day trip


Highway 35 in Laurence Harbor, NJ, forty minutes south of Manhattan, is a plain and purposeful road, delivering travelers to an undecorated stretch of town in which basic needs are efficiently met: factories, strip clubs, and a small, serious beach below the drawbridge.


Like the neighborhood, the beach brooks no fools. It is mostly stones with a few white-hot dunes. It sometimes smells, and has a view of Staten Island. Little white crab corpses drift belly up in the shallows. The pleasure it provides is low-fi but durable, that of doing ordinary things out of doors, by a body of water. People sit in nylon folding chairs and eat sandwiches. On a weekday, a woman in a bikini and bifocals read the newspaper while her sons dug for snails in the mud. A baby screamed with joy in the tiny waves. The water in the bay was as flat as glass, and clouds shimmered in it. The drawbridge bell rang, over and over.


There was a girl collecting crabs in a bucket…


…and a boy with a fish slipping in circles in a jar…


…and up by the restrooms, a man rinsing a ferret named Sebastian under the spigot.