SHREWSBURY, New Jersey, USA - After two wild days with the Kearney clan in Hewlett, we ventured out at about noon to drive from Long Island, across New York City, and down the Jersey Shore to brother Tony's new house.
The weather was stunning - a perfect beach day. So perfect in fact, that most of Long Island was heading to the beaches at precisely the same time as we were trying to escape across the various bridges to New Jersey.
It was not a good sign that we ran into a massive traffic snarl about six blocks from sister Anne's house in Hewlett.
For those Californians reading this, I need to tell you that New York traffic (and New Jersey traffic, more on that later) is not California traffic.
It's worse. On our way across Staten Island, we were forced to detour off a perfectly clear Interstate onto city streets with stoplights, local traffic and a few of those guys who want to wash your windshield for a $1. A dollar to wash your windshield? Hey, it's New York. It took 40 minutes to go about 10 miles.
But we did drive by several familiar sights from my youth - Coney Island and a huge parachute tower that I was never allowed to ride when I was a kid. Now, my fear of heights would keep me away from it anyway.
Turnoff for Coney Island
The famous parachute drop
We finally broke loose of the New York traffic and crossed over to New Jersey just in time to get tied up in massive traffic snarls with the beachgoers in the Garden State. Going to the beach was very popular.
But the reward was finally getting to my brother Tony and sister-in-law Marion's house, about three hours after we started out. Nephew Brian said that he has made the trip in slightly under an hour and a half. Of course, that might have been at 3 a.m.
Michael & Tony - the brothers
My brother Tony is the oldest living Fitzgerald male, living, like me, in the shadow of a father who died at 46 and a grandfather who we believe died in his 30s. Such data makes you want to go ahead and have that extra donut with coffee in the morning. But Tony (and me, too, I suppose) are actually fairly careful about ourselves. I gave up donuts years ago and coffee, too. Try to take away my Earl Grey tea, however, and you will have a fight on your hands.
Tony & Marion's children are all successful financial professionals, whose collective groans echoed on the beach as we read the New York Times about the housing market declines, stock market problems and other financial hiccups.
Brian Fitzgerald, his wife Megan and Mark Fitzgerald
It was Brian's swimming with his children that convinced me that I should plunge into the Atlantic Ocean - in huge surf - to go for a swim.
Remember how the traffic in New Jersey is different from California? So is the ocean which seemed, well, a little nasty, thank you very much.
With my twin frozen shoulders I ventured out into the 8-foot breaking waves, only to have my feet yanked out from underneath me. Undertow - Hello! I hadn't felt a strong undertow like that in years. Next thing I knew, I was outside the surf line, crashing about and wondering how I would surf in without being able to do the crawl, or even a passable breast stroke.
The first wave I caught going back in answered that question quite nicely, lifting me up in the air and depositing me - head first - into about 3 feet of water. I was pulling seashells and sand out of my ears from the rest of the weekend.
Megan & Marion Sr.
The family all gathers around the cabana at the beach club a few miles from Tony & Marion's house - children, grandchildren and friends. With a short summer season, every decent weekend the cabana gets a workout and both days in New Jersey could not have been nicer. I can't remember the names of the grandchildren, but they are a healthy, fun-loving lot.
Marion Jr. - who is starting at NYU this fall to get her master's degree in social work - had her amigo Peter along Saturday night, who did yeoman service on the barbecue.
Marion (center in white top) talking with Peter
We came back to Valois pooped out from all the fun but already planning a long weekend - or two - next summer here at Seneca Lake with all the brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren and friends.
Next summer? What happened to this summer?
Indeed, where did this summer go to? Something to think about when I am teaching again in three weeks.
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