A Trip to City Island

The weather forecast had told me that today would be the only sunny day this week. So I decided to use it for a crazy trip. I went to a cute little island in the Long Island Sound. It’s not so far away from the northern shore of Queens but getting there without something like a boat requires going all the way up to the north of the Bronx. City Island is part of the Bronx – but it is another world.
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City Island is connected to the Bronx by a bus, Bx29, from Pelham Bay Park, the final station on the 6 train. From Astoria there is a connection to the 6 train via Randall’s Island on the M60 bus coming from LaGuardia Airport. I caught it on Astoria Boulevard. It doesn’t have many stops and meets the train at 125th Street. I had used that station often when I stayed in Harlem, never to go uptown though. But I felt familiar with that rough corner of East Harlem. I remembered my attempt to get to the East River there, what was not successful because it’s the access road to the bridge.
The Bronx still does not appeal to me. Project complexes as well as small houses are dark brown and look dreary. A lot of buildings are graffitied. It gets more pleasant in the north but not really nice. Sorry Bronx, we won’t get friends.

At Pelham Bay Park Station I easily found the bus stop where the Bx29 leaves for City Island. While I was busy scanning the QR-code to find out when the next bus would arrive I glimpsed a Bx29 behind the other bus at the stop. I ran and boarded. The driver said something containing “city” and I said yes. I started worrying, when the bus entered a shopping center area. “That’s why I said ‘Co-op city’ when you got in”, the driver said when I asked if this bus was not going to City Island. I had taken the bus in the wrong direction. As I found out later both directions leave from the very same stop at Pelham Bay Park. The driver was very friendly though and allowed me to just stay on the bus. He told me he could write a book about his encounters with passengers.

At City Island I had no idea where to get off the bus. Right behind the bridge where the boats are? In the center? At the far end? I saw big restaurants next to the bridge. No more restaurants when I got to what I thought might be the center. As I was hungry and it was almost 2 pm already I got off and decided to walk back. I didn’t like the idea of eating in one of those big places but there was no time to check out if there were other ones elsewhere. I ended up in a place called Sea Shore.
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I was asked if I wanted a booth or a table. I said I want a nice view. So the waiter took me to a window table where I could see the parking and a bit of the water behind it. When I looked at the menu I had to realize that there was hardly an entrée below 30$. I swallowed. But then I found the Lunch Menu. The waiter brought a loaf of bread – crispy bread – and a plate of pickled vegetables. They were mostly tasteless. I ate and waited to order a striped bass from the Lunch Menu. I waited quite a long time Finally the guy who cleared the tables asked me if I was ready to order and said he would get me a waiter. When the waiter came, he asked if I would eat alone. Apparently he had thought I was waiting for somebody. Then I had to go through a kind of interview. Would I like a fruit cocktail or a tomato juice? Salad or clam chowder? Manhattan or New England clam chowder? French fries, baked potatoes, linguine or rice? I had the fruit cocktail, the New England clam chowder and a baked potato with my fish. The fruit cocktail was a bowl of melon and pineapple cubes. It was refreshing. The clam chowder then was thickened with too much flour for my taste. The taste of clams hardly came through any more. The oyster crackers served with it were packed. The fish was off the bone and served “au gratin” with butter. The texture was nice, it felt fresh, but a bit of taste was missing. Lemon and salt didn’t really help. I would have used some herbs with it. The baked potato finally could have stayed in the oven a couple of minutes longer, but it was quite ok. It was plenty of food and I felt pretty filled after finishing the fish. I still had to manage an apple pie topped with cream with my coffee then. I decided to skip dinner later and absolutely felt like a long walk.

City Island has one main street called City Island Avenue and crossing streets leading to both shores. There is no public access to the water though and no walkway around the island. Some minor streets parallel to the Avenue connect the side streets. There are two little churches and a dockyard right in the center of the island.
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Houses made me feel like at a real seaside place. Some of them even have front porches. The idyll is just disturbed by the massive overhead wiring.
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City islanders apparently are very serious about Halloween. The decorations are stunning. Almost every house has something from simply carved pumpkins and spiderwebs to complete sceneries with blown up figures and shapes.
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I walked to the other end – where there are more Restaurants, maybe the more Basic ones – and back.
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I walked not just on the Avenue but used the parallel streets where available and walked into side streets and back. I think I covered about 75% of all streets on the island, not only to digest my abundant meal but as well to get some glimpses of the surrounding water. At about 5 pm my legs told me to stop it and I decided to catch the bus back.

My way home was faster. I didn’t have long waiting times and didn’t have the chance to take a bus in the wrong direction. So I was back home at around 6:45.
I didn’t have dinner, was still not hungry during the evening. When I had started writing this post, Rachel told me they would watch a Hitchcock movie now, if I wanted to join them. I had declined Ghostbusters last night, so I agreed, not to appear antisocial. It was quite nice then. The movie – A Lady Vanishes – was from 1938 and so very different from today’s movies. I had no clue what it really was about, beyond the disappearance of a woman who seemed to be a spy on a train and two people searching for her, and googled it later. All I found out was that Hitchcock apparently didn’t know either. What kind of secret she was carrying and who was the enemy stayed in the dark.

What I learned today:
Listen to bus drivers when they tell you something. It might be important.

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