I want to go back to life like it was, is that naïve? I don’t think I’m alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, and I don’t want people to get sick or worse: and, I believe everything we are doing is saving lives, but I am afraid we may never be the same again, at least for a long time, and that gets me remembering what I love about New York and Rockaway.
I love New York City. I love going to some out-of-the way place that has been hiding in plain sight forever, and discovering something unbelievable about this town we live in. And then I love sharing it. The ability to jump on a ferry from this fairytale peninsula we live on and shoot across the water past fabulous Coney Island and underneath the Verrazano Bridge past Governors island into Wall Street, excites me till this day. Walking through the narrow streets of old New Amsterdam, knowing that Governor Stuyvesant walked (albeit with a peg leg) through those streets; that the British marched in and took over the city without a bullet fired, sets my imagination ablaze.
Walking from downtown up to St. Paul’s where George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams fought for this country and formed a government unlike any the planet had ever known, puts an extra hop in my step; especially knowing that I am walking the very streets they walked.
Slowing down past the Oculus, looking at the phoenix that has risen out of the ashes and tears, of what was once the World Trade Towers, remembering that day, being there, thinking that this was where I would end, but did not, brings a quickened breath even today as I stroll by.
Looking up at the American Flag in front of the New York Stock Exchange, a place as old as this country itself, tightly entwined with its history and finances, brings memories flooding back to me of times there especially during the Crash of 1987, the great financial recession of 2008, and now this virus-induced recession upon us. The doors of the NYSE are closed, but trading continues in a data center in New Jersey somewhere.
I can’t scoot into the little nooks and crannies that are the back alleys and side streets of old New York and come home to this peninsula to write about it, at least not now. And I think about Hurricane Sandy eight years ago, while the rest of New York continued as if nothing had happened, while we were stuck in a “siege” mentality in Rockaway. And then we slowly but surely rebuilt our homes, our lives, our way of life. Remembering what I had seen, smelled, tasted – all of New York and Rockaway at its best, worst, grittiest and writing about what you should check out, that is all put on hold for now. But I long to get back to it; I want it back.
I want to be able to do all that again. I want to be able to play music with my bandmates again, trading jokes, being astounded at how good they are and how generous they are. I look forward to the day when I can ride my bike without a mask, say hello to neighbors, hug a friend, kiss my kids, hold my Dad. These are all things that I took for granted.
I know the greatest generation fought wars, battled poverty and prejudice, even fought viruses too, and they gave us life. I, like many, sometimes took it all for granted.
As Jimmy Stewart once said to Clarence the angel in a Wonderful Life, “I want to live Clarence, I want to live.” Oh, how I long to find Zuzu’s petals in my pocket when I wake up. I want my life back, but I know it will be different and I accept that. I know that, because now I know what I took for granted, and I now know that life is truly beautiful and worth living! And I want it back!
By Lou Pastina