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Charleston, South Carolina
Come July, Cooper, a 5-month-old goldendoodle, will come with my husband and me on a road trip from Hoboken, New Jersey, down to Charleston, South Carolina, where we will be celebrating my father-in-law’s birthday. Coopie — as we lovingly call her, except when she’s Cooper the Pooper — will, for the first time, travel down the east coast on a great Southern adventure that will cover exactly 759 miles.
The journey started weeks ago, as we began test drives to get her used to sitting in the back of our car. With every drive we took over the past two months — first to doggie day care, then to get groceries, then to visit my parents in Queens — we have slowly moved Coopie from snugly sitting on my lap in the passenger seat, to reluctantly sitting on her own in the back, to gloriously stretching out her long poodle legs the full length of the back seat. Now she won’t share that space with anyone, not even me.
I can’t wait to roll down the window and see her furry face in the wind. And knowing Coopie, she will insist on peeing on a tree in each state we pass. And, no doubt, Cooper the Pooper will most certainly bark at all the horses, sniff out all the palmetto trees outside historic antebellum mansions and reign supreme as we drive her over the Cooper River into downtown Charleston.
— Maia Efrem, Research Editor
Governors Island, New York City
Brooklyn sucks in the summer. Here’s a nice escape:
Sleep in. Eat a bit of breakfast. Pump the tires on your bike; maybe throw some grease on the chain. Pack a novel, the Sunday Times, some water and, if you remember, a couple of sandwiches. Ride down to Brooklyn Bridge Park at the foot of Atlantic Avenue. Get on the line for the five-minute ferry ride to Governors Island. Make sure it’s the first ferry of the day; sometimes they don’t charge for that one, and it’s usually not so crowded. Stash your bike wherever they tell you to stash it, and take a seat. If you can’t help yourself, you can take a photo for Instagram as the boat backs out into the Buttermilk Channel. Try to help yourself.
Hurry off the boat at Governors Island. Get on your bike as soon as you’re off the dock. Seriously, don’t worry about the toddlers; they can get themselves out of the way. Speed to Hammock Grove. Find an open hammock. Sit in that open hammock. Sigh, take out your book and watch the sky for a peregrine falcon on the hunt.
If you get tired of sighing and reading, tour the abandoned fort, and the castle built with circular walls to deflect cannon fire from British ships that never arrived, and the empty buildings spread all over the island’s north end. If you forgot food, buy lunch from the Italian sandwich truck on King Avenue. If you need a toilet, there’s a nice one in the long building near the dock where the Manhattan ferries come in.
In the late afternoon, have friends come meet you for a beer at the thing that used to be called Water Taxi Beach. It’s not called Water Taxi Beach anymore, but the new name is even more lame, so don’t use it. You can express worry, if you like, about what will happen to Governors Island when they finish building all the nice public parts of the public-private partnership and start in on the private parts. You can remember Governors Island when you first came here — has it been 10 years already? — when it felt like a suburb where everyone had been raptured, and you could try the back doors of empty homes, and sometimes one would open and you would sneak in and wonder if this was really New York City, and whether whoever was insuring this place had ever made a site visit.
And then you can take out your iPhone and go to the section of the Governors Island Trust website titled “Governors Island Real Estate Development Opportunity” and scroll down to the part where they list “permitted uses,” and read: “Recreation and entertainment… Hospitality and retail… Commercial office and mixed use….” And over those beers at that place that used to be called Water Taxi Beach, you and your friends can spin nightmare visions of the Governors Island Megamall to come, and wonder how many feet tall the name “TRUMP” will be on the side of the Governors Island Trump International Hotel, and ask whether BuzzFeed will wrangle another tax break when they build their new Governors Island headquarters in 2019.
Later, take the ferry back to Brooklyn. The line might be a little long. While you wait, look back at Governors Island and wish you had the guts to pull off a “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” caper. Imagine hiding under a bench when the park closes, and watching the sunset over the Statue of Liberty, and spending the night under the stars on the old parade ground, and never leaving.
— Josh Nathan-Kazis, Staff Writer
Catskills, New York
I once dated a woman whose idea of a fabulous vacation consisted of riding the world’s tallest roller coaster over (and over AGAIN) at Six Flags Ohio. She projected an air of serenity seemingly at odds with the rush she sought careening on curlicue rails. I still want that peaceable persona she had. So, having “married up,” in terms of mindfulness, I’m following my beloved’s suggestion to vacation locally. We’ll sit in silent meditation for five days at the Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Zen monastery and retreat center in the Catskills.
We’ll join our community of sitters in what is known traditionally as a sesshin: a series of daylong meditations beginning at dawn and ending after sunset. We will, if you can imagine, remain in silence through meals and into the night. The silence will be intervened upon only by dharma talks or, as I like to think of them, rabbis’ sermons.
Much of the structure of this retreat calls to this former Orthodox mind a long stretch of the Sabbath, only there’s no refraining from using electricity. The Jewish mystics taught us that the Sabbath offers a taste of the world to come. And isn’t that what we seek out on holiday — this sense of that imagined peacefulness in the here and now?
As for me, I will undoubtedly be fantasizing about lunch (breakfast and dinner, too, for that matter). But once in a while, if I’m mindful enough, maybe I will know a shtikl, a bit, of peace, which I’ll gladly share when the Sabbath is over.
— Chana Pollack, Archivist