Monday, April 7, 2008

Cy (Steven) Miksad

For those of you who've read the section of my book on boating, you know that I have my Uncle Cy to thank for my love of the water. Nothing--not even a ride on the Dragon Coaster at Rye Playland in July--was as exciting to me as a child, than a day spent on his boat, The Nauty Lady. There was a sense of freedom I felt when I stepped on to that vessel that I never felt on land. Perhaps it was the excitement of sitting at the bow of the boat, holding on tight to the rails, as my Uncle powered The Nauty Lady through the Long Island Sound. Or, maybe it was the thrill of jumping off the starboard side, into the cool, briny waters, wondering what sea creatures swam beneath our kicking legs (fifteen years later I would get certified for scuba in those same waters and sadly realize, not many). Or, perhaps it was simply the wonderful feeling of psychic elbowroom that being on the water gave me.

My Uncle Cy passed away peacefully yesterday at the fully ripened age of 92. I'm sad, of course, but if I could pick one person in this world to point to and say "that person lived the life they wanted to live, without compromise, or apology", then it would have been him. He was was an eccentric, and colorful character (what can I say?; it's a family trait.); he loved wearing cowboy boots, and ornate, Western-style belt buckles, and looked like he just stepped out of a Louis L'Amour novel, despite the fact that he lived his entire life in urban New York. Instead of a horse, my uncle had his boat, which he navigated year after year through the waterways of New York; part cowboy, part pirate, part Parrothead. He'd be at church each and every Sunday morning, but immediately thereafter, chances were good you'd find him on The Nauty Lady, sipping a scotch, fishing with his buddies, and enjoying life. What I loved most about my uncle, was that he lived his life on his own terms. He wasn't a perfect human being, but he didn't pretend to be one either. He was who he was, comfortable in his own skin, and as a result, people naturally felt comfortable around him. He was as refreshing, as bracing, and as salty as the Long Island Sound he so dearly loved sailing on, and around. I will miss him.

BOATING (From my book, SUMMER: A User's Guide)
Sailboat, powerboat—it doesn’t matter to me at all; as long as I can feel the wind in my hair, the taste of salt on my lips, and the warming rays of the sun on my skin, I’m content. I have my Uncle Cy to thank, for it was on his boat—The Nauty Lady—that I got my sea legs at age seven. To my brothers and me, an invitation to spend a day on The Nauty Lady was the equivalent of winning the lottery. We would head to the marina on a clear Saturday morning and set sail for the Long Island Sound, calling out as loud as we could. “The Nauty Lady rides again!” as we passed under the Throgs Neck Bridge. We’d drop anchor in a quiet cove, where we’d spend hours swimming and clamming in the briny waters until our fingers were puckered like raisins. Back on board we’d shuck our clams in the galley and serve them up with lemon wedges and a spicy-hot cocktail sauce.

My uncle, who loved his boat only slightly less than he loved his wife, taught us how to tie intricate nautical knots like the Figure 8 and the Sailor’s Knot. At sunset, we’d head back to the marina, where the party would spill out of the adjacent boats onto the docks and continue well past our bedtimes. Exhausted from the day’s activities, we’d inevitably fall asleep during the car ride back home.

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