2010-01-29 / Letters

A Story From The West Coast

Dear Editor,

I left Rockaway years ago. Here is one of many childhood memories. I’d be proud if you ran it. William Francis Wigmore, Oregon City, Oregon.

Pulling a piece of brown and white bakery string along the broken and rusted railing that separated Beach Channel Drive from the bay, I dragged the bottom with an old faucet tap. The tap had a hole in it, so it was like a sinker. Low tide exposed the iron sea wall with its rusted catwalk. Waves from passing tugs sloshed over shopping carts, truck tires, broken bottles. On one side were horseshoe crabs, porgies, spine fish, and spider crabs. On the other side was the road. A year before, splayed out on the handlebar of my brother’s Schwinn Phantom on the highest point of the Marine Park Bridge heading toward Ebbet’s Field, I had been scared of the traffic and the water.

“What are you more scared of, the cars or the water?” he asked. I really didn’t have an answer, I just sat there.

Across the water on a clear day, you could see the projects in Canarsie and the bridge that became Cross Bay Boulevard before it got to Howard Beach. Beyond that was the Manhattan skyline.

But this summer evening I was only paying attention to the make-shift sinker as it hobbled and bounced along the scattered bottom. I continued along absentmindedly pulling the tap. I was headed to Bullock’s barge.

Bullock had a barge and a bar on 116th Street right up by the water. There was a small beach between the barge and the cars. It stunk like fish; we swam in the ocean and were warned that the bay was polluted. There were dozens of beached horseshoe crabs scattered along the deep green seaweed covered sand. They looked like helmets; turned over you saw thousands and thousands of eggs. I can imagine those same crabs on these beaches thousands and thousands of years in prehistory. The crabs had these great sword-like daggers sticking out of their backs. They were the original army tanks. The sun was about gone when I got to Bullocks.

I showed Mr. Bullock my sinker and string and I fumbled as I asked for hookles and sinkles. I was tired and mixed up. Somehow it got around to my name and he laughed and called my father on the phone. Saying “Jack you need to take this kid fishing” My father, a NYPD detective worked in Manhattan. He’d get off the subway at Beach 116 Street in Rockaway after a long day of looking at fingerprints at Broome Street police headquarters.

The next day, my father and my mother and I were standing in the hot summer sun, fishing off Bullock’s barge. That was the day I learned the difference between a fluke and a flounder. The fluke has an eye that looks at the bottom, I think. Mr. and Mrs. Bullock even took us for a spin out in the motorboat. I was terrified to go out over my head. I was still scared of deep water. But it was a sunny day and we were fishing, and that was a good thing. It is one of many fond memories of a childhood in Rockaway.


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