Salts of the Earth

Seasonal drops-ins should have finished glomming onto Long Beach's sunshine as of Labor Day weekend. They should have gone back to their concrete boroughs or whatever strip-mall planet they came from. But here it was, the Saturday night after summer's official end, and some were still in town.

At Minnesota's Barin Long Beach, it was hard to distinguish the ringers from the real townies. So many people had come out for a charity volleyball tournament for Michelle O'Neill, a Long Beach woman who died of a brain tumor several years ago, and were wearing the navy tank tops given out at the event, that everyone automatically had a beach-bum look. So much for Armani X/C being a dead give-away. Besides the team tank tops, everyone in the packed place had a sun-kissed look and smiled a lot— like they were happy and had a good buzz going. But overhearing just snippets of conversation let locals know that strangers were still among them.

People talked about how they wouldn't be productive if they lived here. About how all Long Beach girls are stewardesses, bartenders or waitresses. About playing matchmaker and setting their single friends up on blind dates. When one out-of-stater was asked by another what she thought about Yonkers, she asked, "Is that a department store?" And she'd even been coming to town long enough to be invited to block parties, which were going on simultaneously on two side streets.

With Minnesota and New Hampshire streets sealed off, tables were set up in the gutter in front of the houses. Bins filled with ice and beer sat on curbs. A DJ played. I moseyed up to a strange house to ask if anyone had seen my lost group of friends, and a girl I'd never met handed me a beer. Can't say that would happen in the Hamptons. As for the woman who doesn't know her department stores (or her New York geography), she ventured into a stranger's house and helped herself to some chocolate cake. Not bad for a townie in training.


Minnesota's Neighborhood Bar & Grill 959 W Beach St, Long Beach 516-432-4080.Meadow 516-794-9770.

 
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