This is Morris, who I met at Coney Island today. Morris, still spry in his late eighties, has lived in Coney Island since 1927, when, as a small boy, he moved with his family from Harlem. He told me all about his service overseas in the Second World War, and about what it was like being a kid at Coney. He knew all the tricks for getting free rides, and his mother liked to go to the Blowhole Theater at Steeplechase, watching the midget prod the exiting riders towards the airjets, where the womens' dresses would fly up a la Marilyn Monroe. Morris said there were plenty of women on the ride who had no panties on, having removed their wet bathing suits after swimming, and claimed that it was mostly women spectators at the Theater, there to enjoy the female riders' shame. He was scornful of the new Thrill Zone rides, particularly the Sling Shot. Twenty dollars for four or five bounces on the thing? Ridiculous.
Morris lives at Luna Park Houses, and his second wife died over a year ago. His grown-up sons live on the west coast. He's been under a lot of pressure to sell his apartment, but is not budging. Morris spends a lot of time on the boardwalk, and has plenty of stories. He has travelled all over the world, and next time we meet, he's going to tell me about his trips to South America.
It was a perfect mid-week day to be at the beach. Not too crowded, but busy enough. A peaceful space for a beer and a hot dog at Ruby's, where you could quietly enjoy the brusque treatment meted out to innocent newcomers. Who could even conceive of getting rid of these boardwalk businesses? Sitting at a table, with a nice cold drink, watching the crazy, beautiful assortment of New Yorkers and tourists parading by, is such a sweet, sentimental affirmation of why you love this city. It's a celebration of all us, of every shape and size and color, just wanting a simple day out by the water. If Walt were still alive, he'd be hanging out down here, at Ruby's, or Paul's Daughter, chugging a beer and happy as a clam at the sight of those around him. His kind of people.