New Suffolk Avenue and the ’67 Schwinn Transporter
Ideas and images of youth: dreams and visions to perform, create, uncertainty, then eventually heading off to the big city ninety miles or so west to take those aspirations on. Not entirely a far distance but in many respects “a whole’nutha world,” no cornfield at the corner of Sixtieth Street and Columbus, no potato field out behind the Met up at Lincoln Center, no traffic backups on Broadway due to slow moving tractors- different planets orbiting in many respects, reliant on each other though neither ever wants to acknowledge these truths fully. Frequently had thoughts during my New York City experiences that things may be a bit easier for me if perhaps the house could be placed somewhere in the midst of the bustling city. Envisioning it transplanted and tucked between two giant skyscrapers, the little ranch house from Donna Drive, Mattituck slipping in undetected- always seeming to picture it from the perspective of Battery Park looking uptown. Between all that glass and steel, concrete stretching skyward, then a drastic dip, a void between those massive buildings, your focus drifting all the way down to ground level, there it would lie- safe, sound, allowing for a warm familiar place in the evenings to recoup and regenerate.
Eventually I returned to Donna Drive, where I’ve spent most of my life, the house never did endure the fantasy relocation trip to Manhattan. Remaining safe and sound right where it had been built since the seventies, resting out in the beautiful surroundings of the East End of the North Fork…feeling centrally located in the midst of Southold Township. Growing up everything appeared to be so easily accessible. Why did later life appear so challenging to navigate if everything had been so accessible at the start? Returning east developed from a lack of knowing what to do next, home is an innate preset default mode deep within me. For better or worse, at some point: stress, upset, anxiety or fear flipped the switch sending me sailing east down the expressway once again. However I’ve always been warmly welcomed- you can call any time of day or night, forever there will be a helping hand reaching forth from this little ranch house in the midst of Mattituck.
While in those early throws of uncertainty and confusion, activation of the default switch, returning home, I sought and acquired a very well kept genuine 1967, five-speed Schwinn Collegiate bicycle with the double sprung mattress comfort seat. Still maintaining its original Schwinn campus green paint job with just a hint of clouded shimmer to the sheen, gleaming chrome fenders, rims and shiny buckhorn handlebars, dynamo powered front headlight and rear taillight, vintage bell all preserved and ready to ride. Standing proud in a crowd this Schwinn is much more than just a mere bicycle, much more even than a vintage bicycle, this particular Schwinn seems to possess transcendent qualities- an authentic time traveler and transporter!
Being fortunate enough to find an old Schwinn in such great shape, then given this bike’s unique mystic qualities, and then add to the mix a beautiful stretch of country beach road just as the one that meets the corner of the street on which my family lives, a mysterious magical landscape awaits to be experienced anew each and every ride. I grew up cycling all along New Suffolk Avenue but never had I experienced it fully until I returned after being away for a period of time. Coming and going during my NYC adventures and work travels I had developed a new found sensitivity to the subtle salty scent in the air of the surrounding creeks of Peconic Bay though still a good distance away. Whenever I’d first step back out onto my driveway, often returning from long road trips the familiar fragrance of clean and salty air would greet me. That regular experience became a welcoming touchstone, a remembrance, an unexplainable embrace from some place outside and distant although immediate, intimate and near. However wonderful those personal homecomings were they were just the beginning of the hidden mystic subtleties that would begin to reveal themselves while I cruised atop my Schwinn Collegiate up and down New Suffolk Avenue. Crossing the three bridges, following the gentle serpentine curves, junior hills and inevitably taking in the postcard views of the creeks, marshlands, small scale forest areas and the open clearings revealing farm fields of various crops or unrestricted scenic outlooks of Peconic Bay.
Along New Suffolk Avenue you’ll find a diverse smattering: family homes, large modest old farm houses, access to various housing communities, a small airport, a lake, fields, vineyards, sod farm, corn or potato crops, creeks, bridges, expensive looking homes, one in particular seemingly misplaced: “Dune Road come pick up your stray please!” Some dips and twists, “the big hill,” a few straightaways, the First Bridge, the Second Bridge and of course the Third Bridge broken up by those gentle serpentine curves and scenic reveals as the road winds down into New Suffolk proper.
My Schwinn and I encounter wonderful experiences as with the waiting fragrances when I stepped out onto the driveway, these exchanges appear as rich personal portals- access points to pass through. Gliding with ease by means of the ’67 Schwinn time machine I’ve heard voices carried on the sea breeze while passing over The Second Bridge. Sealed tones of my childhood friends’ distinct voices present still, where upon we would often stop along our rides together. Disbelief in the group upon discovering one of us didn’t know where babies came from exactly…the butt and the belly button were allegedly responsible for a newborn appearing! Mistakenly the navel was acting as a biological button device with the rear end of things acting as a different kind of chute! Unknowingly we had future doctors in our midst: an optometrist and PhD of higher education. Dr. Junior High Optometrist benefiting from some exposure to Playboy television was able to bring insight to this tactical misunderstanding for our friend. However our misguided friend presently hasn’t any children so he may or may not still be fuzzy with the details? Remaining hushed when you travel The Second Bridge you may hear snippets of that conversation or whisperings of Naked Lady Island or youthful topics equally intriguing.
I ring the bell for bunnies, deer and occasionally scurrying squirrels, I peak up toward the osprey dining on fresh fish atop the telephone pole by the bend in the road along with posturing cormorants amongst the power lines running above The Third Bridge. A favorite side road where the Schwinn and I enjoy a downhill jaunt juts off New Suffolk Avenue as you clear The Third Bridge. Jackson Street follows close along the creek past Kimogenor Point, up stepped hills then down a jubilant drop. There’s a house down at the bottom past Third Street where I’ve seen Albert Einstein nodding hello and smiling, mind saturated with creativity. Historic rumors suggest he sojourned on Nassau Point over in Cutchogue but clearly he’s been spotted donning his beach garb on the porch of this beautifully preserved beach farm home complete with canopy of hundred-year-old trees. My image of Einstein transposed itself from an old photograph I’ve seen where he’s resting on a shoreline boulder, dressed for the beach wearing quirky feminine styled beach sandals- when I see him, he occasionally wears a hat.
Through the portals I’ve journeyed developed heightened sensitivities to see and smell the surrounding beauty while out riding: nature, the earth, sky, colors and light streaking through the evening- simplicity of a well-placed tree. My ’67 Schwinn has introduced me to the clouds in their various shapes and forms, revealed the birds I’ve seen flying about my entire life but never listened to what they are truly saying. Dancing white butterflies tricking us into thinking they are frolicking together but all the while they are involved in secret turf wars battling over roadside flowers. Pausing near the submarine base monument, I once caught a glimpse of a submerging German U Boat in the distance disappearing under the water- unique whisperings and visions flickering…connecting us.
Personal and collective pieces come together mystically from within or from the not so distant distances that brush against us as we move through life. For me, accentuated while riding along New Suffolk Avenue enjoying the double sprung mattress seat comfort of my ‘67 Schwinn. A bit desperate from weary states of suspended transition a unique alchemy emerged- home. Esoteric individualized glimpses or reflections will appear throughout the cyclical seasons of our individual and collective lives steering us along- maybe home, maybe toward adventures in distant lands? We may or may not catch all these important elements but then again, we may? Edging toward being present, calm and open to our potential, with the effort of hope I’ve refrained from divulging all, may you encounter and discover for yourself the mystic when you wander, possibly down New Suffolk Avenue.