I’ll tell you something about Jones Beach. It’s a democratic place. Anyone can put up a flashy pink umbrella.
I saw one today.
Anyone who’s in New York can go to Jones. And everyone does. In August, before the jellyfish descend, the water is superbly cold and the waves fantastic for diving through. Surfers can be seen far off shore, catching small waves. It’s hard to get to Maui, after all.
Children play at the water’s edge shoveling holes in the endless strand, all un-helicoptered by any adult, and sitting on your towel you have absolutely no responsibility for them. Just enjoy their blissful ways from a distance, a dumbshow of babyhood. (In fact there were helicopters, real ones, Blackhawks that made a low pass along the shore.)
There’s the smell of the surf, as primal as that of cut grass. I measure my mood by my receptivity to these aromas. Throw open the windows – what is that that smells so good? Oh, it’s the smell of the ground after it rains, everyone’s favorite. There was actually a poll. But the briny air at Jones Beach came in a close second.
Fifteen-year-old girls make their way by like flamingo offspring, ducking their heads, so shy.
The man carrying a cooler full of ice cream: Chipwich! Frozen fruit bars! Dry ice makes the treats hard as concrete. He smiles though the sand must be a carpet of hot coals under his bare feet. His favorite places when he gets off? A bowling alley. A cave. He loves to wear shoes.
But what I like best is the sight of the old couples, the well-worn lovers, brown as belt leather and greasy with lotion, sitting silently side by side in their low chairs. They never speak. They go everywhere together. As one, they stay still, confronting the sun.