01 February 2009

34 degrees of Coney Island

Last night, rounding out the end of our celebratory return week, a slide-show and pisco sours in Brooklyn, putting together the story in pictures.

I assemble my own in words in my head on the subway, the street, over coffee, in bed; then the party, and I finish the night in Patricia's magical round room overlooking Norton Point, sprawled on a furry rug wrapped in blankets and sea-beach-white-wood glow. Waking to the sight and smell of the ocean, lazing in a heap of furblanketcoffee and excellent company of my host, it occurs to me that this is the sort of space that one wakes to and marvels how did my life lead up to this particular morning, where I awake in a white, round temple of Victoriana by the sea, as comfortable and happy as I've ever been? from Cristian's warm, lived-in mansion to Patricia's beachfront castle-in-the-waves, I think of my own New York City dreamhouse: the old Piano and Adirondack Chair factory on Hallet's Cove, a maritime-industrial garret overlooking the little beach and the sculpture park.

Then it's nine, then ten, and eleven-- time has been eaten by words, and we're off to the beach again.

and back to the chill, on a balmy day in the midst of deep-winter ocean. this water is cold. thirty-four degrees burns the skin of the thighs despite the sunshine. Hassidic man on the beach-- turkish-style fur cap-- watches intently, hands in pockets, as BorisPatriciaMichaelJonathanCristianMe strip, thankful for nowind as opposed to breezy-freezy yestermorn. Waves hit the shore in a perfect parallel, not diagonal to the northeast as they often roll across into Jamaica bay midwinter. we can smell the sea today.

this water is cold. I put my palms in and wince a little inside, but the day is so clear and bright and beautiful, the mood so relaxed, and my mind still so calm and undaunted that I feel I can really enjoy the swim. Jonathan shines next to me in the sunlight on the way to the shark-- the little rock that defines our shortest possible distance. as usual, there are some figures on the beach, seemingly drawn toward the water, walking with us. I don't feel particularly fast, just relaxed. mentally, it's much easier to ease into this momentary swim, probably just ten minutes, without needing to sprint as I did before Magellan. About halfway to the shark, the small muscles in my palms begin to twitch lightly. My hands feel thick. Not numb, but hard, like ice. I consider closing my fists to ease the feeling, but decide against it-- it will be crunchy and will upset me unnecessarily. I turn my focus to the rest of me, which, with the exception of crunch frozen, twitching calf muscle, is perfectly warm and happy. there is no pain in my neck, eyes, or head. the only problem with this swim is my hands. boris, cristian, jonathan and I line up at the shark. my hands are twitching, I tell Jonathan. we are all still smiling. he holds up his hands and waves them. they pop. we shrug, and start back. I can't feel my hands to pull water, which makes my stroke feel rather unproductive, but I'm still moving, so I stretch out and cruise back to our clothes. I love jogging out of the water in the winter. my frozen hands-- fishsticks, Cristian calls his--- are tucked into my underarms. people stop and stare, beam, comment. many ignore us. towel around the shoulders; one, two boots; a sweater; and we're off the beach in seconds.

it's amazing how much we've acclimated to this cold. It barely troubles me, other than the weird stinging numbness of my hands. It's not until after we sit and chat with boris for about ten minutes that I shiver, very mildly, for less than a minute. soon afterwards, hungrysleepy all at once, and our merry band grown to six chatters away until we all go our separate ways, to the rest of our sunday.