I was a bit hesitant to come out Cherry Grove on a weekday—my experiences on Fire Island for the past four years have all taken place between Friday evenings and Monday mornings, when the island is crowded, populated with those on weekend getaways. But, since I got a full share to have the option to come out here whenever I want, and in the spirit of my job’s “use ‘em or lose ‘em” vacation days, to be taken before the end of our fiscal year on June 30th, I decided to take a Thursday and Friday off, and come out to the island on the 9:30am Thursday ferry.
The town center was a ghost town when we arrived; so quiet that we could hear the ocean from the minute we stepped off the ferry. I was immediately enveloped in the peaceful serenity that the island’s silence brought.
I took my friend on a “tour” of the Grove, since she had never been here before, and we took the time to explore the entire town and read every bulletin board full of events. I told her about some of the back story of the Grove, and the history behind the abandoned house at the corner of Doctor and Lewis walks—or what the legend behind it is. “History” is a fuzzy word out here, as it implies absolute truth, which, in a place as mystical and magical as the Grove, is hard to pin down.
We took a stroll on the beach and marveled at the completely empty expanse of sand before us before settling on a spot and plopping down for a nap.
“I feel like I’m on vacation, a million miles away from everything,” she said. And I felt like I was on vacation, too, not only from my life in NYC, but also a vacation from the usual weekend life in the Grove, too.
For an entire day there was no pressure to do anything—to drink, to barbeque, or to meet friends arriving on a later ferry. I wasn’t even wearing a watch.
At some point, we fell asleep, and the only thing that woke me up was the jingle of the collar on a small dog that staked out some nearby sand.
As we sensed the approach of dusk, we went to the market and bought some snacks for our cocktail hour, and some items for a late dinner we planned on cooking together.
We decided to go over to the Pines for low tea, and made our way through the deserted meat rack, wondering if there would even be anyone at tea. Lo and behold, there were! A whopping ten people were there! The staff at the Blue Whale hadn’t even cleared the tables and chairs to make room for any dancing. It was such a change of pace from the usual hustle and bustle of those crowded weekend teas.
At first I was disappointed by the lack of people there—I wanted my first-timer friend to experience the fun of a traditional Pines low tea dance. Instead, we stood on the dock nearby and spent time taking gorgeous pictures of the bay and harbor at sunset. She even taught me about some of the features on my camera that I didn’t even know I had.
Whereas I would spend low tea on a weekend trying to get drunk and laid, my friend and I took the time to meet new people and learn about their lives. It was a welcome change. Some of the people we met worked in the Pines; others were schoolteachers whose season had just ended; another used to be the owner of a store that I used to go to as a kid growing up in Brooklyn (it has since closed). We even met someone who asked us on board his yacht, docked in the harbor, for delicious blueberry pina coladas and warm conversation with our new friends.
After sunset, we walked on the beach back to the Grove, and my friend admitted it: she’d fallen in love with Fire Island. Another convert.
We went for a drink at Jumpin’ Jack’s Seafood Shack, where the friendly staff and talented pianist made for a wonderful evening. Rather than watching them rush around and serve drink after drink, as they do on weekends, the weekday atmosphere allowed us all the time to get to know each other and chat. One of them even came back to my apartment with my friend and I for our barbeque.
Today, Friday, people are arriving, and while I initially thought that this would be a welcome relief that would breathe life into a dead beach town, I find myself now wishing it weren’t yet the weekend so that I could have the island “to myself” for just a little bit longer—to get to know more people, to get to sleep on the beach without the disruption of anything but a toy poodle, to get more unobstructed photos of sunsets, to let life just go by.
Luckily, there is still the rest of the summer ahead…
I would highly recommend checking out Fire Island on a weekday. The Grove Hotel’s rates are significantly lower than on the weekends (www.grovehotel.com), and Dune Point offers “Hump Day” Wednesdays, where you can stay the night for free (www.dunepointfireisland.com).