Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fire Island

Wednesday morning, we raced to the Sayville Ferry and returned to Cherry Grove on Fire Island...

...where we were seated in front of a photographer, two male models, and a film crew scouting out the Belvedere Hotel for an underwear shoot.

Fire Island is a long, narrow sandbar that protects the highly populated southern Long Island shore from Atlantic storms.

Though Robert Moses, the twentieth-century monstrous power broker, wanted to put a roadway across its thirty-plus miles during the 1960s, he was stopped by local residents working with the federal government, and the place remains blessedly car-free except for the occasional service vehicle.

There are about 15 different communities that range in size from ten people to a couple of thousand summer inhabitants and visitors.

Until the 1960s, most of the buildings were simple wooden summer shacks, but some of the communities have gotten a bit pissier and more elaborate because the federal government started offering flood insurance in what has been traditionally a hurricane path.

If you have read any "gay" fiction over the last 30 years, every other tale seems to be taking place on Fire Island, but in truth there are only two communities, The Pines and Cherry Grove, which are predominantly gay. The snootier and more upscale A-Gays rent summer shares in The Pines, and a few rich characters own their own summer mini-mansions (the pond above is from one of the latter).

Cherry Grove consists of more traditional beach shacks and funky restaurants/bars, along with the fabulously eccentric Belvedere Guest House for Men which dates from the late 1950s.

We spent a night in the Garden Room and it couldn't have been more amusing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Democrat Point

In the Islip, Long Island neighborhood I was staying in, there was an electrician with a few over-the-top right-wing bumper stickers adorning his truck, and I found myself genuinely shocked (and also giggling) by "First Osama, Now Obama."

Thoroughly repulsed, we decided to go to the perfectly named Democrat Point, which is the far western point of Fire Island at the end of Robert Moses State Park.

Long Island is a traditional Republican Party stronghold, though that demographic has been changing to more Democrats and independents since the disaster of Bush II.

The western sandbar at Democrat Point has similarly grown over the last 15 years and stretches a half mile past the traditional jetty ending.

It's an amazingly beautiful place, though bright and inhospitable to humans.

The place is a seagull heaven...

...where food just washes up to the shore for their delectation.

This was a special, secret place of my host who used to surf there as a teenager...

...but I'm glad he didn't tell me what else the place was famous for until I found out about it on the internet while researching the place for this post.

According to a commenter at a local surfer's website:
"Demo is possibly one of the best gette [jetty] breaks on long island. Especially if your goofy.......only thing is its kinda a chum bucket.......all the fisher man and captree boats fish about 1-2 miles offshore from demo. Surfing this spot we have seen sandsharks fish and even brownsharks. Now ur probaly thinken im jus sayen this jus to protect are (Local spot) If u dont belive me go to goole earth zoom up on democrat point look to the left of the gette.......and see for urself........"

Jellyfish and Lyme Disease ticks are scary enough to contend with, but if I'd known I was playing at "Jaws," I'd never have gone bodysurfing all afternoon.

In any case, I pray America gets over its Fear of a Black Man and elects Obama president. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Manhattan Marineland 1: Southwest

One of the most scenic and interesting boat rides in the world is hidden in plain sight in New York City. It's the ancient, tacky, tourist trap Circle Line tours of the island of Manhattan, and I cannot recommend the three-hour full circumnavigation highly enough.

There is a ghastly tour guide droning on into the microphone for most of the trip, but you can go to the open front bow of the boat and not have to listen to him.

The voyage starts at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue on the Hudson River, and journeys counterclockwise starting south.

Like San Francisco, Manhattan and its river neighbors are finally embracing their waterfront after centuries of using it for industry, warehouses and freeways, and in their place shiny glass condos are rising everywhere.

Jersey City on the western side of the river is mushrooming before everyone's eyes...

...mirroring the old financial district of Southern Manhattan.

The boat veered south for a glimpse of an unexpectedly ornate Ellis Island...

...before making a quick pass of the Totemic Tourist Icon and returning to the financial district...

...which was looking like a stock photo entitled "Storm Over Wall Street."

Manhattan Marineland 2: Southeast

An incidental pleasure of this boat ride was seeing the four waterfalls erected by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, with the first one stationed off of Governor's Island.

When I asked a number of New Yorkers how they felt about the waterfalls...

...their reaction tended to be, "Weren't they....disappointing?"

In truth, they had some serious competition with the walls of skyscrapers on the Manhattan shoreline...

...but I did like the one placed under the east side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Just north of The Manhattan Bridge...

...the fourth waterfall made its lonely Manhattan appearance.

The condo building boom has extended to Long Island City...

...which looks across the river to the United Nations building...

...which is helping to make the world safe for luxury yachts like Utopia III.

Manhattan Marineland 3: Northeast

The most unexpectedly interesting part of the trip was on the northeastern quadrant between the Bronx and Harlem...

...which was verdantly beautiful.

There were bridges of every type...

...that were all uniquely interesting...

...and they started appearing every quarter mile.

We passed an annex of the New York Yacht Club... the trip became increasingly bucolic.

There were reminders of the grimy city, such as the 207th Street Railyards...

...which seemed to be an elephant's graveyard for old subway cars...

...but the overall feeling was amazingly pastoral.