The Ramones' popular hit song "Rockaway Beach" was written by Dee Dee Ramone, who spent an ample amount of time at the Queens beach. Aside from being a phenomenal song, it is also about the place where I grew up. Although winters on a peninsula can be cold and somewhat depressing, the summertime brings new life to a sleeping playground with endless days.
There isn't a better time to be alive than when you're a kid during the summer. As the lengthy days come to a close and the sun sinks below the horizon, the neighborhood children need not fear an early curfew or bedtime. The falling sun fails to offer the solace of a cooler climate, as the humidity will tag along well into the night.
Walking seems tougher around dusk as the weight of my sweat-filled shirt bears down on my legs like a soldier on a long " hump. My friends and I try to squeeze in one more inning of stickball before we can no longer see the neon fuzz of the tennis ball. We relish the weekend parking laws which empty our streets of interfering cars to provide a wider "fair ground" territory. Our parents sit on porches while sipping adult drinks, watching the game, unaware of our desperate inner struggles to impress them with a homerun or spectacular catch. One by one, the street lights awaken and prepare for work while fireflies dance around our heads in a carousel of light.
The game has come to a sudden end, but not on account of darkness: the ball has landed in Mrs. Mooney's yard and once it touches a blade of her grass, it's as good as gone. My brother and I run inside for a quick drink — if one would consider gulping half a pitcher of iced tea in one breath drinking. Our glasses left spinning on edge, we dart back out to the street, silently cursing ourselves for sacrificing those precious minutes for the sake of mere hydration. We exit our door and enter a new world.
The conquered sun has fallen, ceding his throne to the crescent king. I join a game of tag already in progress, thus incurring the penalty of becoming "It" for entering a game that has already begun. After a few minutes of dashing strides and hurdling metallic fences, I swipe the shirt of another child with my extended fingertip and am relieved of my lonely position. As I evade the reach of outstretched hands, I scamper up Mr. Cooper's gigantic tree for a chance to catch my breath and escape from the world beneath me. Atop the giant elm, I feel bigger than life, an extension of the tree possessing no agenda, whose sole purpose is to simply "be." The air blows through my leaves and I am lost in nothing, sitting nowhere. A harsh smack on my leg from my brother, who had scaled the tree and tagged me, pulls me from tranquility.
A few of the other children head home and the remainder of the kids walk up the block to sit and hang out on the boardwalk. The beach provides a temporary escape from the sounds of buses and pedestrians that seem never to cease in a big city. With skyscrapers and buildings all over the city, the sky becomes somewhat obscured and its beauty is lost; the beach verifies the existence of the sky and the stars with an endless easel to sketch eternity. We sit on benches facing the cloaked ocean as hints of white eyelids wink to assure us of its presence. The gentle crashing of the waves soothes me like a newborn infant resting on its mother's chest as it drifts deeper into serenity from the steady drumming of her heart. We talk about sports and things of that nature, and laugh at childish jokes until our sides are sore. I revel in this innocence where corruptive influences that could grip our intentions are absent, allowing the purity of adolescence to thrive. A subtle yawn is observed, and one turns into four, and we all decide to part ways and head home to our worried parents.
As I lie in bed with the fan on high, wishing my father would give in and purchase an air conditioner, I stare at the ceiling and wait for sleep to whisk me away.
My thoughts revolve around tomorrow, and the simple joy it will bring. There is no alarm clock set, clothes laid out, or any worries. There is only to wake and to be.