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One day in early June, I was sitting on one of the West Side piers, and summer felt like a conductor’s hands poised in mid-air about to swoop down and trigger a three-month-long symphony. The days were ridiculously long. I had just been hired at a midtown magazine, and I was successfully dating. Sometimes, I would pause to admire my reflection in the large, ground-floor window of a building I was passing. I was cool. It was a point that just couldn’t be argued.
This person I was dating was on the pier with me, and we were drinking affordable wine from bottles of Diet Peach Snapple and making snide comments about New Jersey, which was nearly close enough to spit on. That seems like dog years ago, and a raft of fun summer events have taken place since then. With the unofficial end of summer quickly coming into view, I feel like revisiting two or three of them.
Fun in the Sun, Part One: Coney Island. I went here three times this summer. It’s really far away, on the southern tip of Brooklyn, near Brighton Beach, where plus-sized Russian families wear very small bathing suits. Fans of the dated cult-classic will be happy to know that the amusement park still feels like the dicey prospect it was when the interracial gang motif, The Warriors, was set here in 1979.
On one of my visits, the pier boy and I met a woman and her fishing trawler worker-looking husband on the boardwalk and drank domestic beer with them. She would periodically scribble some notes into my notebook to two people named Carl and Ethan, growing more intoxicated with each page. Needless to say, I saved the notes.
Carl and Ethan, call me or else. If you guys don’t call me I’m gonna be pissed! [two phone numbers] Your cousin, Sandy.
Carl and Ethan, You guys were meant to be our friends. Please call us. Love you, Sandy & Gene.
Carl, I love U guys [smiley face, two phone numbers]. Call. If you don’t call me, I’m gonna be pissed. Love, Sandy.
Carl, OK, I’m buzzed, but I do know that you are the collest [sic] person I ever met. If you don’t keep in touch with us, Gene and I will be royally pissed!!! Call us. Love, Sandy & Gene.
Carl and Edan [sic], Sorry for using up all your paper, but you guys are the coolest guys I met in a long time. I’m OK. Call me please. Love U2. Love, Sandy & Gene.
Meeting people like this is just not possible in the winter, when everyone’s practically sprinting from appointment to appointment with their heads low and muffled inside overpriced designer outerwear. I’ve met more strangers this summer than I can remember (most of them didn’t leave tokens of themselves in my notebook), but some of the best summer memories I have are also solitary ones.
Fun in the Sun, Part Two: The Roof. Roof access is ideal for summer solitude. My roof is amazing. It looks out over the East River, and the Williamsburg Bridge plunges practically right overhead. You can see for what seems like miles: Midtown Manhattan, the brutalist housing projects on the Lower East Side. The stainless steel J/M/Z trains rumble over the bridge alongside endless car traffic.
Rooftop days and nights in New York, and anywhere, are memorable affairs. You spend the majority of your time in the city in canyons of glass and brick and motion, feeling overwhelmed. On the roof, you still feel small, but small against the sky is different than small beneath a looming skyline. More so than Central Park, the roof feels like an urban wilderness set apart from the city.
Fun in the Sun, Part Three: Apart from the City. The season rolled on with outdoor concerts and trips to the Met. Eventually, pier boy and I became serious, and toward the end of the summer, we took a trip to Europe together. We visited his parents in London, and stayed in a charmingly dumpy hotel room in Paris the size of a ’83 Volkswagen Rabbit. Two yellow roses in a vase on the dresser were literally dropping petals.
Predictably, the trip was fantastic. What we couldn’t predict was how much we would hate New York City upon our return. Granted, we flew into Newark at around 1 a.m. and re-entered Manhattan via New Jersey transit and the Saddamian spiderhole that is Penn Station. Everything was dirty, everyone was loud. We both agreed that New York was worthless. I began to make mental preparations for my impending move to France.
Of course, within days we were back to thinking that glowing neon tubing and lack of common courtesy are somehow desirable traits in a city, and New York returned to our good graces. This has been my first full summer in the city, and this week, I’ll have officially lived here for one year, but sometimes it’s hard to even remember what’s happened up to now. It’s nice to recap.
Already, I miss summer. Fall is an excellent season, and winter is okay until the holidays pass and then it’s just one long trans-Antarctic expedition without gloves or adequate rations. I wonder if pier boy and I will make it through the winter. It can be a rough season for relationships, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll stick it out. The idea of coming out on the other side together when spring makes its first appearance and coaxes us back to the far West Side for more Snapple-disguised wine is just too appealing.
Will Doig writes biweekly from his exile in New York City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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