What I like best about NYC is the element of surprise. Add to that the secret places I find that make being here all the more livable and fun. Today I had a little of both. Since the temperature is supposed to hover around a whopping 100 degrees every day this week, I've declared it Beach Week. To celebrate Beach Week, I'm heading to Fort Tilden in Queens every day. It's a deserted Army base that's been converted to a nature preserve, unpolluted and full of enchantingly eerie forgotten buildings, white-washed and sea-weathered. The beach there is rarely crowded, because, by train or bus, it's a pain to get to for most. For me, getting there is about a 25 minute drive out Flatbush. That means it takes me as long to get to a beautiful, uncrowded stretch of ocean as it does to get to Union Square.
I'm happy to report that on day one of beach week, the water was lovely and there was a breeze. Ahh. I contentedly listened to my i-pod, freshly stocked with music and NPR stories. I bobbed in the ocean and was spanked by the surf. I watched people go by and periodically rolled over for even roasting.
The beach was almost deserted for about two hours. Then a guy with a tool belt climbed over the dunes and began to pace the shore. I watched him with about as much interest as a three-toed sloth, though I did wonder, "Who wears a tool belt to the beach?"
A while later, about eight muscular young firemen climbed over the dunes, seemingly to go for a dip. They dropped a large spindle of rope and a few life preservers in the sand and dove into the waves. They took turns paddling out to sea on what I thought must be a regulation FDNY surfboard. Is this how we do Baywatch on the east coast?
Then, two girls in very 50's bathing suits and Doris Day coiffures wandered by, followed by an entourage girls and boys similarly dressed from the same decade. That's when my sun-addled brain put it together that some kind of shoot had crashed my beach party. This also explained all the strange characters who had preceded the Beach Blanket Bingo gang on my little surfside stage. I waited for the action to begin as they organized craft service and set up beach games. An old lady all dressed in black with a small umbrella was wandering around the set, then they steered her out of sight.
When I finally felt my skin beginning to crisp, I decided to pack it in, even though I hadn't gotten to see whatever "it" was yet. I scaled the dunes to return to my car and stopped under a shelter to strap on my Tevas. The lady in black was resting there. On closer inspection, she wasn't that old, though by contrast to the cast I'd left on the beach, she looked rather Victorian. She told me she was to play the lonely soul who wanders along the beach. I asked her if it was some kind of art film. She said they were shooting a video for a new Bob Dylan song.
Hmm. I considered heading back to see if the man himself would make an appearance. I scanned the assembled fire truck and equipment vans, none of which looked large or posh enough to hold him. It was only getting hotter. I decided against it. I don't know if I get the whole concept, but I'll keep an eye out for the clip of a lonely soul wandering along the beach when the next Bob Dylan video premieres on TRL.