So I say set up some goals for the new year. Make some small and easily achievable. Try a different bourbon or rye in your Manhattans. See more movies. Clean up the salty language a bit. Make some goals big. Something that will require a little more effort. Be more active. Learn the accordion. Make more time for your family. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Don't yell at Jersey drivers.
On New Year's Day, 2012, I finally took part in something I have always wanted to do. That's right. I opened up 2012 with one of my goals. Do the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim. It was a fantastic way to get the year started. I cannot recommend it enough. And I have already achieved one of my goals. I rock.
It was a beautiful, sunny day and the boardwalk was jammed with people. I was there with my wife and my two girls as well as my sister who was the one that suggested the swim. It was a party. A DJ was blasting classic rock tunes (who knew you could actually be psyched to hear "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo"). This was Coney Island in all its glory. There were thousands of people there. Old Russians and young hipsters. School teachers, city councilmen and the Lehman swim team. People were dressed as mermaids, Vikings and polar bears. One guy was in a cardboard boat.
The event is sponsored by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. They are the oldest winter bathing organization in the country. The event is a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine which is a camp in Casco, Maine, for kids with life threatening illnesses and their families. Anyone is welcome to come and swim at the event. You do not have to pay to do the swim, but we registered and paid because it was for a good cause
The swim was scheduled for 1pm and we moved down to the beach at about 12:45. You could feel the excitement build. People started changing then shedding clothes. Folks were singing, chanting, hooting and hollering. The build up was palpable. Then suddenly it was time and everyone (except my wife) started making a dash for the water. In we went.
The water was cold, 45 degrees, but we were psyched. We waded in up to our waists then dunked ourselves on a three count. It was exhilarating. Everyone had a different method for getting wet. There were dunkers like us, divers, splashers and swimmers. Some were in and out in a flash. Some jumped and and stayed in, floating on their backs. Everyone was loving it.
All told we went in three times. Three full dunks. It was hands down the best start to a new year that I can remember. Coney Island was filled with high spirits and a sense of camaraderie. And you could tell that everyone who went in the water, whether it was their first time or their tenth time, felt they had done something special.
Goal achieved? Check. Classic New York event participated in? Check. Great memory for the family? Check. Exhausted and exhilarated we headed home. The day couldn't get any better.
Then we stopped at Mazzola Bakery.
(2012 Goal # 2. Take the kids to Brooklyn Farmacy for sundaes)