By Sean McVeigh
As the immortal bard, John Cougar Mellencamp, once said, “I was born in a small town.” One of the amazing things about Rockaway is its small-town atmosphere. Around here, everyone knows everyone… and their aunt and their cousin’s cousin. People in Rockaway know better than most that you never know who knows who. Not only that, but you never know who’s related to who!
My experiences are not unique. I know a large portion of the community can relate when I reminisce on the number of times I would come home from a day on the town and listen to my parents say to me something along the lines of, “I heard you were doing so and so with your friends.” How on earth did they hear about that? Well, their interconnected web of spies (AKA friends and family in Rockaway) were watching, of course. This was even before everyone had a cell phone! God bless kids these days. I can’t imagine how smartphones and Apple Watches have changed the game. Your life is an open book. Might as well have a chip in your neck.
A big family in a small town makes for an interesting childhood and Rockaway has its fair share of big families. The question encountered constantly by my siblings and I was, “are you a McVeigh?” I don’t see that much of a resemblance, but apparently everyone else does! Six degrees of separation? Yeah, right… More like one degree of separation!
I am a proud graduate of St. Francis de Sales. While I was there, I had, as many people do, a good deal of the same teachers that my siblings did. I also had several of the same teachers as my father. If that doesn’t scream “small town,” then I don’t know what does! I can relate to the experience of when you first started to hit our peninsula’s local watering holes. It was not always easy spending the night in a bar while also keeping watch on whether or not your uncle and his friends might walk in, too!
In college, I studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. Three thousand miles away from our little peninsula in a country of over five million people. One day, I found myself at a bar watching a Jets game (it’s a disease that can’t be cured). Into the bar walks in a couple of other Jets fans. “How funny? Ireland has sad, pathetic Jets fans, too,” I thought. A conversation starts up and after a few minutes of chatting, they share that they are from this little town in New York called Rockaway Beach. We grew up eight blocks away from each other – Rockaway is undefeated.
While Rockaway is a small town, it certainly has a big personality. The people here are larger than life, and when you put all of them in a place like Rockaway, it can make for some fireworks. Off the peninsula, Rockaway people always seem to stand out in the crowd no matter where they are. On top of it all, with the New York City skyline always in sight, it gives you a sort of paradoxical feeling. How can this small town still exist while sitting in the shadow of one of the largest cities in the world – the very symbol of a metropolis? Easy. The people. That’s how.