Dispatches

December 7, 2016

When I was growing up, my family was in Long Beach regularly visiting my aunt Carol and uncle Rocco, friends of my parents who lived blocks from the ocean. My memory insists that it was always summer when we were there: barbecues, somebody’s birthday. And the Fourth of July parties, all-day affairs the adults would spend on the stoop eating burgers and macaroni salad while us kids—myself, my older brother, Carol and Rocco’s son, Matt, some neighborhood kids—played basketball in the street. We’d break up our games to let pass the teenagers carrying surfboards under their arms, the minivans driven by dads in wayfarers. The whole town was headed beachward. We’d make our way there, too, when, at night, the party migrated to the boardwalk so we could watch the fireworks. They’d light them right there in the sand, close enough that we’d catch their odor, like burning barbecue. We could even see the ones they were launching west of us, in the Rockaways and Coney Island, some of them jutting out over the water, the blue and red bursts reflected in the dark ocean. Maybe all my Long Beach memories from back then are of summer because that’s when the town was at its...