(Note: this post is not about Rhinebeck. That will probably happen tomorrow or the next day, patience please, grasshoppers! Instead, it is about a bit of my day in NYC before I left for Rhinebeck.)
I am watching the ground and stepping carefully across the bleached boardwalk slats. My cute pumps have turned out to be a poor footwear choice, but the way the boards have separated from each other over the years leaving black empty spaces just as wide as a high heel was impossible to pre-visualize. My friend Y has admonished my shoe choice twice now, as I appear to be concentrating too hard on the ground and not enough on the Coney Island sights around me. I think I am taking in more than it would appear: we of the high heel-wearing variety are often stepping carefully with one eye on the terrain and one on the horizon.
He points to a concrete shelter between the boardwalk and beach sand that has a high curved roof on top of four heavy, angled supports. Under the roof are several fixed picnic tables.
"These are the old man huts." He points to the men, huddled at the tables, hunched over chess boards, card games, and backgammon. Down the boardwalk are several more such shelters each filled with men crowded like dark pigeons at bread crumbs. More chess players can be seen at the table-less benches on the other side of the wide wooden walkway. These are the late comers, presumably, who couldn't find space in one of the huts. We stop and lean over a couple of games. I want to take a picture but I sense it would be a trespass. The old women gossip at separate benches behind giant sunglasses, swaddled in bright head scarves and bulky coats.
The walk down the weathered boardwalk is near the end of our afternoon adventure. We had started out at the soon to be extinct, but still carnival-bright entrance to the Coney Island rides and games that Y enjoyed as a kid. I am the inquisitive tourist taking pictures of everything, he is the indulgent guide.