and sure to make the book go up in value. I know for a fact that he actually wrote the same thing in your book as he did in mine. Actually, he admits that isn't entirely true--there were some slight variations! Kevin also admitted that it was a lot easier to be interviewed on national television by Tim Russert on Meet The Press than to speak before a packed room of people he has known for years!
     During the past year and in the wake of the tragedies, I have noticed while reading Kevin's columns a profound softer change in his more usual witty tone. He claims its always been there; I just never noticed his feminine side! However, the reality is that writing this book undoubtedly took its emotional toll on him. He wasn't just telling the story of the most horrific events in our nation's history. He was telling the heart-wrenching stories of people he has known, his very own friends, and neighbors; and in order to accurately accomplish that, he had to experience the depth of each individual's excruciating pain.
  Braving The Waves is a tribute to our community and to the heart, soul, and steely verve of those who proudly and so endearingly call Rockaway home. In such intricate detail, Kevin describes the fabric of our lives; and how, even through our unimaginable loss, we still remain tethered by our keen sense of faith, family, and community. The book not only depicts historical facts, it beautifully portrays a community built on immigrant dreams in the sand; yet firmly embedded in the traditions of the FDNY. Kevin meticulously weaves this thread until the reader grasps the strength of each thread that has, in tradition, character, and mettle, been woven to become an unbreakable cord. Boyle chronicles this core, and shows the length of its strength; and defines through metaphor how an entire country's strength could be tested through a small belle of a town.
  Kevin describes witnessing first hand how these horrific events turned ordinary Joes into extraordinary heroes; and how a sweet little town could be brought to its knees, only to rise up again....Up Rockaway!
      "Braving The Waves" is available at bookstores everywhere, as well as locally at The Wave. Through the generosity of its Publisher Susan Locke, proceeds will go to benefit The Graybeards, a non-profit organization of "40 and over" guys that do extraordinary things on behalf of the community. After November 22, it will also be available at The Gift Is Love and Sammy's on Beach 129 Street.    

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