The First Sunday in August

We started our trip early yesterday morning. I pulled up to Vinny’s house at exactly 8:00, which is what we agreed upon. Chad came down from his upstairs apartment in the home across the street. His eyes slightly squinted from the brightness of an already hot sun. Angelo and Carmine were ready and both excited for the day we had planned. Angelo and Carmine are good boys.
With Angelo being the oldest at the age of nine, there is the normal older brother hazing and Carmine’s younger brother attempts to stir the pot.

Being the good dad, Vinny made sure to bring the necessities for his two boys. He packed sunscreen and drinks. Vinny brought along the small things people forget on excursions like ours. This way, the boys would have a good time and we could all enjoy this day together as men.

This was my first time meeting Chad. He is younger than us. He also served our country’s Navy. And if I knew nothing other than this fact; this fact alone is reason enough to say he is a good man. Chad had an accent that was foreign to our part of the world. He spoke well and kindly, which connected him to a southern state in my opinion.

Chad came from Missouri and spent time in Kentucky. He knew the local roads somewhat well and like Vinny and me, Chad enjoyed the idea of a half-day fishing trip on one of the party boats at Captree.

We chose to run on the second boat that was scheduled to leave at 9:00am. We chose this one because it seemed easier and with this being a fun weekend with late nights, there was no reason to rush or wake earlier than necessary.

We all piled in my car, eager, and excited for the day. Vinny has been my friend since second grade. Angelo and Carmine are his sons and they are very special to me. So in the mix of old friends, or should I say family and new friends, we piled into my car and headed from the town of Amity Harbor over to the Robert Moses Parkway.

My car is not the biggest of sort. I own a black four-door, which is somewhat compact, though shaped like a lunch box, and basically new. I chose to start the day with the right style of music. And to me, there is no better way to start any adventure than with the sounds of The Pink Floyd.
Also, I chose this because Vinny had invited me to a show this last Friday at the stage in Tanner Park. The band is named, The Machine—and since all they play are Floyd songs, the selection of music seemed obvious to me.

We headed through the toll booths at Captree State Park. We paid the parking fee and proceeded to the parking lot at the marina. We exited the car with bags in hand, drinks, and small portions of breakfast that we picked up along the way. We stood with smiles as we greeted the captain that was standing at the steps leading up to the bow of the party boat. Only, he responded to us with a curious smile and not with a smile as excited as ours.

“Are you boys part of the hospital trip?”
Vinny answered, “No, why?”
“Because this boat has been previously reserved for a hospital trip,” responded the captain

Turns out the only boat we could have fished and boarded was the boat that left at 8:00am.
The next available boat would not leave the docks until 1:00pm, which meant we had to be back at the marina by 12:00 in order to get a good spot on the boat. And a good spot is key on fishing trips like this.
Otherwise, we would have to fish from the side of the boat and deal with the unavoidable tangles that come along with fishing on party boats.

Instead of going home and coming back, we chose to return to the car, pile in, and head over to the nature walk that leads to the Fire Island Lighthouse. Carmine and Angelo were not as accepting of this news. They came along with the usual, but mild complaints given by children of their age. And to me, these were not complaints so much as they were unsure questions as to why we were someplace other than where we planned.

“Why are we walking?” they asked.
“How far do we have to walk?”
“Are we almost there yet,”
And of course,” Why aren’t we fishing,” were the popular questions on our hike to the lighthouse

If you have not seen the nature path to the Fire Island Lighthouse, then I will do my best to describe it well. For this, you will need to imagine the sound of wind moving through the tall marsh that stood much taller than me. Imagine the sound of waves crashing into the surf. Imagine the cry of seagulls, the smell of the ocean, and the feel of a warm summer sun as it beat down on your body.
The path is actually a boardwalk that cuts through the marsh and leads around with uphill and downhill slopes in certain spots. There are many joggers that choose this path as well, which is why we often heard the calls of, “Coming up on your left,” as the runners ran passed us.

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We passed the path that splits off and leads to the beach and continued on our journey. As we came to a part where the boardwalk stopped and the sand began, Vinny noticed a butterfly that was near our feet.

“Ben, look at this,” he said.
“It’s another butterfly.”

I walked over to see

Chad asked about the butterfly, which was on the ground and not feeling as well as it would if say, it were able to fly away healthy and with stronger wings.

Vinny said, “Ben’s been having a lot of experiences with butterflies lately. One landed on his shoulder when he was walking down 42nd Street.”
Vin explained, “That’s Ben’s Mom checking in on him.”

I wonder if Vinny knew how much those words meant to me.

Although the plans had changed, we were determined to have a good time. There was no need to allow a simple thing, such as a misunderstanding in reservations to prevent us from having a good time. And as we reached the lighthouse, I looked up at it. I looked out to the beach and the ocean which seemed peaceful and calm.

The lighthouse has been there since 1858. With help, the structure operates and remains a tall beacon that welcomes ships into the inlet. I say this is beautiful. I say this was all beautiful; the company, the weather, the sight, smell, and sound of the ocean—all of this was beautiful.

As for the beach itself, waves were rolling in close and forming at a distance that began approximately 25 yards out. For the most part, the beach was somewhat empty—except for the sporadic nude sunbathers, of course, which were not pretty to the eye by any means.

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The first sunbather of a scattered few was an old man. He was wrinkled and gray-haired. His chest hair was gray, same as it was on the rest of his body. There was a sock pulled over his manhood, as if it were a sunbathing condom, which appeared more filled than it would be in an unaroused or flaccid state.

“That’s no good,” I said to myself.
To each is own, but the boys were not ready for something like this.

We kept Carmine and Angelo from the aged man and made sure to steer them away, explaining, “Look over there,” to avert their young eyes from the scorn of an old man’s balls dangling from a “low to the ground” beach chair.
None of us were opposed to seeing the naked female body; however, the sight we saw was equally as poor as the aged man sunbathing with a sock on his joint.
The sight we saw were the breasts of a moderately pale, and much older woman, lying proudly on her beach chair with her large and low hanging breasts flapping like mostly emptied balloons with oversized nipples, spread out, and resting over the sides of her slightly rounded stomach. Short and curly-haired, freckled, and yellow-toothed, the woman looked at us from beneath her white hat with a loosely fit, round brim as she crossed her legs that ended with bunion feet and arthritic toes.

We decided to pick up the pace and cut away from this section beach. In order to do this, we had to pass through a small tide pool. The tide was high and as the waves folded in, they broke above a slight hill and left a pool of seawater. It appeared as though we had to time our run. And most of us did. Except for Carmine, that is.

The idea was simple. When the waves returned to sea, we chose to run through the shallow side before another wave came in. Yes, our feet would be wet, and yes we were all wearing sneakers, but this seemed like the best plan. Chad and I ran across first.
I knew I was going to like Chad.
Our feet hit the water, but this was bearable. Then Vinny ran after the next wave—except he turned to notice that neither Carmine nor Angelo were following behind him.

“Come on,” encouraged Vinny.
Angelo smiled. He leaned down with his hands on his knees. He was smiling, but far from trusting of the tide pool. It appeared clear to him that one wrong turn could lead to him being soaked. Carmine however was not as wise about the span and depth of the tide pool.
Carmine ran his little legs as fast as he could. But his judgement was off. Instead of running through the shallow section, Carmine chose the middle road, which sank him, waist-deep in the tide pool.

Carmine ran as fast as he could until he came to the realization that he chose his plan poorly, and that perhaps our coaching that directed him to follow our lead was more intelligent than Carmine had originally believed. But there was no stopping now. He was in waist deep and crying as loudly as he could. But there was no helping him at this point. Carmine ran, screaming the high-pitched and somewhat adorable scream that comes from a crying little boy in cases like this. I admit I laughed. I think we all laughed. I know Angelo did.

After seeing his little brother’s failure, Angelo chose to do as we suggested instead of follow Carmine’s lead. And nearly to the afternoon hour, we headed over to the car and returned to the marina. Carmine took his shoes and socks off. The rest of us laughed because while this was not a funny moment for little Carmine; it was a little funny to the rest of us.

I did not poke fun—much. I only asked him one question, which was, “Carmine, at what point did you realize that was a bad idea? Was it when you were waist deep in the water or is it when we were screaming, ‘No, don’t go that way?'”
Little Carmine did not answer, but he remained to be a good sport in my opinion.

We eventually boarded the boat and hoped for the best. We hoped the fishing gods would agree to our requests. We hoped for a good trip, because as it was, the day had already been a successful one.
We found our spots at the back of the boat, which was mostly crowded in other spots and filled with people standing too close to each other. The mates were kind and helpful and the tangled lines were no too troublesome—at least, not on our end. We caught plenty, but none of the fish were sizable enough to make it home to the dinner table. Most of the catches were smaller sea robins and a few short-sized fluke. Chad caught a small sea bass and that was a pretty fish that was sent home to grow more to feed someone else at a later date.

To my right on the boat was a man fishing with his daughter. They were patient and understanding of Angelo and Carmine’s inexperience. They never complained about the tangled lines, or complained about anything for that matter.

In fact, the young woman remarked about Angelo and how courteous he is.
“That’s my boy,” I explained to the young woman.
“He’s a hero.”

“His name is Angelo,” I introduced.
“His father and I do charity events for pediatric cancer and Angelo is always the firsts to shave his head in support of kids with cancer.”
“He even made it on the news.”

“That’s a good thing,” remarked the young woman.
“It’s nice to hear something good on the news for a change.”
“God knows there’s not enough of it,” she said.

In any case, after the hours passed and the half-day of fishing was complete, the captain of the boat honked the horn and called, “Lines up, folks. We’re going home,” over the speaker system.

On the way in, I introduced myself to the young woman’s father. I thanked him for his patience and understanding. Fishing on party boats is not always easy. There are often too many inexperienced people fishing and too many tangles, which lead to time without bait in the water.

“It’s not a problem at all,” said the man.

He smiled kindly and responded to my handshake. We carried on our conversation and he too remarked on how well behaved Carmine and Angelo were. I noticed a change in facial expression when I explained the story of the boys and our effort to put an end to pediatric cancer.

“You don’t have to tell me,” said the man.
“I lost my wife less than a year ago to cancer.”

Then he nodded at me. He nodded yes with a look of sadness and understanding. I looked at this man’s daughter and saw something beautiful and sweet. I saw their togetherness and found this hopeful for me and the future with my daughter in her later years.

I mentioned my weekend was spent with the boys.
“The wife is away for the weekend, so I have a hall pass.”
They laughed at this. They laughed when I explained my level of rebelliousness has changed considerably throughout the years. These days, my idea of a hall pass meant that I could leave dishes in the sink for the weekend. This meant I didn’t have to make the bed. I could watch what I want on television and eat what I want and whenever I chose. I could make a mess too—so long as I made sure to clean up that mess before the wife gets home.

If you asked the 22 year-old version of me if I ever thought this would be who I am at 42; if you ever asked, “Do think you will ever be that kind of older,” I would have laughed and said, “Never in a million years.”

I suppose, never say never . . .

It is amazing the coincidence of meeting this father and his daughter. Me being who I am, I preached a bit. They were both receptive and appreciative of my words. The father took down my number and explained, “I’ll be there,” when regarding my next charity event.

He said, “Thank you,” to me.
However it is I who should have been thanking him.

We parted and I took to the top deck to enjoy the last bit of our ride home. I took a deep breath to enjoy the salty air. I said a word of gratefulness to The Father and celebrated a great day with new friends and old.

Chad was smiling his southern hospitality smile. Vinny was happy and so was I. Carmine and Angelo have heart of gold. They’re good kids. I’m sure of this because they have a great dad.

Well, Mom . . .

This was my weekend. I hope you saw it as beautifully and as wonderfully as I did.

If you get the chance, show Pop the new boardwalk to the Fire Island Lighthouse. I don’t think he’s ever seen it before. Just be sure to avoid the naked views on Kismet Beach.
I don’t think you’ll dig it too much.

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