Hooky for a Day

Whether it's cutting class or playing sick, call it time reclaimed, not to mention a feeling akin to that of frantically waking up on a Saturday morning, then realizing that it's, aaahhh, Saturday. Time's ticking, so without further ado, our favorite guilt-free diversions.

There's a price for camping in Floyd Bennett Field's wondrous galaxy of coastal brambles and bizarro physiography, and it's in the form of mad mosquitos, ticks, poison ivy, thorns, burrs, and other bush vagabonds. Yet the payoff is enough to make you return in a mesh bug suit—especially if you're someone who finds apocalyptic beauty in the airport-cum-park's asphalt runways, bodega detritus, radio-controlled-car and -airplane enthusiasts, hot-rodders, crotch-rocketeers, and folks who drive in circles just because they can. Conversely, the two public campsites, Camp Tamarack and Camp Goldenrod, are full of pastoral splendor. For those taking mass transit, you're in for a 45-minute hike from the bus stop at the park entrance, but such eccentric places will always subsist in inconvenient locations. A $50 fee covers 100 people (50 cents a person depending on which campsite you choose) for up to three nights, year-round. Flatbush Avenue, South Brooklyn; call 718-338-4306 for reservation forms, availability, and directions. (Zimmerman)

Throw me a line: go fish at Prospect Park lake.
Photographs by Kate Lacey
Throw me a line: go fish at Prospect Park lake.

Yeah, you can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach, but you can train, bus, or bike it to the city's prime stretch of ocean real estate, too. The best beach can be found at Jacob Riis Park—tinny blasts of WKTU the only reminder that the soft granules and crashing waves are in city limits. A $16.5 million construction project will transform the grounds into a first-rate resort community. Pass the tanning butter, please. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Rockaway, Queens, 718-318-4300, www.nps.gov/gate. (Spartos)

You'd have to be heatstroked or on heavy drugs to want to go to Roosevelt Island, but if you were either, it just might make for the perfect summertime afternoon destination. Especially since the air-conditioned Roosevelt Island Tram (59th Street and Second Avenue) takes you there, lifting you high above the East River and offering a spectacular, up-close view of the Manhattan skyline, all for the low, low price of $3 roundtrip. Once you arrive, stroll the breezy promenade, or picnic on the grassy bank that faces the city. If the hallucinogens start to kick in, wander the streets of this Twilight Zone no-man's-land. And don't worry if you find that you dropped a "bad one"; there are plenty of mental health facilities on the island with trained professionals to help talk you through it. (Switzer)

Sometimes, all you need in this city of freaks and fabulousness is a free place to park your ass. Take heart! Here are three decadent benches to remember: the benches outside of Balthazar (80 Spring Street, 965-1414, 965-1414). Wear fancy threads and bum a Nat Sherman off a nearby bon vivant. Voilà! You are ready to sit and "await" your "reservation" as you browse incoming gourmands. Snuff your cigarette in the sands of standing ashtrays . . . ah! A bench in front of Lucien (14 First Avenue, at Houston, 260-6481) is another French-themed repose. The small bistro is staffed with beautiful young émigrés. If you bench, you're likely to chat with one on a smoke break. Rrrrr! A different breed of long seat rests outside the Mercer Hotel (147 Mercer Street, 966-6060). Sleek, black, and bold, these babies are a must-sit. Cheapest room at the Mercer? $395. Some room on the bench out front? Complimentary. (Peretti)

Casting: Chance of a Lifetime Productions is shooting summer movies and television shows throughout the boroughs. We are currently seeking any type waiting for their big break. No headshot, no résumé? No problem . . . when almost famous doesn't cut it, try hanging out at movie locations. Chances are you may end up as Guy or Girl No. 12 in one of those shot-in-New York classics. Here are just a few of the "projects" filming in a neighborhood near you: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Less (June-July) featuring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey; Woody Allen Spring Project 2002 (June-August), Jason Biggs, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, and Woody Allen, of course; Law & Order Special Victims Unit (through July 1); and HBO Films' Angels in America (through July 31). Ready for your close-up? (Bastidas)

Glorious morning, oh happy day! For today I have played hooky from work. Toodles dreary labor. A fig upon you, deadline. And so now the time is mine and a walk down Eighth Avenue sounds divine. It is fine outside, so I dawdle along the way, getting coffee to go. I wish I had a frilly parasol, for the sky above is yellow as a buttered corn cake. The Bleecker Playground (corner of Bleecker and Hudson streets) beckons, and I open wide the iron gates, picking a bench in the sun. Here there are swings and seesaws and banana pudding breezes from Magnolia Bakery around the corner. But as morning becomes afternoon, I recall the weeping willows and genteel carriage houses that frame Cobble Hill Park (Clinton Street between Verandah Place and Congress Street, Brooklyn), and it is still fine outside, but I do not pause along the way. For here there are stone tables for games of chess and checkers and grassy knolls for picnicking. Sheer perfection. Viva truancy! (Rao)

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