Coney Island

Who would have thought Coney Island could be so much fun?! I have only been there once before – for the ‘Polar Bear’ event on New Year’s Day, when crazy, thick skinned or newly resolute dare-devils plunge into the freezing surf. But that was years ago, and there has been so much talk since then about the whole area being sold off and redeveloped that I didn’t realise the place was still alive and pumping. Coney Island has all the fun of the fair and for most of the year round. There are rides and fairy floss, toffee apples and dodgem cars. And while summer is the prime time, since I heard about the ferris wheel having special candle lit spins during snow season, I’m going to keep my skates on, just in case. Imagine how beautiful that would be?

On Friday afternoon, at the beginning of the Labor day weekend and with the temperature topping 33*C, there were thousands of people on the beach and a few thousand more whooping it up in the amusement park. Sean was rather keen to join the whoopers on the wooden roller coaster, but the sound of the structure creaking as the cars lurched around the ancient bends was enough to drive us ( me ) toward the more senior but somehow safer, Wonder Wheel. The wheel was built in 1920, and is maintained so well that it looks exactly the same as it did in all those movies – or in your memories of visits past. The stationary cars ( rather than those than swing around ) went the full 150 feet off the ground, and this proved to be a huge bonus when we caught the breeze at the top. It was as refreshing as the view was magnificent. Joey, who we would be filming at Nathan’s later in the day, explained that the mechanism of the old wheel was so simple that the only running cost was the $20 of grease needed each day to keep the cogs turning. Solar power kept everything else on the move.

Lunch meant Nathan’s, the most famous hot dog destination in the world, whether you want one or have the stomach to break the record. It had been 18 years since I had doggedly indulged and that was on a snowy Christmas Eve and my first night ever in NYC. So the memory bar was high, but, I am happy to report, it was well met. Of course the atmosphere helped, as it was the tips from Al Capone’s bar over the road that provided the seed money for Nathan to open his doors in the first place. Unfortunately Shore’s Hotel is closed for business these days. The building is still there, and the neon sign has been restored, but who could run the floor now like Jimmy Durante anyway? One thing that hasn’t changed – by popular demand – are the fries at Nathan’s. It seems they are just as famous as the hot dogs. Apparently a particular potato, and family of suppliers, has been used consistently for nearly 100 years to provide the signature chip. When the drought this year meant there were none of the regular potatoes and a substitute created an outcry from patrons, the vendor had to buy more farm land in another agricultural zone to ensure continuity in the face of climate change. I guess if you have a 24 hour business and sell over 425 million hot dogs in one year, your bark has to be as good as your bite.



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9 Responses to Coney Island

  1. Great photos, and story, Fitzy. Good one

  2. banaghaisge says:

    Looked at the lovely photos of you way up in the breeze and thought “In the Olden Days there wouldn’t have been any mesh” and then you had the historic photo of not only no mesh but pretty close to bugger all around the brave!!!! Looks like SO much fun!

    • Absolutely! The old photograph was actually from the original Parachute Jump ( 80 meters tall and ‘the Eiffel tower’ of Brooklyn! ) which has recently been completely restored. Maybe when it reopens we can re-enact the photo…..?!

  3. Shirley says:

    How I envy you , my hope is to visit NYC one day .What fantastic ambassadors you are .

    Shirley Sydney Australia

  4. graham kelly says:

    You both are living the dream. I spent 10 years living on and off in NYC. It has been 6 years since I was there, but my wife and I aim to be back next year so that i can show her the reasons why I rave about the place so much. I stayed at hotels because my stays generally were only a week or 2 at a time, commuting between London and NYC. Always regretted not buying a place to come home to. Instead, generally stayed at hotels on the lower east or west side to be near the park. But what great memories – jogging in central Park around the reservoir, smoked salmon bagels from a great little delli on 7th and 59th, sitting in the park on Saturday morning reading the Times, a fabulous piano bar called ‘Don’t tell Mama’ that produced more hangovers than I care to recall, all those Aussie expats who only expanded the hangovers. Love hearing and reading about your adventures. Don’t stop them coming. Let me know if you need any goodies from home and I will bring them over.

    • Thank you Graham – wow, sounds like you had/have quite the dream yourself! Great to hear you are coming back – this will give me time to investigate ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ and report back. As you would know, one of the greatest things about this city is that you constantly find new discoveries – not necessarily new eateries and such, but amazing things ( like Coney Island ) that you just didn’t know were there, or were that good. And then there’s the endless opportunity – like seeing James Cotton at the Lincoln Center or David Byrne at the Public Library – that you just have to seize. It’s a full time job keeping up with all the possibilities! But I’ll keep you posted so when you get back to the Big Apple you can hit the ground running…

      • graham kelly says:

        A quintessential NYC experience that I well remember. It was about 8-9 years ago and I was staying up around Columbus Circle. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and I decided to spend a couple of hours in a nearby Barnes and Noble store. I came across a table of books that was the autobiography of Alan Alda. I had always enjoyed him as an actor so I was flipping through when a voice from behind me hoped that I would enjoy the read. I turned around to find the man himself there. We ended up chatting for about an hour. Turns out he lives nearby and had come by to check out the display of his book. What a delightful man he is and it made my weekend.
        ‘Dont tell Mama’ is down on about 12th and 40th. It was owned (probably still is) by George, an outrageously gay guy who provides most of the evening’s entertainment along with a could-have-been Billy Joel piano player. Well worth a visit!

      • What a fantastic story Graham, and the best thing is, it happened to you!

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