When it comes to growing up engulfed in an ocean of cement and tar the words “Breezy Point” conjures up an image of an ocean of another type. A place where people kick back and dip their toes in the warm water during the summer and where fishing piers are full of people landing the catch of the day. It has a somewhat quaint connotation and the people who inhabit this little slice of paradise are far removed from the workings of the inner city. There is no crime, traffic jams or people jostling each other on their way to and from work on the buses or subways. The residents there all seem to know and care for each like members of an extended family.
I thought such a place existed only in my mind. It wasn’t until I hit fourteen and expanded my horizons a bit did I become aware that such a place actually existed and was only about twenty five miles from where I called home.
Believe it or not, Breezy Point is a part of New York City and is situated in a place called Far Rockaway, New York. To us locals, it was referred to as “The Irish Riviera” since most, if not all of its residents could trace their lineage back to the Emerald Isle.
I think my first girlfriend’s family had a bungalow out there and since this was a private community one needed a special pass in order to be allowed in. Back in the early 70’s, at least where I lived, parents didn’t “encourage” dating at such an early age. These people were old school in nature, especially when it came to their daughters and we’d have to sneak around behind their backs just to go to something as innocuous as a movie, dance or concert.
I remember that first summer when she told me that she was going off to Breezy Point for the entire summer with her family. I think that might have been the first time that I had my tender fourteen heart year old broken and in ruins. After she left I was an emotional mess. I think The Beatles had just come out with Abbey Road and every time I heard George Harrison start in on Something with its opening lyrics of “”Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover” I was reduced to tears.
Now that I think about it, at the time, I knew no other lover so I really had no basis for comparison. Besides, as far “lovers” go, if you can call getting a little tongue or getting to touch someone’s breast over their shirt “love” well, I was in over my head.
Anyway, a plot was hatched among me and my friends. We’d sneak out to Breezy Point, elude the security guards and make a grand entrance designed to surprise the light of my life and ensure that we would live happily ever after. One night, we did just that. Under the cover of darkness and with the stealth of a junior SEAL Team 6 we avoided capture and made our way to the beach club where all the night life was.
And there, off in the distance, basked in the spotlight I spotted my lovely. She was clad in only a bikini and my heart began pounding away in my chest like a jack hammer. The only problem was she was holding hands with some other kid and looking like she was having the time of her life.
So much for my bravado, I slunk away like a thief in the night and went back to what was to become the worst summer of my early life. Of course, there’d be many more to come over the ensuing years but I think everybody remembers the first time they got their heart broken. They just don’t commit it to words forty some odd years later.
I can tell you what triggered this write up though. Hurricane Sandy barreled through Breezy Point yesterday. In its wake it left anywhere between 80 and 100 homes burned to the ground from fires that erupted along the way. To quote the mayor of New York City, “Whatever is not flooded is on fire.”
I wish I was able to tell this little story under happier circumstances but you never know what might trigger a memory, good or bad.
I was gonna submit this tale of heartbreak and woe for Up My Street (A Quest for Local Knowledge) but my fingers just seemed to dance over the keyboard and the need to tell this story while it was fresh (refreshed?) in my mind outweighed anything else.