The Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty viewed from a boat in the bay/ Loscotoff 2022

As we rode the escalator up from the depths of the 9/11 memorial, the crowds outside had dispersed and the guards were beginning to place the barriers around the fountains. Being such large landmarks, I assumed they were lit and available to anyone walking by all night. I suppose, for the same reasons, they also become targets of grief and damage, and so ropes go up and officers stand guard.

We decided to continue south, first to Trinity Church and the burial place of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton (surrounded by many of the important figures of American history) and then to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.

Trinity Church stands amongst the towering modern city skyscrapers of Wallstreet. The first Trinity Church was built facing the Hudson River in 1698 but was destroyed in the Great New York Fire of 1776. The second Trinity Church was built in the same spot but facing Wall Street and was finished in 1790. Heavy snow showed the church to have structural problems and in 1839 was taken down on the recommendation of the architect, John Upjohn. Upjohn designed the third church in the same location in a Gothic Revival style. It was built between 1839 and 1846.

Trinity Church stood as the tallest building in the United States until 1869 and the tallest in New York until 1890.

Imagine that world; this church stood as a focus amongst the earthly challenges, the roads muddy with important figures walking to service, sitting amongst the pews. It rose up, giving early Americans hope for something greater. Now Wall Street looms and we continue to look up.

You can almost imagine Alexander Hamilton, in his grave, looking up at the monetary system he created.

Those buried in the churchyard here include early U.S. representatives, signers of the Constitution, Revolutionary War generals, senators, inventors, abolitionists, lawyers, as well as Alexander, Eliza, and Phillip Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, and Hercules Mulligan.

Tombstones of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza
Alexander and Eliza Hamilton’s Tombstones

Leaving Trinity Church, we continued walking a few blocks down to Battery Park. Artillery batteries were built here in the late 17th century to protect the settlements that became lower Manhattan.

It is surprising when you walk into these green spaces after being in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. Dogs play, people read in the grass, and birds drink from drinking fountains.

And there, in the distance, was the Statue of Liberty.

My first reaction was that she was much smaller than I expected her to be. Perhaps it was being surrounded by such tall buildings, but she looked petite and unassuming with monstrous cranes standing taller than she did on the horizon.

The ferries came in and out over the choppy waves and she stood, resolute. We would be taking Statue City Cruises out first thing in the morning to explore her island and then to explore the damaged quarantine hospital at Ellis Island.

From this point at the tip of Manhattan, you can see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governors Island, Brooklyn, the Hudson River, Staten Island, Jersey City, and Newark Airport.

The Statue of Liberty viewed from Battery Park/ Loscotoff 2022

We made our way north on the subway to our hotel which stood half a block from Times Square.

Getting off a subway in New York can be disorienting. Without a good sense of cardinal directions, you have to look for street numbers and whether you are on a street or an avenue. It takes trial and error, walking to the next corning and checking each sign.

Our hotel stood next to Times Square and at this time in the evening, it had become full of people jostling their way through crowded sidewalks. The smell of marijuana was often overwhelming as mobile pot trucks were parked along the streets. If you walk a block away from Times Square, the sidewalks sit empty.

We tried to find food beyond the food carts on every corner. Trying to eat without gluten makes it harder for me to eat easily. In our search, we realized our hotel was physically connected to the FOX news studios. You could see the sets and the lights inside.

Another unique aspect of NYC is how unhidden life is. You can watch a show through a window being filmed. Broadway theaters are smaller and more intimate. Actors walk the street to get to their broadway call times before a show.

Living in California, everything is spread out. There is more isolation in our way of living. The movie studios sit behind large gates and huge sets.

Our hotel, the Plaza Riu, stood off Times Square and Broadway. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so high within a hotel, where you can feel the sway when you arrive at your room. It was beautiful and intimidating.

New York at night from Hotel Riu/ Loscotoff 2022
A reflection on one of the buildings from Times Square from our hotel room.

In the morning, I almost forgot what city and country I was in. Our breakfast was provided by the hotel and our view was that of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, built in 1868. You could almost imagine yourself in Europe, although my experience of Europe is less blending of old and new.

We made our way to Battery Park and the Statue City Cruises. We were on one of the first ferries of the day, with tickets to a hard hat tour on Ellis Island at noon. You are first required to move through security, similar to that of airlines with metal detectors and x-ray machines.

We made our way to the top of the ferry and looked out over Upper New York Bay. When the ferry was full, we set off across the water to the Statue of Liberty. The ferry moves to the east side of the small island and docks on the south side. There is also a ferry from New Jersey and they criss-cross paths as they lead to their destination.

Aboard the Statue City Cruises/Loscotoff 2022
Leaving Battery Park in Lower Manhattan aboard the Statue City Cruises

Due to Covid, walking into the body of the Statue is still closed, however, you can purchase tickets to the base that she stands on. While certainly she stands tall, seeing people at her feet, you gain a perspective of her size. She is not as large as the image I see in my head.

Image of the Statue of Liberty from the front/ Loscotoff 2022
People just below the Statue of Liberty’s green base give a perspective of size.

Behind the Statue of Liberty is a small park and further back on the island is a 26,000-square-foot museum dedicated to her, how she was built, and her relationship with France. When we walk in, there is a movie running in three parts: The Immersive Theater-The Story of an Icon. You walk through a circular theater, stopping and sitting for each part.

Leaving the theater, you enter a replica of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s studio, where he built the Statue of Liberty through forms and models. You get an idea of the work that went into such a large undertaking as well as being able to see the original copper color of the design.

A model of the inside space of the Statue of Liberty/ Loscotoff 2022
A model showing the human walking spaces within Liberty. Currently open is only the base and not the spiral staircase that moves up through her body and into her head.

From the museum itself, you look out over the Statue of Liberty as she faced the ships of immigrants on their journey to the United States. It’s hard to imagine the number of ships she saw only a bit more than 100 years ago.

That story is actually much more complex than we are often taught, with views towards immigration at the time very similar to views of immigration now. I’m going to talk more about this next week as we make our way to Ellis Island.

Photo of the space behind the Statue of Liberty/ Loscotoff 2022
The area behind the Statue of Liberty, what we don’t see.

After walking around the island, amazed by the views of New York and New Jersey, exploring the Statue of Liberty Museum, and appreciating Liberty’s story, we indulged in ice cream and boarded the ferry for the short trip to Ellis Island.

The ferry again traveled around the east side of the island, giving us a beautiful view of what many of our immigrant family members saw as they made their way to a new home.

The next stop was, for me, essential to our trip to New York; Ellis Island.

Statue of Liberty viewed from a boat in the bay/ Loscotoff 2022
A comparison of size, people at Liberty’s base.

Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me this long. I’ll be writing about my favorite part of our New York trip this next week. I hope you’ll join me in seeing the hidden parts of Ellis Island.

Our Journeys

New Jersey Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

New Jersey Sunrise

Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

New York City and the 9/11 Museum

Links

Captain James Lawrence

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin

Manhattan’s Art of the Dead (Trinity Church Gravestones)

Great Fire of New York (1776)

Trinity Church Wall Street

Trinity Church Cemetery

Hotel Riu Plaza Manhatten

The Statue of Liberty Museum

Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

360 degree virtual visit to the Statue of Liberty Museum

New York City and the 9/11 Memorial

A flower for your birthday, 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022

One last night in New Jersey as the sun set and the moon appeared through a rainbow of clouds. In the morning we were headed to New York City, two days and a single night, and two very important places that I have always felt drawn to visit; the 9/11 Memorial Museum and Ellis Island.

There is an ease to traveling on the East Coast. We left Beach Haven and made our way to the mainland, driving north to Toms River. You can catch a bus into New York City for approximately $25 each way. We headed up the Garden State Parkway, past the Newark Airport, through the deep Holland Tunnel (your ears adjusting to the sudden change in pressure) and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by enormous buildings and no sense of direction.

Stepping off the bus at Port Authority and seeing Saks Fifth Ave/ Loscotoff 2022
Saks Fifth Ave

We were dropped off at Port Authority. Stepping out, I found myself overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. New York feels big, it feels alive and ever-moving. There is a feeling of old and new as skyscrapers stretch tall next to historic cathedrals. There is also a sense of how small we are.

I recently spoke to a friend and she described her first visit to New York City filling her with possibility; everything she could be. This, my first visit to New York City, made me feel lost.

I generally have a wonderful sense of direction; perhaps it is in my connection to the moonrise and the sunset. I know where I stand based on the turning of the earth. In New York, I felt like an ant among these giants with no connection to the earth. The buildings blocked my view of the horizon.

Given time, I imagine I would learn landmarks and discover where I fit on this island, but these days, I felt confused and overwhelmed. So many moments of certainty that I was heading in the right direction, only to discover I was going the wrong way.

We dropped our bags off at our hotel (more on that next week) and Pat, our New Jersey hostess began to show us around. She would be sending us on our way in a few hours, but for the time being, she gave us a grasp on the city.

So many landmarks are pressed together on this small strip of land; Times Square is around the corner from Rockefeller Center which is across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral which is around the corner from the Rockettes and a few streets from Broadway and all of this is down the street from Central Park.

Before this trip, I didn’t understand that it was all so close.

Outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral/ Loscotoff 2022
St. Andrew’s Cathedral

We found our way to St. Andrew’s Cathedral, bordered by 5th and Madison Ave. The cathedral began being built in 1858 and construction stopped during the Civil War, finally being completed in 1879. It is the largest Gothic Revival Catholic Cathedral in North America.

When you see architecture like this amongst the modern buildings, you are reminded of the antiquity of New York’s history. Having had the opportunity to travel through parts of Europe, New York is unique in its blend of old and new, neighbors within history.

Europe has a tendency to keep the old with the old. New York seems to keep a bit of the old and then grow bigger on what no longer serves them.

St. Andrew’s is beautiful with its sculpture and mosaic and stained glass windows. Walking inside, you could imagine that you are no longer within the United States, but rather wandering through a European city. It is a surprise to your senses when you step outside into the shadows of glass and steel.

Pat needed a quick visit to the Apple Store before her own journey to Scotland (which you can read about through her journals here). Never before have I seen such a beautiful Apple Store. Having left the Gothic history of St. Andrew’s, here we enter the modern world of technology today.

You enter through a large glass facade that reflects the buildings around it. You are met by security before spiraling down two stories through a twisting staircase lined with plants and mirrors. The large underground room spreads out, decorated with living trees and open space and a multitude of tables and products and assistants.

It feels futuristic while familiar.

After Apple, we walked across the street with Pat and into Central Park. Central Park deserves more than the tiny bit of time we were able to give it. We boarded a horse-drawn carriage and took a short 20-min ride through the southern tip of the park.

Central Park is lined by the silhouette of the city but allows the world to stretch out, allowing you a moment of grounding. Couples cuddle at the base of trees, children run on the paths, there are bicyclists, and there is music from street performers all as background to the clomping feet of the carriage horse.

We made our way from Central Park and said our goodbyes as Pat headed back to New Jersey and we made our way via New York Subway to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

I remember not understanding the underground in Paris as a high school student on a choir trip. I sat and cried in confusion. Thankfully, New York subways are fairly clear. Technology has made it easier, plugging your destination in through your map, your phone will walk you to the nearest entrance and tell you your approximate wait time. Not only that, your phone will pay the entrance fee. You no longer need to buy tickets unless you prefer the way the paper feels between your fingers.

We exited the Subway and turned to see the enormous fountain memorials dedicated to those lost on 9/11, a memorial to the world that changed on that day.

I think we all remember where we were when the Twin Towers fell. It has been said that 9/11 was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.

I woke up that morning; my alarm was a morning comedy talk show. The first tower had been hit 14 minutes earlier. Coming from sleep, I was trying to understand if this was a story they were telling. I couldn’t make clear sense of what they were doing. And then, 3 minutes after I awoke, the second airplane hit. Suddenly, everything within me sunk.

Memorial at the South Tower

I had been staying at my parent’s at the time and I ran in to turn on their TV. They could see that something terrible had happened by the look on my face.

We stood, watching the screen, paralyzed, as Flight 77 hit the pentagon.

And then, an hour later, the South Tower fell.

My heart felt like it shattered as I understood all the lives that were lost at that moment. All the families torn apart at that moment. The weight of our world changed in a few short hours on the morning of September 11th.

Three minutes later, Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

How many more planes were in the air? How many more people had to die on this day? How many more families would be ravaged in these moments?

26 minutes later, the North Tower collapsed.

I was a second-grade teacher. Our school district did not shut down. How do you continue to act like this is just another day when you are so overcome with grief for what has just happened? How do you continue to teach when your students are afraid to be away from their parents?

We kept the television off in the classroom, but internally, all I wanted to do was watch and understand and be updated. I wanted to cry and scream and grieve for the people killed on that day.

And so, if we did anything in New York, the 9/11 Memorial was a place I needed to visit.

In the footprints of both buildings are fountains lined with the names of those who died. The water tumbles and sparkles like the lives that were lost. The water comes together and then falls again into a dark shadow that we can’t see.

As you move into the museum, you move down, deeper and deeper, below the heavy fortress of the water memorials. Underneath these huge fountain footprints are the stories of the people who lived and died on 9/11.

Something we often don’t hear about at the site of the World Trade Center is “The Bathtub”. The Bathtub is a 7-story dam that covers 9 blocks and was built down to bedrock to allow the Twin Towers to be built, protecting them from the Hudson River. The earth removed from this space was used to build Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhatten.

When the Twin Towers were hit and then collapsed, there was a chance that these slurry walls would break and flood Lower Manhatten, filling the Path Tunnels which carry trains under the Hudson river between New York and New Jersey. Thousands more would have died.

Engineers and firefighters worked tirelessly, pumping water and securing these walls after the Twin Towers fell and during rescue operations. The original walls stood.

The Survivor’s Staircase was the last visual structure above ground after the Twin Towers fell. It served as an evacuation point for hundreds of evacuees from 5 World Trade Center.

Ladder 3 at the 9/11 Memorial / Loscotoff 2022
Ladder Company 3

Ladder Company 3 was in the middle of a shift change when the first tower was struck. Both tours of men went together to the North Tower and made their way up, helping as many as possible. They were on the 35th floor when the North Tower Collapsed, leaving Ladder Company 3 with some of the most losses of any New York Fire department. Their firetruck was crushed as the tower fell.

On May 30th, 2002, the last column was removed from the site of the World Trade Centers. It was anchored in bedrock and supported the South Tower’s inner core. It was located near the south tower lobby, where first responders had been last reported. It was physically marked through recovery efforts as a landmark in searching for survivors and became a landmark of loss after the remains of FDNY Squad 41 were found there.

The Twin Towers and the Bathtub were built deep into the bedrock. The museum allows you to see these structures as you make your way into the far corners of the memorial.

Two twisted beams of steel hang in the 9/11 Memorial Museum and they are identified in the photo after the plane hit the North Tower. The destruction becomes tangible when you see and understand the power that can dissolve steel into dust.

Image of where the metal came from 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022
The Angel of Peace at the 9/11 memorial, the base is made of melted weapons/ Loscotoff 2022
The Angle of Peace by Lin Evola – the base is made from melted weapons.
A mosaic wall in the 9/11 memorial, a quote by Virgil/ Loscotoff 2022
A flower for your birthday, 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022
A rose for your birthday. Every morning, 9/11 memorial staff put out white roses to honor the birthdays of those killed in the attacks on the twin towers.

Standing to the south of the 9/11 memorial is the One World Trade Center, the main building within the rebuilt complexes around the 9/11 museum. It stands as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the seventh tallest building in the world. It stands at 1,776 feet tall, which was deliberate in connecting to when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

What captivated me about the One World Trade Center is how it was created to reflect the sky around it. While ever present in its height, it also disappears into the blue, allowing the clouds to echo on its surface.

The new World Trade Center - One World Trade Center/ Loscotoff 2022
The new world trade center – One World Trade Center – mimics the sky around it.

I leave you here today, dear readers. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. We stayed in the museum until it closed and then continued our walk south. That will be a story for next week.

Links

9/11 Memorial and Museum Exhibitions

“The Bathtub” – Foundation of the World Trade Centers

Story Behind the Last Column’s First Markings

Interpreting the Last Column: The Stories Behind the Markings

The Angel of Peace

Timeline of the 9/11 Attacks – The Miller Center

Survivor’s Staircase, 9/11

The Bathtub. Lower Manhattan’s Wall Against Water – Forbes

White Rose Signifies Remembrance of 9/11 Victim’s Birthdays

Pilgrimage: Inside New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral, NY, NY – official site

Pat Trotter Photography – Scottish Journals

Our East Coast Journey 2022

How this trip began – New Jersey Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

New Jersey Sunrise

Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

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Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

Stained Glass window of a sailor, grandsson, and dog, looking out over the ocean, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022

Looking out over the bay as the sun sets, a little house on the dock, I could envision the scene from Jaws where Richard Dryfus begins to load his scientific tools onboard a small fishing vessel; the grizzly old captain watches with part intrigue and part mocking humor. The novel Jaws (and subsequent movie) are inspired by this stretch of sand in the Atlantic and a series of attacks that began here in 1916.

Sunset on the West Side of Beach Haven, NJ.
A reminder of Jaws, written by the NJ native, Peter Benchley / Loscotoff 2022

On July 1, 1916, in Beach Haven, NJ, Charles Vansant, 28 from Philadelphia, decided to go for a swim. He took his dog down to the shoreline and entered the water. He didn’t go deep. When he began to yell, others thought he was simply calling to his dog. The reality was a shark was biting his legs. He was rescued by a lifeguard and a bystander and carried to his hotel, the Engleside. He bled to death on the hotel manager’s desk.

While this was the only death in Beach Haven, there were 3 more deaths–Charles Bruder (27), Lester Stillwell (11), Stanely Fischer (24)– and one traumatic injury–Joseph Dunn (12) lost his leg–before the shark, an 8.5 foot Great White (now thought to be a misidentified Bull Shark) was caught and killed. The shark’s stomach carried human remains. Its story still strikes fear into beachgoers. ( You can read the whole story here, or below in my links.)

Beach Haven is also home to the New Jersey Maritime Museum which carries the “most extensive collection of maritime history and artifacts in New Jersey” while working to preserve New Jersey’s long maritime history. One display is a tribute honoring the story of these shark attacks.

One of my favorite aspects of the New Jersey Maritime Museum is their collection of portholes. They are displayed throughout the museum, filling every nook and cranny.

There is something poetically beautiful, something magical, about these portholes. Perhaps it is their history, perhaps it is what they represent. These circular pieces of glass, supported by a metal (often brass) frame, intended to keep the sea out and the light in, shattered and broken, having lived parts of their lives at the bottom of the sea.

Each appears as an art piece, honoring a moment of history. Eyes looked out these windows and, at some point, water rushed in.

The portal to my soul is a broken glass, fractured into memories I can’t shake. Flooding in through the beautiful prism torturing me with the looming feelings of my inevitable demise.

Katie Cozad

Within the New Jersey Maritime Museum is also a room dedicated to the SS Morro Castle. In 1928, the United States Congress passed the Merchant Marine act which provided construction funds to be given to shipping companies, allowing them to replace old ships with new ones.

The New York and Cuba Mail Steam Ship took the opportunity to build twin ships; the SS Morro Castle and the SS Orient. The company had been transporting mail, cargo, and passengers between New York and Cuba since 1841 (also called the Ward Line).

The SS Morro Castle set sail on August 23, 1930, and despite a worsening depression, maintained steady business. Their tickets were affordable, their clientele treated to luxury, and, in a time of prohibition, they were not limited by US alcohol laws.

On September 5, 1934, the SS Morro Castle left Havanna and began its 58-hour journey up the East Coast. Through the afternoon of the 6th and into the 7th, the clouds thickened and the winds began to blow. That evening, the captain, Robert Rennison Willmott, ate in his room and then died of a heart attack. Command passed to Chief Officer William Warms. Overnight, the winds became stronger as the ship continued up the coastline.

Artifacts from the SS Morro Castle, 1934, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022
Artifacts from the SS Morro Castle which burned off the Coast of New Jersey, 1934.

At around 2:50 am, the ship was traveling off the coast of Beach Haven, NJ when a fire was discovered in a storage closet of the 1st class writing room. To this day, the start of the fire is unknown–theories of arson and insurance fraud persist. Within 20 minutes, the fire burned through the electrical cables and the ship lost power. Within 30 minutes, the ship was engulfed. A single SOS was sent before the ship lost power.

The fire separated the passengers from the crew, with the passengers moving to the back of the boat and the crew moving to the front. The deck was hot to the touch. The smoke was unbreathable. For many passengers, the decision became to jump or to burn. And so, they jumped.

SS Morro Castle Burning, 1934 (Public Domain Image)

The waves from the storm were high and unyielding. The water was deathly cold. Those who jumped with life rings were often knocked out as the rings hit their neck or head upon entering the water, causing them to drown or die of a broken neck.

Six lifeboats were launched with a capacity for 408 souls. Only 85 people, mostly crew, were saved via lifeboat. The ocean swells made seeing bodies difficult amongst the waves and rescue near impossible.

The single SOS signal lead to a slow recovery. People lined the New Jersey shoreline and collected bodies, helped with the wounded, and cared for those brought in by rescue boat. 135 out of the 549 on board were killed, as well as an unknown number of castaways (mostly children) escaping violence on the streets of Havana.

The ship was towed and beached on the shore of Asbury Park boardwalk, where the burned-out hull became a tourist attraction. It was later towed to Gravesend Bay and eventually scrapped in Baltimore on March 29, 1935.

More Interesting Maritime Artifacts

While each of these images deserves time and attention, I don’t know all of their stories. These are a few things that really stood out to me at the New Jersey Maritime Museum; old flags to models, art, old fire extinguishers (glass balls filled with repellant), displays, ship funnels, and enormous painted lobster claws.

I hope you enjoy these photos and they allow your imagination to soar.

Decorative lobster claws, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022
Decorative Lobster Claws

Links

New Jersey Maritime Museum

New Jersey Maritime Museum Displays by Room

The Mystery of the SS Morro Castle – Ripley’s (great photos!)

SS Morro Castle – 1930-1934

July Attacks of the New Jersey Jaws – 1916

YouTube video of the Morro Castle – salvage film from 1934

What is a Ship’s Deadeye

New Jersey Ship Wreck Map

Map of New Jersey Ship Wrecks, link above to zoom in

About Me

My Creative Muse and the Afterlife

Sign up for my Friday Newsletters with Updates from the Week

Short Stories

Ship model/ Loscotoff 2022

New Jersey Sunrise

New Jersey Sunrise turning the sky a turbulent red/ Loscotoff 2022

It was the morning after July 4th and I awoke at 5 am. No need for an alarm clock, I was just determined to see the New Jersey sunrise, and my mind was the only alarm clock I needed.

My mind has a unique inner clock. If I need to be awake at 8, I wake at 7:45. I know this process is in part why I don’t sleep well if I have a morning obligation. It’s like elevator music running in the background; always there. Sometimes I can ignore it and sometimes it rings through my head filling every grey wrinkle.

This wasn’t an obligation, just something I wanted to do before we returned to California–to be one of the first people in the whole United States to watch the sunrise on that day.

I snuck out through our back balcony and down the stairs. I made my way past the few houses separating us from the beach. The sky was dark and cloudy and there was a mild glow in what seemed like the north.

I had believed, up until this point, that the beach lined itself fully north and south.

And then the sky began to turn.

The light was not directly to the east as I had expected, or slightly to the north (the way it is watching the sun rise or set at home California). No, the sky began to turn, in my perspective, it was lighting the sky far to the north of the spit of sand. I began to realize that the island actually moves from NE to SW.

The island lies at a slant, from the SW to the NE.

I have chosen the perfect morning.

Some mornings were bright and clear and the sun rose dramatically, appearing past the horizon. Other mornings were dark and rainy, with no sunrise to speak of. This morning had the glory of the clouds and an incoming storm.

Red sky at night, sailor delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.
Photograph of New Jersey sunrise, the sky is dark but there is a bright red forming/ Loscotoff 2022

As quickly as the red filled the sky, a sailor’s warning at sea, it dissipated and I could see the sun attempting to peek through. The sky beyond the clouds began to light but the sun was hidden.

The tide is out on the Jersey Shore, close up of shells with sky behind/ Loscotoff 2022
Low tide with a shadow of the sunrise in the distance.

I began to walk the beach, the tide far lower than any I had seen thus far. Bits of shell formed a line far from the water.

In the distance, I heard the sound of an engine as what looked like a truck made its way down the sand. The seagulls dived around it, celebrating what the surf rake turned up. I had never seen a surf rake and was intrigued by the smooth road of sand it created.

Photo of Sand combing early morning on the Jersey Shore/ Loscotoff 2022
A Surf Rake, picking up trash after the 4th of July.

The beaches of this part of New Jersey are stunning. The sand is heavy and coarse and can be hard to walk through as it sucks at your feet. The water shifts between warm and cold depending on the current. It is a wild coastline beloved and ever-changing.

Following an early morning sunrise, a perfect treat is one of the neatest little restaurants with fresh juice and more acai bowls than you can imagine. Not only do they offer acai, they have 4 other bases you can try; young coconut, pitaya, banana, and strawberry.

If I lived in Beach Haven, this would become a staple. You can tell is a local favorite by the lines extending beyond the doors.

Totally worth the wait.

The menu at Playa Bowls, Beach Haven NJ, Loscotoff 2022
Playa Bowls between 6th and 7th on N. Bay Ave.

I spoke in my last blog about how you can walk from one side of the island for sunrise to the other for sunset. It’s a fantastic bit of land with a small community that becomes much larger during the summer. The traffic lights only turn on in late spring and turn off in the fall–the rest of the year they are a perpetual blinking yellow light. Almost everything you need is within these few miles.

Beach Haven, New Jersey / Loscotoff 2022
To show how wide the island is, a short walk between sunrise and sunset.

Links

New Jersey – Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Surf Rakes – Beach Cleaning Equipment

Playa Bowls

About Me – My Creative Muse and the Afterlife

Sign up for my weekly newsletter – Fridays

My Short Story Journey

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Fireworks over the bay in Beach Haven, New Jersey, 4th of July / Loscotoff 2022

It was a quiet 4th of July in Beach Haven.

Who am I kidding? The hoards of people came in and lined the beaches. The firecrackers popped and zinged. The night before, the air was filled with explosions, and laughter was heard long past 2 am.

The weather was that perfect mix of humid salty air and a cool breeze. Still far too hot for me in the sun, but we took a quick walk to the shore. Cousin Pat likes to say she’s checking that the beach is still there, and after living through Tropical Storm Sandy, she’s only half joking.

The umbrellas were lined up as far as the eye could see, both to the north and to the south.

This island is constantly in a fight with the tides, the sands transform daily. Artificial dunes are maintained to protect the homes on this spit of sand with fines for walking along their edges

Assured that the beach still existed, and not wanting to fight the crowds, we spent a relaxing day at the house, protected by the shade and hearing the crash of the waves in the distance.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way to the west side of the island where the fireworks would reflect over the bay. We found our way early and settled on the wooden benches that overhang the water.

Teens wandered the area in enormous groups, the girls wearing a uniform of cutoff short shorts and midriff mini tops. The boys indulged in their collections of fireworks and groups of people would scream and run as they set them off in the middle of the crowds. Police roam the multitudes, taking alcohol from underage hands and pouring it out, without reprimand or ticket.

We hide somewhere along the edge and secretly I looked for an exit, imagining us leaping into the water should the screams of giddy excitement turn to something more like terror. I hate that that’s where my thoughts live when I am among crowds of people; how to escape with my family if this turns… bad.

Others line wooden benches, eating ice cream and acai bowls. We collectively watch as the sky streaks yellow and then orange and red. We watch the seagulls as they dip and dive over the water, searching for the small fish along the surface.

As the skies darken, we can see along the distant shore, the other side of the bay, the New Jersey mainland. Fireworks begin to shoot up in tiny bursts with every town on the bay’s western side having their own show. At one point, we see six shows happening in the distance.

I imagine our fireworks start much later than theirs because our backdrop is the sunset and theirs is the sunrise. Their view of the east darkens quickly while ours lingers. It is a clear difference of perspectives, one that has continued to linger over me as we sit waiting. I don’t feel particularly like celebrating freedom right now as I see women losing their rights. I don’t feel good about fireworks and pollution when we are facing climate crises around the world. I am aware of my anxiety over who in the crowd might be there to hurt others instead of being there to watch the lights as they explode through the sky.

This is balanced with wanting to experience something new, with spending time with my family. As always, I am a mess of contradictions and my mind fights to overthink everything.

Dark sky with moon and small bit of sunset, people on the edge of a pier waiting for fireworks, 4th of July in Beach Haven / Loscotoff 2022

Finally, around 9:40, the first firework is shot from a barge in the bay. The crowds cheer and watch as the colors reflect in the water, creating abstract images in the dark night air.

The smoke of fireworks linger over the bay.

As the show comes to a close, the teenage boys begin to chant, “USA. USA. USA.” They return to their drinking and their explosions. The crowds begin to clear; families climb on their beach cruisers and gangs of bicyclists find their way home.

It will be another long night as teenagers make their way to the beach to party on the sand, roving around the neighborhoods, avoiding police. The personal fireworks ring through the air.

The cool night air kisses my skin and there are no bugs to speak of. Sitting outside on the porch listening to the waves crash on the sand brings moments of peace amongst the chaos.

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Photos of the teens – By Pat Trotter

New Jersey – Day One

Cousin Pat – Pat Trotter Photography

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New Jersey – Day One

Photograph of the sun setting in New Jersey

Here I sit. Sipping a dram of whiskey, listing to the Atlantic Ocean on the New Jersey shoreline. Cousin Pat is heading to Scotland next week and this is part of her research.

We’re on the Jersey Shore on a narrow strip of sand that I didn’t know existed. I thought the coast of Jersey was like that of California or Brasil, a long stroke of sand or cliffs in a continuous unending ocean line.

But here is an 18-mile-long island, less than a mile wide. The sun rises in July at 5:30am over the Atlantic. 15 hours later, a short walk to the east, it sets over Little Egg Harbor, an inlet with only a shadow of land far on the other side.

It has been an emotional two weeks. I said goodbye to my old sweet cat, allowing her to pass humanely. A few days later, my father-in-law passed away, my husband, Fred, and his brother at his side. Then my gentle young dog’s eyes began to grey and suddenly I was making specialist appointments as I tried to minimize the damage with vet-prescribed drops and gels. I am in no way attempting to compare the sadness of these events, only that they were many and emotionally overwhelming each in their own way.

Despite these things, we chose to continue our plans to go someplace we’ve never been, Long Beach Township, New Jersey. We have been discussing this visit for years. We first planned our trip for summer of 2020; and then there was Covid. About four months ago, we finally took the leap and bought the tickets.

I suppose if this was just a vacation for us, perhaps we would have canceled. But it wasn’t just for us.

My father-in-law, Bill, has a cousin, and she had been asking us to visit for almost 10 years. My husband’s job in the Air Force often interfered, with deployments to Germany and Korea, and just the commitment to a job that was often unrelenting. He retired in January and took a job working in a high school. Suddenly we were faced with him having actual time off; a whole month every July.

With Fred’s father passing, it seemed even more important to make the journey to spend time with his cousin.

And so early on the morning of July 2nd, we got up early, dropped the dog off at his cage-free boarding (who assured me they will take care of his beautiful eyes), loaded our daughter in the back seat (up all night with a terrible migraine) and headed to Las Vegas.

I’m sure you’re wondering, Las Vegas? We live in the Tehachapi Mountains, only an hour from Bakersfield and only 90 miles from Los Angeles. In my flight searches, Las Vegas provided the only direct flight while also being the least expensive.

Photograph of flying over Lake Michigan/ Loscotoff 2022
Flying over Lake Michigan, the edge in the far distance./ Loscotoff 2022

Travel these days is complicated and the warning for this weekend was glaring; canceled flights, not enough pilots or airplanes or staff. Las Vegas was quiet and clean and easy.

We arrived in Newark near midnight. There was very little wait for bags and then went to meet our driver; a New York native who had settled in Jersey. You could feel the 98% humidity, a warm heaviness to the air. He drove us the hour-forty-five minute drive south and onto Long Beach Island. There are regular tolls along the Garden State Parkway and even in the dark, I could see the dense trees lining the edges.

The roads were wet from occasional rain storms and when we finally arrived at Cousin Pat’s, the smell on the island was deep and earthy. Hers is a 1950’s bungalow surrounded by modern beach craftsmen. She has a beautifully landscaped yard filled with flowers and bark.

She’s the 5th house from the Jersey Shore. The beaches, and many of the properties here, were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Her home was piled with 3 feet of sand, taking 11 trucks to clear the property.

You would never know, almost 10 years later, that this little community was hit so hard.

It was overcast with a warm fog when we woke in the morning and made our way to walk along the beach. The plantlife is much softer than that on the California Coast, with broadleaf and grasses growing in the beige sand.

The sand is both thicker and looser than what I am used to in California. It is damp from the humidity and seems perfect for building sandcastles. You sink as you walk, not having that same compact firmness of California beaches. There are beautiful polished stones and tiny clamshells.

Photograph of the Jersey Shore, overcast with the waves coming in.

Later, we found our way downtown.

I didn’t know what to expect as we packed for this trip. I somehow imagined a sleepy community on an island and wanted to be sure we had exactly what we needed in case it involved driving off the island for more.

The sun came out as we walked into downtown, we were met with the hoards of travelers, families who haven’t fully been able to travel in 2 years. There are shops and restaurants on every block; ice cream and bagels are a staple.

In the afternoon, Pat and Fred journeyed out to the local fresh fish market and brought us home scallops, recently caught. Pat magically cooked them up on the BBQ and they seemed to melt with every bite.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way the short walk to the west side of the island where we watched the sun set in dynamic oranges over the bay as paddleboarders and small boats made their way through the water.

Photograph of my daughter watching the sun set in Long Beach Township/ Loscotoff 2022
Photograph of me and my daughter, watching the sunset/ Loscotoff 2022

We ended our day with ice cream. As we waited in line, we had a small family of 3 in front of us. They had the Jersey accents you dream of. As they began to order, more and more began to join them; grabbing their cones and wandering off again. Finally, the father turned and looked at us and said, “Sorry. There are a lot of us. All family.”

Photograph of family walking back to the house in Long BeachTownship/ Loscotoff 2022

Notes

Cousin Pat – Pat Trotter Photography

Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey

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My Short Story Journey