I'm Chels. I blog about science, art, tennis, and my adventures in journalism. Officially, I'm a Science Writer at Brookhaven National Lab and I blog for them, too. Unofficially, I'm pretty awesome.

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Posts tagged long island life

Imagining Mountains

Whenever there’s a storm coming and there’s a big wall of clouds sitting on the horizon, I like to imagine that they’re mountains. Back home, the hills interrupt every sight line. They wrap around the sky in a comforting way, solid and still and covered with evergreens like teeth waiting to swallow up the sun. But not here. Here, my mountains are made of water vapor and they glow and spit fiery rays of light, and then disappear. 

Bad news

I woke up to the sound of snow shovels on my neighbor’s driveway. Siena was standing near my face with big eyes, trying to figure out how the world turned white. 

I went outside to get the shovels and salty melty stuff out of the shed and thought to myself, it’s not really that cold out. My phone says it’s 23 degrees. 

I might be turning into an East Coaster. 

This morning, a turkey marched out in front of my car while I was at a light and just stood there gobbling at me. I had to get out and chase it away, because it only responded to honking with more gobbling. I feel like people don’t really understand me when I tell them Long Island is overrun with wild turkeys, but THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

It was quite the show

So, a few strange things happened tonight and it’s all finally starting to make sense. First, I was sitting on the back porch after work and I smelled something really foul. My first thought was, “Didn’t I shower today?” I did. But it smelled like a rotting foot had lodged itself in my nose. 

Then, Siena decided to step out on the porch for a minute. Timidly, of course. This cat will spook even if I just walk sort of near her inside the house, so venturing outside is tough for her, but she’s been coming farther and farther out lately. Anyhow, there were no loud sounds or stiff winds this evening, but something freaked her out and she bolted inside. I chalked it up to her just being a scaredy cat. 

Finally, I was sitting on the couch reading and I heard something at the screen door. It sounded like Siena was trying to rip through it. And she was. I got up and walked over to her and she started doing that siren moan that cats do, so I flipped on the porch light (she didn’t even budge when I walked next to her! Red flag!) and there were two racoons on the deck with their noses up against the screen door. “Ahh, that’s what was so stinky,” I thought. Those jerks hang out under the deck. Phew. At least it wasn’t me.

Siena was a brave little kitten and she hissed and hissed at them. I finally threw some water out the screen door and they took off. She has spent the past hour prancing around like, “Did you see it, Mom? Did you see me scare those guys off?” And it is completely adorable and hilarious. I keep petting her head and telling her she’s earning her keep around here. 

Sink the whole damn thing

I just witnessed an adult riding a motorbike (there is no other good word for the vehicle he was on) down the turning lane of a very busy two-lane highway, popped up on his back wheel like he was in a terrible action movie inexplicably set in the suburbs. 

I was joking yesterday about the flash flooding we were expecting from the tropical storm that hit last night, and I said something about how the whole of Long Island could just sink right into the ocean. Now I’m thinking that wouldn’t be such a terrible idea. 


Besides the caricaturistic accents I encounter on a daily basis, there’s one other language-related oddity that I’ve noticed since I moved out to Long Island. I notice that when people talk about where they live, more often than I not, I hear them say, “I live IN Long Island,” as if it’s a town or city or some sort of collectively-identified place. 

Being a person who cares about grammar (a.k.a. the most annoying kind of human around), I find myself wondering if I’m just thinking about it wrong or if there really is a correct way to talk about living in a place like Long Island. 

In my head, I think “I live ON Long Island, but I live IN a small town on the North coast.” I can’t think of another island where that seems correct. You don’t live on Greenland. Or on Madagascar. Or on Maui. You live in them. But somehow that seems different, because those places have a large unifying governing/physical presence. 

Am I wrong? Is there another island you might live on instead of in?


It’s worth getting up early.

Sometimes living on Long Island feels like you get the worst of both urban life (high rents, lots of laundromats) and suburban life (very few food deliveries, huge box stores and strip malls everywhere), but I always have to remind myself that it also comes with the absolute best parts of rural/seaside life (farm stands, the ocean is a quick trip away, most of my driving takes place through the Pine Barrens). So, yeah, worth it. 

Yesterday my work buddy Erin took me on a lunchtime adventure. Just a few minutes from the section of the lab where all the buildings are, you can find really lush wooded areas. We went for a stroll through the trees down by the river, exclaimed over racoon tracks in the mud, whistled at the birds, and even found a turtle shell that some little critter had finished eating out of recently. It was gloriously warm and I kept looking around sort of astonished that Brookhaven’s lab site has so much nature just right down the road from my office building. I’ll definitely be going back on my lunch break from time to time.

Mini-Moments from Friendship Beach

Tonight at the beach I witnessed some really great moments:

  • A family was hanging out just kicking rocks and digging in the sand near the beach entrance. One of the little girls had gotten into Mom’s purse without anyone noticing and she was crouching down on her heels, holding a mirror up to her face, and smearing bright red lipstick all over her mouth. Her red, curly hair was waving in the wind and the whole look was so overly adult for a 6-year-old that I had to bite my lip to stop myself laughing at her cuteness. 
  • There are always people fishing in the Sound. I’m not sure what they catch, but it’s a popular activity at the beach near my house. Usually they’re older men with lots of gear. As I was walking down the beach, I saw two people at the waterline with poles and assumed they were an older guy and his son or something, but as I got closer, it turned out to be a young guy who’d brought his girlfriend down there for a date. He was patiently explaining to her how to throw out the line and read the water. It looked like the kind of evening that would charm me if I were on that date. 
  • Another set of young girls were on the beach with their mother and they found a live crab walking out of the water. They absolutely shrieked with delight. I remember being that way as a kid, and I still feel that crazy excitement at little things like that, but I don’t scream about it out loud anymore. I should remember to do that from time to time. 


Living on Long Island is a huge change from my life over the past few years. Portland, London, DC, Chicago, Boston…nothing is like this island. I don’t really have the words to describe it very well yet, but I’ll just share these few observations I’ve made and quotes I’ve overheard in the past few days: 

  • I got a mani/pedi the other day and in the few hours I was in the salon, I was the ONLY person who didn’t get fake nails put on. When I told them I just wanted polish, the dude doing my nails looked at me really funny. 
  • People are far nicer than I thought they’d be. Like, they might beat the Midwesterners in niceness. EXCEPT ON THE ROAD. THEY ARE TERRORS ON THE ROAD HERE.
  • Overheard in the grocery store: Dad 1: ”You took him to a Mets game? Talk about terrible parenting.” Dad 2, hanging his head: “I know, man. I know.”
  • A realtor giving me driving directions to a cottage I was viewing: “The sign is on the left, but the street is on the right … (sigh) … Welcome to Long Island, where very little makes sense.”