The Friday that I decided to spend the afternoon in the Rockaways happened to be one of the first nice Fridays of the year. The sun was shining, and it was warm enough that someone could sit on the top deck of the NYC ferry to Rockaways and not need a jacket in the wind.
As I approach the dock, it’s apparent that I’m not the only one who realized that she wanted to be that person with the windswept hair on the top deck of the ferry. There’s already a small crowd of people waiting for the next boat when I arrive 8 minutes before its scheduled arrival. I purchase my ticket on phone and lean against the railing of the dock.
The reason that I’ve decided that today is the day to finally tackle the two-hour ferry ride to the Rockaways is simply because I have no reason not to. After a little over four years in New York, I’ve decided it’s time for a change, and I’m moving from the Upper East Side apartment at the end of the month. I’ve got a list of things that I want to do still before I leave and evidently, I’m the kind of person who puts a two-hour ferry ride on her NYC bucket list.
When the boat arrives, I head immediately to the upper deck. I take a place on the right side of the boat at the end of the row of seats and focus my attention on the view of Manhattan the ride is offering. We pass the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. I get a closeup view of the United Nations building. Strangers looking over the railing of the riverfront parks wave to us as we pass.
The first ferry ride is the quick one. In less than 20 minutes, we’re docking at Wall Street, and I’m checking my phone to see how soon the next ferry to the Rockaways is leaving. I disembark and join the end of a much longer line of people who are waiting for this ferry. I worry for a moment that I’m far enough back in the line that I won’t make it onto the next boat - but I also can’t fault the number of people who had the same idea that I had today. The day is quickly turning into one of those Fridays where if you don’t have to be inside, you aren’t.
The next boat comes, and I easily make it on. I opt to start this ride inside. The sun has gotten brightener, and I’m concerned about getting sunburnt before even making it to the beach. I read and look out the window until the view becomes too good to not see from the top deck, and I decide to risk the last 15 minutes of the ride outside.
I head directly to the destination on my bucket list that everyone has assured me is worth the time it takes to make it out the Rockaways: Tacoway Beach. I’ve never been one to say no to tacos, especially when those tacos are supposed to be the best fish tacos in the city.
It’s a 25-minute walk from the ferry to lunch. I spend most of it trying to imagine how good these tacos are going to be.
Tacoway Beach - found inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club - started as a stand a few blocks away from its current location. It’s been in the colorful, laidback Surf Club since 2015. I order a fish taco and elote from the counter, and both are delicious and make me contemplate a second round. But the sun is shining, the beach is calling and the second location on my bucket list is closing in a half hour.
While recently rereading the “Best Doughnuts in New York City” list I have bookmarked on my computer, I realized that one of the shops listed was located just around the corner from the Surf Club. There was no way that I was going to be that close to a best doughnut in the city and not have one.
When I get there, there’s one banana, old fashioned doughnut left behind the counter at The Rockaway Beach Bakery. I order that and an iced coffee to go and thank my luck while looking up how much farther it would be to the beach. There was no way that I was going to be that close to the beach and not stop by for a moment.
I walk along the boardwalk for a while before claiming a shaded spot at a set of picnic tables. I watch people pass by as I eat my doughnut and drink my coffee. I take a deep, cleansing breath of the ocean air. Instead of the normal traffic and construction sounds of my neighborhood, here, there are seagulls calling and the distant roar of the waves breaking on the beach and kids laughing as they play in the sand.
As I watch the scenes play out in front of me, I think about closure. New York City is the first place I lived on my own as an adult. It’s the first place that I chose to live in and is now the first place that I am choosing to leave. I don’t know what exactly I wanted to capture with this NYC bucket list. I guess some part of me thought that by being able to cross off everything off this list, I would be 100 percent ready for this next chapter of my life. It’s as if with every meal at a restaurant that I’ve always wanted to eat at or every afternoon I spend at that museum that I just never made it to, saying goodbye to the real thing - the community that I’ve formed here - will be a little easier.
I should know that I’m conflating two things are not equal. I should know I will miss parts of this place. I know that this bucket list is really a list of things that I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on, and I know that it contains things like doughnuts and tacos and ferry rides because the things that I’m really afraid of missing out on, I can’t cross off a list.