Monday, September 28, 2009

Coney Island, Baby!

At Nathan’s, 2009

We were in New York over the weekend to visit our daughter and son-in-law. It was a quick visit. We had several things we wanted to fit into a single day. One of them was go to Coney Island. Our daughter guided us onto the right train and provided color commentary for our excursion.

To be honest, this probably wasn’t the best time to go to Coney Island. The Cyclone roller coaster closed for the season last weekend. Many of the carnival rides and attractions were shut down. The closest thing to a “freak show” was an empty alley where, for $5, you got five chances to hit the “freak”—actually just a young man wearing a mask, hiding behind a wooden shield—with a underpowered paint ball gun. We passed on that.

On the plus side, it was cool enough for a brisk walk, the sun came and went, the girls rode the Ferris wheel, the three of us avoided expensive family therapy by working out our grievances in bumper cars and The Brave New World Theater Company put on a interesting performance of The Tempest on the Boardwalk.

We started with hot dogs from the original Nathan’s. I don’t know what I expected. A hot dog stand? This was more of an emporium, reminiscent of, say, The Varsity, in Atlanta. It’s noisy and crowded and everything’s happening fast. You bark your order, you pick up your dogs and you get the heck out of the way of the next person. The hot dogs are really good, though. I recommend getting them without anything on them. That probably sounds dry to you, but they have an excellent crunch and they’re so tasty that you don’t want to hide the flavor.

The real payoff at Nathan’s, though, is the outdoor seating area. Every table was a different New York stereotype. Every class was represented. Within just my ear shot five languages were being spoken. On one side of us was a well-dressed, elderly couple, Brahmans from the Upper East Side. On the other were two working class guys and their wives who were so coarse and so full of themselves that I took to calling them Ralph Kramden and Norton. Everyone got along well, though, proving once and for all that hot dogs are indeed the great socioeconomic equalizer.

I haven’t had time to work through all the shots from the day yet. (They’ll be at Flickr eventually.) At Nathan’s isn’t your typical Coney Island shot, nor is it even a shot that looks like it was taken at Nathan’s. But it is, in fact, all that a Brahman from the Upper East Side wants you to see of him when he’s eating a Nathan’s hot dog.


  1. Great photo, Chris.

    I have recent happy memories of Coney Island with Amanda and Wally. They dragged me on the ferris wheel too (I'm a feet-on-the-reassuringly-firm-ground-kinda girl) Didn't dawg it at Nathan's but we saw and snapped it. Looking forward to seeing how your eye caught it. I couldn't believe how big it was. I also can't believe they're going to close down a NY institution like Coney Island.

  2. Oh, that was a fun post, Chris. You've sufficiently made me wish I was still living up there and visiting again. Sounds like a fun time.

  3. that shot is such a funny juxtaposition... so funereal and serious... then you pan out to the very greasy spoon that is Nathan's and the characters that are its patrons... well, at least I think it would be a funny juxtaposition.