THE PATRON SAINTS OF
PEARL STREET BEACH

by Kate on August 27, 2009

Lifeguards

I know them only by their first names, Jeff and Dag. They are both well over six feet, chiseled and tanned. They don’t sit atop the white lifeguard stand much. They stroll the water’s edge, watching kids, talking. My brother Muzz says that Jeff’s title should be matire’d/lifeguard. I think maybe ambassador. Jeff hasn’t brushed his hair in ten years and the result are these  Medusa-like brownish blonde dredlocks that arise from his wide navy bandana and then fall to the top of his shoulders. Sometimes he wears turquoise face paint (actually I think it might be zinc, but the warrior quality it evokes makes me think face paint. ). He’s got a Pearl Jam tattoo, a tattoo of Springsteen’s guitar and a tattoo that’s a quote from a Dylan song and he’s always in shades. He looks a bit menacing but one time he his ever-present sunglasses to talk to me and I was taken aback by these stunning green eyes. Dag has that blue-eyed, white-teeth Jersey boy smile. He’s instantly welcoming and all the girls on our beach from 6 to about 24 have a crush on him. He plays pro basketball in Norway during the winter. The girls say he is a star there. Over the last couple summers the two of them have organized an all beach kick ball game at the field on the bay. They invite everyone and they serve as host/opposing pitchers. The age range of players goes from about 4 to 75. The little kids ALWAYS get on base. After a game, you suddenly start speaking more to the people around you on the beach, whose names you may not know but whose kickball play you remember. Like the forty-something guy named Jerry with a couple of kids and a couple of tattoos who has the rasp of a life long smoker. Last week he made the most amazing diving catch in the infield. By the next day on the beach Anthony and I were friends. I knew his children (Dante and Gina) and I mentioned to Gina that her mom and I had the same Wal-Mart bathing suit (different color; $12 on sale). There’s a great diversity on our beach. Some families (like us) have lived here in the summer for decades. Some people just show up on the weekend or the  same week every summer. The kickball allows for an extra smile of connection or chat at the Good Humor truck. It’s Jeff and Dag’s gift to all of us thought they would never think of it that way. I’ve never had a conversation with Jeff that went longer than hello, but after kickball I feel like it’s okay to ask him some questions. That’s how I know that he’s 39 and that he’s got bad knees and that he’s been on our beach for ten years and the kickball games have been going on for four. I ask him what he likes about his summer job. “The beach is all about the kids and creating these great childhood memories. It’s that or it’s us trying to relive our own,” he says. “ I love watching the kids on our beach grow up and when one of them comes up to me and says ‘See you next summer,’ I feel a responsibility to be there.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen September 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I love it!!!!!!!!! What a fantastic idea……write more baout LBI! haha

Emily McLain September 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm

My two, Rex and Margie, remember with much affection the days spent at your parents home on Pearl Street. We were the lucky family to be offered the house for our own use and sometimes share it with you and your brothers. What fantastic memories.

suzanne September 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Great piece Kate. I missed going to LBI this year. Thanks for a reminder of why it is so special to us all.
Hope you are well.
Suzanne

Kelly September 3, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Hi there!
I’m a patron of Pearl Street Beach. I met Jeff when I was 18, and I’ve been there everyday ever since. I’ve been in high anticipation of this article. I’ll be sure to email it to Dag in Norway! It’s so well written and captures how great these two guys are.
Thanks Again!
Kelly

Pepper September 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

Just back from LBI last night….still have sand in my ears! Love that place!

gina September 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Hey,
this is gina, everyone is talking about what a wonderful article this is! My dad wanted you to know for next summer that his name is actually anthony not jerry.
Have a great winter, see you next year! :)

Kate September 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Thanks so much, Gina. I have corrected your dad’s name. He will live forever in kickball history.
kate

Duffy September 14, 2009 at 7:24 am

Great read Kate!!! I’ve been to beaches ALL over the WORLD, and the vibe at Pearl st is the BEST I’ve ever experienced!!!!!! Sure there is cleaner water round the world, but I defy to find one with EVERY other quality you want in a beach…..

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