Monday, 21 September 2009

Day 8: Ocean View

Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest Wall of Fame, Coney Island

Shoot Out The Star, Coney Island

Eldorado Arcade, Coney Island

Kiddies Funfair, Coney Island

Busy Bee ride, Coney Island (is bee making an obscene hand gesture, or am I reading too much into this?)

Shell Road, Coney Island

Entrance to Wonder Wheel, looking down Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island

The Wonder Wheel, Coney Island

Wayne from Vancouver, Coney Island

Wonder Wheel Pavillion, Coney Island

Deno's Snack Bar, Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, Coney Island

Missing poster, Coney Island

Paul, Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, , Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, , Coney Island

Paul's Daughter boardwalk cafe, Coney Island

The Lovely Paul with my lunch, Coney Island

Yummy (and complimentary) hotdog and fries made for me by Paul, Coney Island

NYPD boardwalk patrol, Coney Island

Paul and his son-in-law Albert, Paul's Daughter, Coney Island

Paintball venue, Coney Island

Nathan's sign, Coney Island

Morris, Coney Island

Coney Island

Flying the flags, Coney Island

Benches on the pier, Coney Island

The parachute jump, Coney Island

Looking back down the pier towards the parachute jump, Coney Island

Pier, Coney Island

Fishing on the pier, Coney Island

Looking towards Wonder Wheel and housing projects

The Pier at Coney Island

Paul Lee on guitar, Coney Island

Paul Lee on guitar, Coney Island

Languid Dancing Guy, Coney Island

Someone else playing Paul's guitar (very well, it has to be said), Coney Island

Coney Island

Chachas of Coney Island

Internet still up the creek this morning, spent some considerable time trying various tedious measures to make it work (won't bore you with the details), but all to no avail. Am now writing blog in Wordpad since I can't even get onto the web - at this rate will be having to upload it with attendant photos when I return home, which is all very frustrating, for me and my Avid Readers, but lack sufficient Technical Know-how to do anything further at this stage.

It is my birthday today, and started off in a real grump because of the internet, but had nice cards to open from Mark and Mum that I had brought with me, so those helped to cheer me up a bit - thank you M and M for brightening my day! Usual faffing around prior to getting out of here, then set off without tripod but decided once I had locked up the apartment that I would regret it like crazy if I didn't take it out with me, so went back in to retrieve it. My plan was to head down to Coney Island, to grab some shots of end-of-season general run-down seaside town decay, so caught the usual 6 train downtown to 14th Street/Union Square to pick up the Q train to Coney Island. It's quite a long way, and the aircon on the trains is always full on, so by the time we reached the end of the line I was really chilly in my t-shirt and couldn't wait to get off into the sunlight.

Coney Island was everything that I hoped it would be - and since the rides close at the end of August there was the distinct air of abandonment which was exactly what I was after. Put camera on tripod and started a gentle wander from the station up to the boardwalk, taking shots of all the kinds of details that I love. When I reached the boardwalk was slightly disappointed to find that the iconic Wonder Wheel was locked away behind the fence, but was still able to get some photos of it with my 70-200mm lens. As I was doing this, I caught the attention of another photographer, Wayne from Vancouver, and he turned out to be the first of many, many people that I had a conversation with during the day. (When I finally headed back uptown at the end of the day, wondered if I had somehow acquired a sign across my forehead which read "talk to me", because by the end of my Coney Island Jaunt I was exhausted from talking to complete strangers, all of whom seemed drawn to me like bees to a honeypot. So many people assume that I am a pro photographer - maybe it is down to the size of the camera and lenses that I carry (admittedly huge), or perhaps I do carry an air of competance which implies that I know what I am doing - if the latter, that would be great, happy with that. Maybe it is simply the fact that I am quite small, and my camera equipment is generally quite large, but it does draw lots of comments from passers-by.) One of these was a guy called David, a keen amateur photographer himself, who told me he was working on a project of photographing around the funfair as some of the old rides were dismantled to make way for some new ones, and he wanted to capture the changes. He was very envious of my camera and said he had to "get me one of those", although he obviously loves film as he is currently in the process of setting up a small darkroom at home. We nattered away about the merits of film versus digital before he said "well, I'd better let you carry on with your photography" (hope I didn't look as if I twitching to get on with it, I really didn't mind talking to him).

Three helicopters flew over then, and someone said to me that it was the President flying from JFK to the United Nations conference (or whatever it is - haven't read a paper for days and can't Google because web isn't working), and that they always had more than one 'copter so that those wishing him harm would not know which one to shoot down first (of course, not to say that if "they" were really determined they would just have three rocket launchers to get all helicopters simultaneously, but didn't like to say that). About half an hour later, five of them flew back west, pretty low over the sea and looking like giant black insects in the blue sky - said to Albert (see next para) that all we needed was a blast of Wagner and it could be the opening scene of "Apocalypse Now" - hmmmm.

Next stop was huge food stall on the boardwalk called Paul's Daughter (previously known as Gregory and Paul's), completely classic Coney Island with swirling drinks coolers, hand-painted signs, aluminium counters, bags of cotton candy, icecreams, piles of fake corn-on-the-cob is virulent yellow, B&W photographs and an old-fashioned till which looked like a thirties original. Got chatting to Paul himself, who is originally from Sparta in Greece, and son-in-law Albert (married to the original Paul's daughter), who was just helping himself to an icecream cone as I took the shot, and which caused him to run and hide from then on when he saw me lurking with my enormous lens. Asked Paul what was a typical Coney Island snack that I could buy, he said it was a hotdog with fries, so said I would take one as long as it wasn't too big (no smutty comments here please, this is a family blog), and he duly went off to prepare it. What arrived was absolute perfection: a frankfurter on a lightly toasted bun, just the right side of crisp, with five fat fries and a little pot of ketchup - mwaahh!! What was really lovely was that when I fished out my purse to pay, Paul waved it away and said "no, we'll treat you, because you're from London!" - and what's more I hadn't even said that it was my birthday too. Had a Coke to go with the food, and went to sit at one of their outside tables to eat and watch people pass by. On the next table to me were two women with their cycles, one of whom I had exchanged a comment with earlier as we waited for our food from the stall, and as they left before me, one of them turned to me and said "have a good day", which I thought was really nice. But everyone here is SO NICE!!! Whoever said that New Yorkers were not friendly was obviously talking out of their arse, because I have spoken to a LOT of people here in the last week and everyone has been, without exception, at the very least perfectly civil and at the more common end of the scale really genuinely friendly and helpful. I've said it already but I'll say it again: I love America and I love New York!!!

After this restorative interval, I continued wandering along the boardwalk taking photos, and while I was getting a shot of the famous Nathan's burgers sign, heard a voice behind me saying "that's not the original Nathan's, that's down there on Stillwell Avenue". Turned round to see an elderly Jewish man (I later found out he was a Spanish Jew called Morris, and has lived in New York since the 30's) who offered to take me down towards the station to show me some old photos of Coney Island as it used to be in the thirties. Was tempted to say no, because I wanted to carry on with the photography and not walk back that way yet, but he was sweet and it was kind of him to offer, and I thought I could learn something, so went along with him at the pace of a snail, frequently punctuated with stops in which he turned to me and gesticulated for emphasis on the particular story he was telling at the time. Finally got to the shop window in question and he showed me the old B&W photos of Coney Island, which doesn't seem to have changed that much over the years, and I got some fantastic shots of Morris infront of them. Had to almost forcibly drag myself away, as he talked nineteen to the dozen with barely a pause for breath, but I promised to send him copies of his photos so he gave me his address saying that he would be amazed if I did send them (people have obviously promised this before and then not done it, which made me even more determined to be sure to send them when I get home).

Hastened back to the boardwalk to continue on down toward the famous parachute jump, which has been closed for years because of safety issues, but is an iconic Coney Island structure along with the Wonder Wheel, so has been left in place. Took some shots down the pier and then decided to start heading back as it was late afternoon and the breeze was getting up, suspected I could get quite chilly as had brought no cardi to wear over t-shirt. However, got snapping an awesome guitar-player called Paul Lee, who was just hanging out with his mates, instrument and an amp, and a tall guy languidly dancing about on the boardwalk in time with the music. Everyone so relaxed and just enjoying themselves, I loved the vibe and the whole laid back American-ness of the whole thing, got chatting to yet more people including Kevin Washington who told me about his basketball playing nephew Jordan Theodore, and then Paul stopped playing his guitar for a bit and came over for a chat, told me his girlfriend was a photographer and on Flickr like me, so he gave me her details and I said I'd look up her photostream. He took my card and said that they would be looking at my photos projected on a big screen - gulp - hope they stand up to the scrutiny! Hi-fived Kevin and headed off - he too had promised to look at my photos, so it looks as if I could be getting a few more Flickr contacts out of this :)

Final stop of the day was at the Coney Island Beach Shop, where I purchased a green hooded sweatshirt as a souvenier of the day (was later very glad of it on freezing air conditioned train too), before returning to the station and engaging in what I thought was my final conversation of the day with a cop after asking him whether he recommeneded the Q or the N train to get back uptown as quickly as possible. He has relations in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, although he hasn't been there yet, but was more interested to know my thoughts on the news story from home a while back about the 12 year old boy fathering a child, and regarding the release back to Libya of the Lockerbie bomber, and surely life should mean life? Eventually said goodbye, ascended stairs to train, sat down in relief and started reviewing the day's shots on the back of my camera, when the bloke opposite me said "excuse me miss, are you a professional photographer?" and thus started yet another conversation which lasted all the way to Midtown (a long way, take it from me), by which point I thought if anyone else starts talking to me I may pretend to be non-English speaking and feign total non-comprehension. Had to change trains at 14th Street/Union Square, and someone next to me but one asked what kind of lens I had on my camera - told him, but accompanied by what I hoped was a slightly psychotic stare so as to discourage further interaction. It seemed to work!

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