A lot of yellow cabbies are driving around blind with rage. The stresses of driving in the city and dealing with New Yorkers are clearly too much to handle. Occasionally, I find myself slipping down into that vortex of sin and degradation. So I go to my happy place.
Rockaway Beach is that place. I lived there in a bungalow less than a block from the boardwalk for 365 halcyon days, and life had never been so chill. Before I went to work, I usually wiled away the hours beforehand with a dip in the ocean, a nap in the sand, a bike ride on the boardwalk, an outdoor shower, lunch off my grill, gardening, unsuccessful fishing on the bay staring at a surreal view of the skyline, and another nap in a hammock on my screened porch. When the traffic snarled or my fare didn’t tip that evening, I’d just wiggle my toes to feel the sand between them, and I couldn’t help but relax.
Rockaway is where everything I thought I knew about New York is wrong. Everyone in my old neighborhood knows each other. No one is in a hurry. And the people who hang out at the Off Track Betting parlor don’t smell bad.
But the Irish Circle, just two blocks west of my tiny former abode, is so much more than just an OTB. By night, it is the most fun bar on the peninsula with strong drinks and a dance floor packed mostly with middle-aged Irish women getting down with strapping young firefighters.
Perhaps most surprisingly for an OTB, the food is excellent. Before the tables are dragged away to make room for that dance floor, the kitchen is in full effect. My personal favorites are the variety of big salads, although the pasta dishes seem to be the locals’ preference. Regardless, everything served at Irish Circle is high quality.
I never get fares out to Rockaway, but I still schlep out there every once in a while. The combo of hitting the beach, playing the ponies, and watching a few of their 35 televisions and 4 plasma screens is usually reason enough for me to make the trip. Plus, I go there in my mind when things aren't going my way in the city.
A couple of Octobers ago, when the Yankees were on the verge of blowing their fourth consecutive game to the Red Sox, I found myself in a world in which nothing made sense. Everything was turning upside down, and the sports bar in Manhattan where I was watching felt like bizzaro New York. By the third inning, I was heading out to the Irish Circle for a pint and some chicken wings to watch the end of the game. I figured, if everything I held dear was crashing down around me, I might as well go to the one spot where everything I thought I knew about New York was wrong.
The Yankees still blew it. But there amongst the regulars at the Irish Cirlce that night, I never felt more like a New Yorker. I was in my happy place.
101-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Beach, Queens 718-474-9002