The beach epitomizes nearly everything I react badly to. Sand gets everywhere and precludes everything but sandals (which I never wear), the Sun is blinding even when there isn’t an expanse of sand reflecting it, the heat causes me to break down, and extended periods in water have the same effect. But when I went there last Saturday with my friends, it wasn’t like that at all.
In fact, I rather enjoyed it.
My main problem was the heat. I had a pair of comfortable slippers from home, and my sunglasses were in working order, if a little crooked. That was easy. On the beach, I thought there would be no reprieve from the oppression of the infrared rays bearing down on me from all sides. I brought a spray fan in preparation for dealing with the heat, but I was afraid that it would remove my sunscreen, so I kept it tucked away until absolutely necessary.
But like most theorycraft, I forgot to account for something: wind. There was an incredibly pleasant breeze blowing throughout the beach that kept me cool while under the beach umbrella that Shelly provided. In fact, I was hottest when not on the beach! The line for a $2.75 Nathan’s hot dog, no matter how famous, was windless and way too hot. And the hot dog wasn’t even that crunchy…
The food, as expected, was overpriced. Thankfully, my friends and I were able to find small bastions of cheapness, like vendors selling dollar cans of soda and water, as well as dollar icee carts. I didn’t know there existed icee carts that do not carry some form of lemon, but I wasn’t about to complain in the face of the equally awesome pineapple.
This was all to refuel our bodies after volleyball. I’m not a big fan of it, but that didn’t keep me from chilling out in the shade while taking pictures of the action as well as the awkward, compromising positions they occasionally ended up in. I was a bigger fan of frisbee, which I found Joanna, Yi, and the Stuy robotics team playing a ways down the beach. I got to toss around a frisbee whose primary purpose was something other than a shovel, and then headed down to the shoreline to take my first steps in the ocean.
I’ve lived a life with a set of tempermental skin, and when I looked at the seaweed, shell, and debris-filled ocean, I was a little skeptical to say the least. If I stepped in without my slippers, I would feel all kinds of things underneath me and around me, but if I stepped in with them on, the same things got caught inside of it. I resigned myself to keeping my slippers on (I didn’t want them to get stolen or washed away) and moving when the tide was at a standstill. It was surprisingly cool, and I didn’t melt or molt. When I returned to my original group, it turns out they wanted to go into the ocean too, and I took bolder steps. I still didn’t plan on going much farther in, so I left my camera, wallet, and cell phone in my pocket like I always do and started wading in while holding up the ends of my shorts. There was noticeably less debris as I got farther out, possibly because the same debris is washed back and forth when you’re closer to the shoreline. I got a first-hand glimpse of how much less debris there was when my friend Mike snuck up on me and pushed me over. This was in direct violation of the verbal contract I arranged with him previously, being “If you drag me into the water, Mike, I’m taking your balls.” Needless to say, his balls were now mine. I contemplated chasing him down, but unlike me, he had no compunctions about going into deep water. I deemed my electronics more valuable then a pair of testicles and wisely left the beach and emptied out my pockets before too much water seeped through.
He’s still my hero though, because of this exchange:
Sally: *playing with the sand* Hey look, it’s a dinosaur print!
Mike: *kick* Hey look, it’s messed up.
We had spent a good five or six hours at the beach before we decided to head out. Some of us needed to get home, others were worried about the sudden appearances of sunburn. Still, our original purpose was to go on the Coney Island rides before they closed after this summer season. Sally, Shelly and I had not forgotten this, and remained resolved to go on the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel before leaving.
The Cyclone brought out an interesting side of me, one that I usually only see during tests. When people come to me and lay out all their fears about how they’ll do, and how they haven’t studied, I am the epitome of false confidence. The fact is, despite my assurances and cool words, I am often just as fearful and unprepared. The same is true for rollercoasters: when people expressed uncertainty about whether going on was a good idea, I did my best to rally them and persuade them to go. Was I any less afraid of the feeling you get when you descend down those hills, that you’re going to go flying out of your seat and splatter across the pavement? Fuck no, it’s why I never go on rollercoasters by myself; I can be brave in the presence of others, but I’ll rarely stand up for myself. As we climbed up the first hill, I finally admitted out loud, “For the record, I’m scared shitless.”
And wow, scared shitless of that first hill I was. I clutched that bar for dear life and didn’t let go. The rest of the ride was both a success and a failure. It was favorable in the sense that I really, really enjoyed it. After the first set of hills, I got into it, I stopped cursing and started enjoying. I kept my eyes wide open as a smile streaked across my face wider and wider with each coming steep hill and sharp turn. I left the ride exhilarated, shaking with excitement and seriously tempted to spend four dollars for a reride.
The person sitting next to me was not of the same opinion. Her version of “scared shitless” only amplified as the ride progressed, and despite the sign that said “Do Not Rest Head On Bar,” she put her head down and closed her eyes in order to block out the overwhelming G forces and we zoomed about. This caused her head to thrash back and forth as we ascended and descended, showing that a bruised face and disjointed glasses was the price of resting your head on the bar. We all tried to comfort her, but she was shaken and the damage had already been done.
We never went on the Wonder Wheel because people were really itching to go by now. I think it would have been a memorable experience and given us some great pictures, but it wasn’t in the cards, at least not today. And while I only have a few more weeks until I start school, I have plenty more summers and plenty more great rides to experience with plenty of great friends.