There’s nothing quite like being a Rockaway Rip Van Winkle. In the original story, Rip goes to sleep and when he wakes up everything’s changed. Here, when you fall asleep for a few years or just stop writing a column, you wake up and you can’t tell the difference between what The Wave Said Twenty Years Ago or what happened last week.
I was rubbing the sand from my eyes after a multi-year slumber and went down to the YMCA for a swim. Ooops, it was Deja Pool all over again. They must’ve hired the same pool builders who did the Chuck Schumer Natator-ium at Riis Park. I mean, news of the planned pool appeared in the papers in 2002. And didn’t Mayor Bloomberg make a big deal at a groundbreaking ceremony in 2006? What’s gonna happen first, the pool or the opening of the Long Island Railroad spur?
I flipped through The Wave - still 35 cents- and see that Audrey Pheffer’s still in office. And I still wonder what an Assemblyperson does. What else? There’s a protest against the bridge toll. The Far Rockaway Shopping Center is a blight but there may be signs of hope. Piping plovers have more beach access than people have bay access. A ferry service has run aground. 4.2 million dollars was spent somewhere at the Riis Park bath house. (Is that something you really want to brag about, Representative Weiner?) The Neponsit Health Care facility? Well, that serves as the west end courthouse. A building to nowhere.
Ah, the courthouse. Maybe it can finally have a purpose: it can serve as a monument to Rockaway paralysis and decay. Let’s have a dedication!
Speaking of dedications, that reminds me of another politician. I love the fact that Councilman Eric Ulrich has steel riot gates on his office storefront. Does that say more about him or the neighborhood he represents? Maybe he should work on getting more money for cops if he feels he has to barricade his office. I’m sure he’s nice and works hard. But I’m just saying, riot gates? Maybe he likes the look.
Anyway, not afraid to miss much, I was about to go back to a long sleep when the slightest whiff of change passed before me. It was a skinny guy. Actually, a good number of skinny guys. And skinny girls. A lot of them wearing black. Some of them in fedoras. And most of them looking quite….. well, now I’m about to use a word never before associated with Rockaway. But dare I say, these unique looking new arrivals seemed....uh.... hip. Hip as in cool. Or cooler than cool.
Hipsters live in the state of being in the know, you know. So do they know something we don’t know? That Rockaway is hip. Or at least on the way to being mildly hip.
There might not be real proof but incriminating evidence abounds. Funny-named offbeat art studios are appearing here and there. And maybe it’s the black wetsuits that’s really the draw but Boarders surf shop is busy with cool looking surfers from everywhere. The taco stand around the corner has lines from here to Williamsburg. And then you got all these bike lanes that are actually being used by more than just fat guys in spandex. On some days, the shore road in Fort Tilden looks like Bedford Avenue. And shhhh…there was even a quasi-secret hipster event held on the beach, something called an acoustic BBQ.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, how hip could it be if I heard about it).
Anyway, it occurs to me that the Rockaway Artists Alliance might really be a subversive organization meant to bring youth and energy and a new feel to the peninsula. Maybe their float in the Coney Island Mermaid parade was a siren call for Brooklyn bohemians. All I know is some weeks later, I saw a horde of hipsters at The Wharf trying to cajole Captain Geoff into a cruise on RAA’s floating sea monster.
Maybe it is the bike lanes or the short-lived but consequential ferry. Maybe it’s because so many Midwesterners move to New York and feel the need to surf. Maybe it’s talking life with Poppa Surf at Boarders or the lure of the fish taco. Whatever. All I know is, in the past few months there have been more hipsters here than 99 cents stores on 116th street.
Now the trend might have all the staying power of a Labor Day sand castle and it might be that Rockaway has already peaked and had its hour of hotness. But just in case these really are the early days of a new age, we should take note. Maybe change is coming and Rockaway will be like Betty White. Old and new at the same time. Hipness might work. After all, enough already with the same old same old (see opening paragraphs).
On the other hand, we should consider what Newsweek wrote about hipsters: The hipsters who will be the dead end of Western Civilization are the ones who add nothing new or original and simply recycle and reduce old trends.
That would be so Rockaway. We finally get hipsters and they’re the ones who spell doom for all civilization.
***Boyle-ing Over: Baby hold on. The Grayriders, the musical offshoot of the Graybeards, will be opening for Eddie Money (Two Tickets to Paradise) on Saturday, September 25 (tonight) at Aviator in Brooklyn. C’mon get a crew a head over for a great time.
Tickets are best ordered through emailing BUGSY at kgoldberg@nyc. rr.com.