What is the Rockaway Beach Big Dig, you ask? Well, to put it simply, every summer the men who were once boys who once rode beach cruisers with no hands (a slice in one hand and an orange soda in the other, of course) walk the beach blocks from their homes carrying gloves and shovels to band together with might and brawn and… dig a big hole. It starts simply enough, a few shovelfuls, maybe enough depth to bury someone… but by mid-day, fueled by many shave ices and the salty, sandy toil of men, women, and children, the hole is higher than a man’s head, with steps and shelves and maybe a WBFP. It’s such a simple set of pleasures, old friends come from far distances, mothers prepare the same foods they prepared last year (and every year before that), and from the absence that is the hole, the presence of something pretty American takes shape. Something majestically futile, perhaps, or something joyous simply for the sake of joy. Of course, at the end of the day, we fill it back in.
Much traveling, so little time at home… sweetheart and I capitalize on this rare day in August where breezes kiss the skin. Impromptu picnic in Fort Greene Park. What a lovely afternoon…The amazing Opinel knife belongs to me (courtesy of Cassie’s divine Gravel & Gold), but alas, the Steinbeck belongs to Sweetheart. I’m shamelessly burning through George R.R. Martin’s Storm of Swords like wildfire. I’ve bought each book from Greenlight and they (mercifully) don’t make me feel like I should be reading something better.
A few months ago I stood at an important crossroads. I was experiencing a fun new grown-up joy of my skin being both broken out (still?) and incredibly dry (really??). I looked like something out of Mad Magazine. (Sidenote: This underlies the import of the book Ann Marie’s been talking about writing for many years: “What’s Happening to My Body NOW!?: A guide for twenty-somethings who are freaking out”, but I digress). This capitol fugliness also happened to coincide with some life events making a re-up on the Laura Mercier face routine nigh on monetarily impossible. Woe! Rending of clothing! Epic Bummer! But wait… surely there must be something in the humble drugstore aisle to soothe my broken spirit and comfort my broke face?
Deliverance from Duane Reade: Noxzema. $5 (in New York, $3 in VA!) for a gargantuan tub of the miracle cream, and I am fresh and clean as a whistle, smooth as a baby’s little forearm, and I smell delectably old fashioned, like seaside resorts from the 30’s and dressing rooms with beveled mirrors and your grandmother’s jewelry to play with. Perfection!
Now: one thing I did not know. Noxzema was originally conceived in Maryland as a salve for sunburn. Why hadn’t I seen this olde ad or done my research on the possibilities when I was on the business end of this sunburn in June? Man, oh, Man I am their target demographic or what?!
I’m having a total love affair with summer right now. Probably because I’ve been hopping in and out of New York and have only seen the most lovely and tantalizing parts (roof parties, sunsets, music outside, picnics) and none of the armpit parts (hot.smell.subway.toes.). In the former category: we went out to the ball fields on Bay 16th to see Andrew’s little brother’s Little League team play their championship tournament. The gods of small ball pitted the sweetest band of intrepid, full-hearted, and popsicle-mouthed 8 year olds against this pitcher. See above. A side-slinging lowballer, towering a full three heads over the runts in right field, a little league leviathan who almost had a perfect game (our guys’ third baseman, who had been in tears earlier over a tie-gone-to-the-runner-this-ump-is-a-union-scab-type-call, got on base with a frozen rope to shortstop to ruin Goliath’s no-hitter. Yes.). The boys lost, but bless their little hearts, when the game was over they were quiet and kind to each other and held their heads high with honor beyond their years. After the game at Spumoni Gardens they were back to fighting over corner pieces of the perfect-sweet-sauced sicilian square pie and spitting soda at each other, but for a dusky sunset moment you could see just a shade of the men they’d be. Ahh, Summer, how fine you are.
You know you are in a good place when it is time to go to sleep and someone has put a gardenia next to your bed. Just one, in the tiniest bit of water, depression glass or old fiestaware. You know it’s a marvelous confluence of events that has led you to lay your head down in a place where June is warm enough for blooms and the sheets are still cool to the touch.
Today I had one of the summer’s most marvelous delicate treats: the cucumber sandwich. When I was little Mama and I grew cucumbers and tomatoes in half barrels down the length of our driveway. I loved the curlicue tendrils that got so grabby and brushing off the little white thorns that grew from the bumps when they were ready to pick. Mama would have a tomato sandwich and me– always the cucumber. Nothing has changed.
I go white bread, crust on, no toast, Duke’s mayonnaise on both sides (sometimes I have to bring this special from Virginia, other times they randomly/awesomely have it at Fairway), salt, pepper, and chips. This is probably the only sandwich in the world (outside of PB&J) that doesn’t agree with a pickle. After all, a pickle is just a cucumber that sold its soul to the Devil. And the Devil was Dill.