Summer’s almost over. According to my building superintendent, they’re closing the pool at 6 p.m. on Labor Day and he’ll be cheering when he turns the key for the last time of the season. I guess pool maintenance is not one of his favorite activities. In fact, water in general has been a problem here in the four months since I moved in – once being without hot water and twice being without water of any kind for the entire day. As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, my temporary housing is no palace, but I guess it could be worse: A small three-story apartment building a block over had a whole row of terraces collapse today. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the seemingly sturdy brick façade crumbled like crackers.
In fact, it’s been a tough couple of days in Long Beach. We had our first water fatality yesterday – a Brooklynite who waited till beach entry was free and the lifeguards were off duty to go into the rough waters – and then two chicks on a jet ski crashed into the Long Island Railroad Bridge crossing the Reynolds Channel and were pulled unconscious from the water. (Last I heard they were in critical condition but will probably survive.)
So it’s been kind of a dark ending to a weird summer. Being displaced from my home has certainly contributed to the odd feeling, although I must admit that it was an interesting change of perspective to live on the Boardwalk side of town. Frankly, I took very little advantage of the primo location, which is kind of a shame. I never visited the aforementioned pool (although Darian spent a couple of afternoons there) and, despite it being literally steps from my front door, I never set foot on the beach either. On those few occasions when I did take a stroll on the Boardwalk – meeting my friend Barbara halfway between our buildings for a delightful late afternoon chat; watching Darian and her dad play beach volleyball; having dinner with a friend at the Shoregasbord (a collection of food trucks just off the Boardwalk, comprising the surprisingly limited culinary choices when one is waterside) – I enjoyed it very much. There’s something about the air and the light when you’re at the beach that gives everything a magical sheen. [An aside: Much about Long Beach real estate is incomprehensible to me. There are so many abandoned parking lots and empty storefronts. As far as I can tell, there’s incredible opportunities here; it’s a perfect time to renovate the entire city almost four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed it, given that every street is already a construction zone. Someone is clearly not making the kind of far-thinking decisions that would help this city thrive. Is the short-sighted waste driven by greed? I can’t imagine any other explanation. If you own a property in need of a tenant, why would you price the tenants out just so that your property can continue to stand empty, wasting money that it could be earning? It makes no sense.]
But living in a “foreign land” isn’t the only thing that was strange about this summer. One good friend is suffering through cancer, and two are going through a divorce (one was a relief, the other a devastation). There was a falling out among folks I like at the shelter and as a result I spend a lot less time with a good friend. I barely saw my kid at all, between her being in Africa for three weeks, hanging out with her townie friends and basically living at her father’s house the rest of the time because at his house she had a whole basement to herself rather than having to share a one-bedroom apartment with me. I spent a lot of time on my own, on the computer, playing Words with Friends (at one point, I had nearly 30 games going and most of them had a “QI” somewhere) and reading disturbing articles about politics and encouraging ones about how to build self-confidence as a writer.
Work was quiet. I got a taste of what it might be like when I’m retired (or when I win the lottery, whichever comes first), although cash flow is certainly a problem and I’m in a little bit of denial about it. I’m like the grasshopper who played all summer and then had no food when the winter came and had to depend on the kindness of the ants (or, in my case, the small inheritance that my mother left me that was supposed to fund the aforementioned retirement). Like a kid getting ready to go back to school (except without the new shoes and school supplies), I’m anticipating a very busy few months on the work front to make up for my vacation-lite summer. I actually regret not taking a week off outright, rather than working an hour or two but remaining shackled to the computer every weekday waiting for the next client query or assignment.
I went religiously to the shelter on the weekends, even though some days I kind of wished I could stay home and listen to music and play on the computer. But by the time I got there (usually on my one-speed rusty-chained bike, at least two directions of my journey against the wind and torture on my butt muscles) and started petting my favorites, all the stress would leave me and I’d be glad I came. We had fewer kittens than in previous years (which is a good thing!) and they actually took away my favorite little one, Penny, so that she and her two siblings could get adopted sooner with more “people traffic” in the other Post Pets location at a PetSmart in Westchester. Right now the only kittens we have at the shelter are six painfully adorable babies that we affectionately call the “ringworm kitties” because they have it and they need to get rid of it before they can be handled. I am dying to cuddle them, and they’re not shy at all, always crowding the front of the cage and squealing for attention, not like some feral kittens who cower in the back and hiss and spit at every approaching hand. My other “love cats” this summer have included Ginger, a gorgeous white cat with a distinctive mark on her nose, who was recently adopted and apparently, based on a photo posted on Facebook by her new mom, is quite the queen of the household already. There’s Jackson, who almost became a member of the family when Darian took him home for a trial run but he had an unanticipated freak-out and attacked her so violently that she’s still a little scared of him, even though he is the most affectionate mush in the cat room. My new boyfriend is Romeo, a big gorgeous creamsicle that Vanessa, the Post Pets cat director, is inevitably going to steal because she takes all the brawny strawberry-blonde beefcake for herself!! So I’m enjoying him while I can. And I’ve kind of fallen in love with a dog this summer, a humongous galoot of a female pittie named Jenny Craig (so called because she was desperately in need of a diet and some moisturizing when she first arrived) but I call her Mama because she’s as sweet as pie and you can’t help but love her.
Pretty Little Penny
This has also been the summer of sausage – specifically, Aidells Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Sausage; I’ve tried others, but those were hands down the best. I’ve been eating them a couple of times a week, on a golden brioche roll with Dijon mustard, with slaw and potato or macaroni salad on the side. Yum. I’ve also been on a watermelon kick, especially enjoyable when it’s juicy and sweet. And ice cream – it wouldn’t be summer without ice cream (although, truth be told, I eat it all year long). Often, when I go over to check on the progress on my house, I’ll stop by Caffe Spiaggia for a soft serve cone or a milkshake and just sit in the parking lot and savor for a few peaceful moments. I’ve also been slightly obsessed with cookies, which has prompted frequent visits to Country Boy Bakery for a black-and-white or giant chocolate chip. And I discovered Little Debbie Cream Cheese Streusel Cakes BUT THEY NEVER HAVE THEM IN THE DAMN STOP ‘N’ SHOP!! So they’ve teased me with deliciousness and now they’re withholding!
I didn’t catch up on movies, as I’d planned, and I didn’t even watch much first-run TV, although last weekend I binged on “The Night Of”, the HBO limited series that considered a murder and the navigation of the criminal justice system by a kid who’d had the very best – and very worst – night of his life. It was riveting, especially the first couple of episodes, but left me feeling unsatisfied at the end, with unanswered questions and unresolved relationships. In fact, what has most often been on my TV this summer is “Law & Order”, which has replaced “Law & Order: SVU” as my go to background noise while I’m messing around on the computer, usually playing Words with Friends.
Some new music I discovered this summer: Midnight to Monaco, “One In A Million” (a real ear worm, that one – I even caught Darian singing it); “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen; a new crunchy nugget by a UK band called Tibet that I heard on Passport Approved, “I’ll Put You In My Pocket”, and also the new Peter Bjorn & John, “Breakin’ Point”. I listen non-stop to WFUV during the week, and even stream it in the office on the days I go into the city. I love the lunchtime DJ, Carmel Holt; she seems like someone I would like to be friends with. And the mix is always so eclectic – it comes the closest in song selection to my own iPod than anything I’ve ever heard on radio.
The other thing that was distinctive about this summer has been the consistent heat. I swear my AC has been on continuously since the beginning of July. We were going to move it from the bedroom window into the living room, figuring that would best cool the room where I spend most of my time, but we left it in the bedroom, where it blasts on me at night and resulted in a doozy of a sinus infection. I’m longing for the day I can turn off the air conditioner for good and open my windows wide to let in the crisp fall air.
September has always been my favorite month, probably because of my birthday but also because it meant I could go back to school, which I always loved (and to which I very much wish I could return) and hockey starts again. It’s the time when all the returning TV shows finally have new episodes, interspersed with premieres of intriguing new programs, although I haven’t seen anything that’s piqued my interest in the “coming attraction” ads thus far. And before we know it, my house will be finished and the kids and I can head back home, and maybe we can even add to our family and take home a foster or two. (My daughter is already talking about getting a kitten to keep her cat Jojo company – my first “grandchild”!) As much as I enjoy the pace of the summer, and the sun and blue skies, and the warmth, it’s almost unreal, kind of like a “time out” from the regular routines of life. Sometimes I think I’d like to live in that “time out” world, but then I come back to reality: Is an “endless summer” really possible? It’s a nice dream, I guess, but ultimately unsustainable.