It was the second full day of my 5 day stay in Manhattan and I decided to go to Coney Island. It was an excruciating trip with lots of delays in the subway with usually nothing much to look at then the back yars of houses of what looked like a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood. There were clotheslines full of freshly done laundry. The people coming in the train didn’t look like tourists. They had a tired air about them. It was 1.30 on a Tuesday afternoon and who knew where they might be going. No one looked at anyone else and half the seats were empty. The only people talking were a young couple with an Italian Brooklyn accent that seemed to be disagreeing on something. An African American man looked at them as if they’d just woken him up. I tried to calm down by thinking I’d get out at the second last stop of Brighton Beach to have some nice Georgian food. After about 30 more humid late September minutes, I was under the tracks in Brighton Beach trying to find that spot where Joaquin Phoenix tried to kill himself in that movie I’d just seen. I could feel the eastern European flavour as the quiet hurried commotion took place in back of me and noticed that half the signs were in Russian.
Ah, the heartland of Russians allowed to flee the Soviet Union and the next generation who had never realized what their parents had actually done.
So I walk into the Georgian restaurant and everyone is looking at me funny and speaking to me in what I assumed was Georgian. They called Ivan from a room in the back. He spoke perfect English and told his mother to calm down. He told me they’re leery of Americans. He gave me some perogis for free. I was looking for something else but he said I was between meal times and I should go and have some dumplings across the street. The perogis, which is how they were called and spelled, were excellent. Ivan said I shouldn’t photograph the restaurant for reasons that should be obvious. He smiled and asked me to follow me out. He said there were many fun spots around the block.I made sure I never went to that place again.
On my way to the subway for the one stop to Coney Island I noticed and African lady who called herself a Wiccan/fortuneteller. She touched my shoulders and then read my palms. She spoke some broken English and I told her she can speak to me in French. She said I either take advantage of my gift or languish in an earthly hell. Frightened, I gave her a 20 and rushed to the subway.
Coney Island was not at all as I’d envisioned it. The train was pretty empty and the area looked like a dangerous place where people would move away from had they the means. The streets were big and barren and the people hunched over as if they were stuck in a situation that would never change. Souvenir shops were mostly closed and almost all the businesses on the entire beachfront were closed. Think of Mickey Rourke with his movie daughter in The Wrestler. Serene and haunting. At least till you get to the beach.
After I took the picture above I sat on the sand and just took in the cloudy non – glamor of the beach. This is paradise for a writer. And it’s less than an hour from downtown Manhattan. A big calmness tinged from head to toe, in that order, and making me feel almost every nerve and organ along the way to my stubbed left big toe. That’s when I wished I had pad and paper for all these creative ideas, plots, and storylines were flashing across my mind able to be put into words for the first time in a long time. I’d heard of this process called creative flow, but I never thought it would happen on a muggy cloudy afternoon in Coney Island. I let the ride continue till it was no more.
When it was over, I began to hear distant voices of people playing Frisbee with their dogs. There was a lady knee high in the water, her vericose vains showing from a distance. It was probably a prescription from the doctor to spend time in the salt water daily. The picture above shows the near emptiness of the boardwalk.
As I was writing down some thoughts in a notebook I had just bought, I noticed these 60 – year -old Russian men running with their shirts tied around their waists. They were followed by more Russian men. They seemed to live in the million dollar condos in front of the beach, or maybe a better description would be that they were behind the closed shops of the boardwalk. They seemed high brow and snobby. After all they’d been through pre – Brooklyn, I thought, they should have learned to be humble. Their aura infuriated me. They looked at me and scoffed as if I were beneath them.
It started drizzling and I ran to the subway. It was fast this time. I stopped in Manhattan to go to my beloved Koreatown, first and foremost to have some grilled eel before the karaoke bar.