beach - rb

summer in the city was magic

for an 8 year old like me

no school and plenty of soda

but the best was when my mother sister and me

gathered blankets towels bathing suits bananas salami on rye

in the hot steamy early july morning

and got on a subway heading to the beach at coney island

the best time to go was before

the other hundred thousand families

showed up

so we could get a good spot for our blanket

that spot was the goldilocks spot

not too far from the water but not too close either

close for swimming and cool breezes

but not so close that the incoming tide would force us to leave early

this was smart beach management by the pros

so we get off the subway

trudge with our bundles towards the beach

past the games rides food

then under the boardwalk

where the sand was usually wet and cool

then out on the already burning hot sand

it took a hero to walk on that sand

without screaming in pain

the hard secret i learned over time

was to not step on the sand but to slide your foot under it

that wasnt perfect but it gave me a chance

to make it to our spot without writhing in agony

and as far as the eye could see

there were hundreds of other families

pouring on to the beach

each trying to claim their perfect spot

i hear a slow rising wave of laughting shouting roaring

that begins to swell

it never stops all day

now the beach was filled blanket to blanket with bathers

from the waters edge all the way back to the boardwalk

and then under it

under it was for making out i found out later

at this point it got a little scary

all those people half naked

packed together strangers

a lot not even jewish

you could tell

it was blanket to blanket to blanket

with just inches in between

packed with families

as far as i could see

young old big small fat

a few that cant be described

dressed undressed half dressed sleeping standing exercising

eating sun bathing digging holes

what for

who knows

tables beach chairs food piled everywhere

cookies to spaghetti and meat balls

a large wall of twisting bouncing flesh

flailing under the roar

then my sister eve wants ice cream

so i want a hot dog

that means i have to follow her closely

across the blazing burning sand

through the half naked masses of savages

to get there and get back

without getting lost or kidnapped

dangerous but doable by sliding between them

and stepping on the corners of blankets

to stop the burning of my feet

but without stepping on anyone

lying there

or crushing their food

as i follow my sister through all this danger

i am worried

i know that eve does not care who she steps on

her goal was simple

get to her ice cream at any cost

my life meant nothing to her at such a moment

and as we finally approach the boardwalk

i see a crowd of standing bathers

stretching twisting

and standing up in the middle was someone wearing clothes

standing straight

legs spread

so i asked my now charging sister

what was that man doing

she said he was drawing the people

stupid

drawing

what was that supposed to mean i wondered

as i was dragged by

but for some reason i stopped

i stopped and looked at his face

it really scared me

i never forgot it

his head covered with a white handkerchief

his face was dripping sweaty

very pinkish brown and red blotches

crazy wide round red eyes

staring like he was some sort of killer

i could not see what he was doing

with that pencil and little book because he was so tall

i was frozen by his face

then suddenly i was yanked away by my arm

my sister dragged me back to our blanket

she was eating a custard

i was happy i survived

then the day was done

everyone leaves the beach

around the same time

the subway ride back is packed

with sunburned sand itching wet bathing suits

tired sleepy and uncomfortable with no sense of humor

i do not say a word

i make believe im sleeping

the subway roared underground the lights flickered

many years later

when i doing my movie heavy traffic

and discovered certain painters that spoke to me

i ran into that face again in a photo in an art book

i would recognize that face anywhere

but now it had a name

reginald marsh

one of the most underrated american painters today

his paintings of coney island beaches

playgrounds side shows boardwalks

are just so damn great extraordinary

i feel blessed and amazed

that i saw him there

me

i saw him there myself

what are the chances of that

i saw him at work drawing

i dont remember if my sister bought that hot dog for me

but i do remember marsh on the beach

and feeling how amazing that is

for an artist like me

who loves him

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