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Monday Crack – Fire Island A True Escape

I went to Fire Island on Friday night.  It was pouring!  No one was on top of the ferry basking in the glory of the wondrous view and fresh air.  Everyone was huddled inside the ferry wishing they were in rain gear.

When we finally landed in the little town where I share a house with some friends, the rain still decided not to let up.  By the time I got to the house I was sopping wet and was greeted at the door by my friend with a towel, happy to be inside.  That night we had a big vegetarian stew, nice and hearty, and attempted unsuccessfully to make a fire, everything was too wet.  We stayed up and talked, watched a little TV, and then went to bed.  Saturday we woke up to clear skies and soon sunshine, it turned out to be a perfect beach day and perfect weekend!

Always great no matter the season or the weather, Fire Island is a special place.  A small barrier island off of Long Island it is the antithesis of New York.  Having moved to NYC from N. Central California I needed to find some place where I could relax, be outside, and have access to a beach, so about 12 years ago I researched this weird NY phenomenon of summer beach shares.  Before this I had never known that anything like this existed.  I had always had access to a beach, and I couldn’t believe New Yorkers had to work so hard to get there and then pay so much money on top of it to do so.  But now I was a New Yorker too so it was time I learned about these things.

So I investigated “The Hamptons,” all of them, east, west, and south, and several other communities out on Long Island.  I had already been to Montauk a few times which was lovely, and I had been to East Hampton a couple of times too, and I enjoyed myself at both.  Then I remembered that a friend had mentioned something about this little island off of Long Island called Fire Island, I got curious, and I started to learn about its various communities.  There are about 14 plus on Fire Island and each has its own distinct style and population.  There are family communities, younger singles communities, gay communities and mixed communities; towns with bars and restaurants, towns without bars and restaurants, towns that don’t even have a grocery store.  But one thing that all the communities share is that almost the entire population gets to the island by ferry boat, and in season no cars are allowed on the island with very few exceptions.

Somehow the lure of no cars, people bicycling and toting little red wagons instead of SUV’s appealed to me.  I wanted a place where I could truly chill and shed city life so I found myself taking a share with a group of people who at the time I did not know, and I took it in a place I had never been, Fire Island.  I couldn’t quite imagine how it was going to work.  A bunch of grown professionals, doctors, lawyers, musicians, writers, advertising creatives, etc., sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, cooking big meals together, and living together every other weekend for an entire summer.  But I was willing to give it a try.  That was now 12 years ago and I’d have to say it was one of my best NY decisions.

When people are out on Fire Island there isn’t much to do but get to know your neighbor, eat, drink, read, bicycle, take walks, run, go to the beach and plan your day around what you are going to fix for dinner that evening.   Then you might possibly think about going out dancing or maybe to a house party, but often dinner is so late and happy hour so long, that you find yourself just staying home and socializing with your own house.  The busy folks of NY drop their harder urban façade on Fire Island and I think it happens the second they get to the ferryboat landing.  They begin to let down their guard and they become approachable.  It’s really an environment and time where friendships can blossom and grow.  People say hi and acknowledge one another when passing each other on the sidewalks which act as streets.  And unlike NY where the first thing I did when I moved here was to install a Medico lock, on the weekends on Fire Island no one locks their house.  People come and go and they don’t worry.  I’ve also never known of anyone being robbed.  At the grocery store, we have one in my town, you can run up a weekend account, just give them your name, call at the end of the weekend for your total, and drop them a check on your way to the ferry on Sunday.  Fire Island is everything NYC is not!

With summer coming to a close I wanted to share with those who don’t know about Fire Island, this special place off of Long Island.  And for those of you who do know Fire Island, you know I speak the truth.  Easy to get to by the train, you can simply take the Long Island Railroad out of Penn Station to your stop on Long Island, for me, that stop is  Bayshore.  Waiting for you at the train station are buses who for a small fee will shuttle you to your ferry boat.  Very accessible time wise as a day trip, you either need to be visiting friends or go to one of the few towns that have public restrooms, like Ocean Beach.  There are a few small hotels in some of the various towns, but very few so check that out beforehand.  But if you want a day, a weekend, a week, or a month, consider a summer rental or a day trip.  The beaches are beautiful, the people friendly, you can walk to the Lighthouse or the Sunken Forrest, stroll the sidewalk shops of Ocean Beach, get some great baked goods from Amy’s, watch the sunset over the bay with your friends, or sit in a pub sipping beer thinking how lucky you are to be where you are.  Fire Island is a wonderful place to rejuvenate and a true escape!

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