After 3 weeks in the shop, I was happy to be back in the cab. I was surprised that I was able to book an Amazon load a block away heading to NJ. To my consternation Amazon cancelled the load which is fairly common these days. It’s been 3 long weeks getting repairs, so I wasn’t gonna stay parked for long. Didn’t want to head to Jersey since i there’s a toll coming back into the city. So I headed to Long Island instead.
Since it was night time, I decided to stop several miles away at a strip mall near Rockaway, the sound of planes landing at JFK. There was a Lowe’s, so this would be a safe place to seek overnight refuge. On the far end of the lot stood an Applebees, all lit up like Penn Station. And unlike the economically-depressed Empire City, dining-in is permitted here. So I decided to grab a late night bite while enjoying the local atmosphere.
I ordered Cajun Shrimp Pasta and of course a Long Island Ice Tea. On the other side of the bar a fellow was already half way done with his meal and ordering more drinks.
“It sure is nice to sit down and enjoy my meal for a change,” I stated.
“Absolutely, dining-in has been opened for over a week now. We’re not as densely populated as the city so our caseload is a lot lower,” he said.
“That’s good to hear. So Long Island is not part of the 5 boroughs?”
“Yeah people don’t realize that the island has their our own police and fire department as well as elected officials.”
“Thank God for First Responders – where you here when Sandy hit?”
“Oh yeah, 2012 – I remember it quite well. The entire Rockaway Blvd including this Applebees was submerged in several feet of water. Sandy swept away half of the barrier island’s sand so the Corps of Engineers has rebuilt and strengthened sand dunes which hopefully will protect us should the next big one hit.”
“Well there’s a hurricane brewing in the Caribbean right now heading straight for Florida. Hopefully, it won’t come this far north.”
“Yeah it has a funny name like Isaias – I heard it raked the Bahamas.”
“Yeah, let’s hope for the best. So I’m heading to the beach tomorrow. There’re letting non-residents in but there’s a $15 charge.”
“Yeah, and they’re closing the beach earlier at 8 to prevent college kids from gathering.”
“Oh, I read about that last Sat – there was several hundred kids, drinking on the beach and boardwalk, not wearing masks and acting rowdy.”
“So if you wanna go to the beach but avoid the crowds and fees, I recommend you veer to the right just before the bridge on Railroad. There’s a seafood shack there that resembles a beach, and there’s plenty of parking.”
Interesting suggestion – why would I drive all the way to Long Beach and actually not get on the acclaimed boardwalk and refurbished beach. I know all about it, since a spent several days there last summer, and I enjoyed the expansive views and ability to work out and swim.
Needless to say, it was worth giving it a shot. I veered off to the right as he had suggested and found Pop’s Seafood Shack. It was actually better than what I had expected.
The “shack” is located on Reynolds Channel just west of the Bridge. Pop’s is just like a beach, perhaps better. For one you can eat and drink without been bothered There’s plenty of sand and beach chairs to just lounge around. This isn’t Florida – didn’t see any tanned bodies playing volleyball, but for NY state, this is as good as it gets.
Been in Long Island, I ordered my obligatory liquor with triple sec, vodka, gin, and white rum. It was served with a complementary bowl of over-salted tortilla chips aptly named Cuomo Chips.
But somehow the chips didn’t do anything for me and since Pop’s specializes in fresh seafood harvested from the Long Island Sound, I ordered my quintessential New England favorite:
The meat was juicy and tender, the roll was soft and squishy and my Angry Orchard was chilled and bittersweet.
“You guys have quite a large dock,” I mentioned to my server, Emily.
“Yeah, we got 40 deepwater slips. Boaters can dock for free as long as they come in to dine.”
“Wow, I don’t see any boats docked at the moment – would you care if I went for a swim.:
“People don’t normally do that here. But since the beach is closed to non-residents, I’m not gonna stop you if you did.”
The place was so relaxing, I could lounge here all day long, the sun on my face, my feet in the sand., the tunes of Jimmy Buffet playing softly in the background.
So the place is named after the proprietor’s father, George Sr., a merchant marine who immigrated from Greece in 1960 and is known colloquially as “Pop.”
This was a perfect spot – thanks Nick! And there was just one last thing to do – take a plunge into the Great South Bay.
Thankfully, the shack had a nice dock – clean, sturdy and empty. Not a soul save for an inquisitive swan who craned his long neck to make sure I wasn’t a predator.
1-2-3, unsure of the depth, I dived in, feet first. The water was salty and tepid – but a lot cooler than the Potomac River which is currently rising to the mid 80s.
Like the swan, I casually treaded water, then rested the back of my head in the calm waters and just chilled. Because the water was so dense, I floated well and for long stretch before it was time to go.
The Nationals would be hosting the Yankees on opening day and for one night, the memories of the magical season returned.
Then I would have to cut the game short – wouldn’t make it to the 7th inning stretch – I had another Amazon load in the Bronx which was my ticket out of this city.