I hadn’t been to see my friends’ band The TarantinosNYC in some time and a Sunday summer afternoon at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar at Jacob Riis State Park seemed like the perfect opportunity. I hadn’t been to Riis Park since I was teenager and I’d always been taken by car so I didn’t think it was easy to get to by public transportation. It’s on the Rockaway peninsula, west of Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, and Neponsit and east of Breezy Point and Fort Tilden. The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge that links the peninsula to Brooklyn hits the peninsula at Riis Park. (The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge links the peninsula to Queens at Seaside/Hammels, east of Rockaway Park.) All I remembered from Riis Park was the big clock and the nude beach. The Beach Bazaar is relatively new and is focused towards hipsters. I looked up the Beach Bazaar site and found out there is a bus that goes there. Actually two – one that travels back and forth from Far Rockaway to Riis Park and another that runs from Beach 116th Street (otherwise known as the end of the boardwalk) where the A or shuttle ends to Riis Park.
When I got to the bus stop I noticed the Rockaway 9-11 Memorial Park. I’d never been and decided to check it out. The park is a tribute to the 57 people from the Rockaways who died on 9/11 – 33 people who worked in the Towers and 24 first responders, firemen. It also is a memorial to all 343 firefighters killed on 9/11. Besides the beautiful sculptures and garden tributes, you can look across Jamaica Bay to downtown Manhattan and Freedom Tower where the Twin Towers used to stand.
The bus passes by all the big beautiful homes in Belle Harbor. I couldn’t really get photos of them because the bus was in motion but I did get one of the homes near the Memorial. You can see old big homes surrounded by smaller Queens-type homes, where years ago the big home was probably surrounded by land and then eventually the land was sold off and new homes built.
The bus makes a stop at each end of Riis Park. Since there’s no street signs where the bus stops I didn’t know which was the stop closest to the Beach Bazaar. So I had to ask the bus driver. From the bus stop, which looks like a lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I had a long walk to the Riis Park boardwalk. After a short walk on the boardwalk I found a taco stand and a cart selling alcoholic beverages. I bought a couple of tacos, which were very good. Then I continued on to the Beach Bazaar where I had a very good Mexican paleta (cherry and another fruit) and saw rtb. Eventually we found mollyT. The Beach Bazaar itself is pretty small. A few food stands and a stage. The bathrooms are bigger than the building with food. There were hammocks and tables with umbrellas where everyone was hanging out and listening to the music. In between acts rtb and I walked over to the Wise Clock (Riis Park Memorial Clock). The beach is big.
The first surf band we saw was High Waisted fronted by Jessica Dye with multi-colored hair and wearing a one-piece bathing suit with a white beach cover-up. She was backed by three long-haired guys, one in a Hawaiian shirt. They were fun and perfect for the afternoon. They performed Dick Dale’s “Misirlou,” which is a surf rock standard.
The TarantinosNYC are one of the best instrumental surf rock bands around. They also play soul, spy, and spaghetti western music in addition to their originals, which equal and surpass the covers. This time they weren’t dressed in their usual button down shirt and tie but in new bowling shirts with the band’s logo. I got up to take photos and then danced as much as I could since, at the time, I was still recovering from surgery. The crowd was very into the band and they went over very well in that setting. But then they go over well in just about any setting. The band is Tricia Tarantino (electric bass), Paulie Tarantino (electric guitar), Tony Tarantino and Louie Tarantino (drums and keys – not sure who’s on what).
Walking back to the bus stop we admired the sun setting behind the sand dunes. It took some time for a bus to show up. The first one was going to Brooklyn, so rtb and mollyT took that one. There’s some confusion because there’s only one bus stop whether the bus is going north to Brooklyn or east to the subway station. I had to wait a while before a bus going east showed up.
I’d love to visit Riis Park in the summer and actually go to the beach. It’s a long trek compared with the beaches at Rockaway or Far Rockaway but I think it’d be worth it.
By Carene Lydia Lopez