I’ve welcomed the new year in New York several times on Coney Island. And this year, feeling the urge to see the ocean, I traveled by train and bus to Ft. Tilden. It was cold and silent, and the rocks and shells gleamed in the weak morning sun.
It seemed a fitting end to my fifth year in New York to greet the next in such a desolate space.
Ft. Tilden is mostly closed to the public now, ostensibly because of the damage from Hurricane Sandy. Old military roads lie fragmented into platforms of concrete, and some dunes were washed away. But the beach has always seemed somewhat haunted and abandoned. Remnants of the old base still stand, possibly filled with the ghosts of sentries, never needed.
The last time I was in Ft. Tilden, I lay on a blanket by the ocean and watched the lonely swimmers. Before that, I came out here in the cold and saw the beach club that is now still in ruins.
These buildings reclaimed by the sea and by the folly of their original intention remind me of the buildings in Kolmanskop, and the way that the sand angled into the blue and pink rooms illuminated by the desert light. And I think I might have been made slightly mournful by the memory and the correspondence had I not been surrounded, in time, by birdwatchers with their eyes pinned to the sea. Surf scoter, long-tailed duck, King Eider: these are the names of the birds that floated on and dove below the freezing water and I felt momentarily elated and then glad to be there with these creatures, oblivious or uninterested in what lay behind me or ahead.