Sunday, July 30, 2006

I have a difficult time relaxing. I don't know why that is, exactly. I don't think I'm particularly ambitious or career-driven (hah) but I do feel a perpetual kind of restlessness, you know? Okay, this is fine--this moment of triumph, of forward motion--but what's next? But I made a promise to myself that--after two years of relentlessly giving myself over to school--I would relax this summer. I wouldn't increase the number of hours at work--living off my savings if I had to. (I didn't and I am.) I also promised myself that I'd attempt to brown slightly the studio-induced pallor of my skin but getting out every few days...a park or a beach, something, anything, with a book and the iPod. (Gotta get those playlists just right and catch up on all of the music I downloaded from

I was doing fine for the first month or so sans school. I was biking over to Roosevelt Island and ensconsing myself in the gently landspaced park at the northern tip of the island and slowly working myself through the James Siena recommended reading list--Margaret Atwood, Bruce Sterling, Barbara Tuchman. Then getting the studio if working order started to take priority over relaxing I've gotta get the drywall in there, gotta get the walls up, floor painted, etc. And that money starting coming out of my savings. And then the concern about living beyond my means kicked in and I made looking for a job a top priority...which, of course, induced all kinds of stress in it's own right: Is my portfolio good enough? Did I misspell anything in my cover letter? Shit, do I even WANT these lousy motherfucking jobs? When I was back in Chicago in early July, I made another go at it: I spend a few afternoons at Montrose beach and stuck it out until the sun went down. (That's always been the most delicious time at the lake: gloaming, sitting at just the right place on the concrete spiral jetty so that you can't see any land and all you see is a undulating plateau of water. Love it.) However, I've been pushing myself and fretting and worrying etc. ever since I returned.

So: bang. Relaxation is done away with. Not just the outer practice of relaxation, but the attempt at inner relaxation as well. Brain is roiling, thoughts are clashing. And, dammit, I decided I was going to do something about it. I was going to Rockaway Beach. I've been squinting at the Far Rockaway for a year or so now, and going there would complete my beach-at-the-end-of-the-subway trumvirate: Coney Island (duh) (and yecch). Orchard Beach in the Bronx and, of course, the Rockaways. Even though thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. I was going: fuck it.

I took the E to the Airtrans at JFK. The Airtrans links to the A and--by looking at the subway map and estimating--I guessed it shaved anywhere from 45-60 minutes off the trip. I made the mistake of circling the Airtrans system rather than transferring directly at Federal Circle and spent an additional twenty minutes looking an anonymous airport architecture and equally anonymous airport travelers. Finally got on the right train, hopped off at Howard Beach and onto the A which took me out across Jamaica Bay. Amazed by the number of graceful, long-necked white water birds I saw on the water. At one point from the train window and through a thicket of trees, I swore I saw dozens of white swans.

Once the A train hits the Rockaways, it turns east and runs parallel to the coast maybe a quarter of a mile away. A long boardwalk hedges the beach--it's in good repair with planks the color of a dirty quarters interrupted every hundred of yards of so with the broad plinth of maroon fitted bricks trimmed by concrete. (The gulls have learned this plinths are ideal for cracking open mussel shells: I watches a ragged old gull drop a tightly closed mussel three times from a height of 30 feet or so until the shell cracked and the foul bastard gobbled the delicacy down.) The land between train and the boardwalk is odd: it possesses a street grid but the street are crumbling and in poor shape. The sandy-soiled lots between the streets are filled with all kinds of vegetation, most of which looks "beachy"..I don't know if it was originally developed property which was allowed to re-naturefy or land that was meant to be developed to was instead left to the blackbirds and condom wrappers.

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