When we lived in New Haven our friend K would pick us up (despite living two blocks away) and we’d drive down to Milford and park in front of her colleague’s house and head down to the beach that he lived near and spend a few hours lapping up the sun and for me, splashing around in the Long Island Sound. While it was not quite the same as going down to Ocean City (New Jersey or Maryland), it was only twenty minutes away and didn’t cost us a dime. There was only one summer that we really did well in taking advantage of it but I still remember those Sunday afternoons with great fondness.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m not one who wants to bother with the process of going out to the Hamptons on summer weekends. I don’t need a fancy beach town in order to enjoy the sun and (more importantly) the waves, and the lure of the strangeness of Coney Island was strong enough to endure a good hour and a half subway ride.
Our intentions to venture to Coney Island have been long-set; we basically were waiting for the weather to agree with us. Last weekend had grey skies and an almost ominous weather forecast–clearly not a great beach day prognosis. Sunday was supposed to be sunny, hot and yet not humid–the first time the weather behaved so all summer, and so we set out on our first Brooklyn adventure (and I profusely apologize to our friends in Brooklyn for our negligence in visiting your borough sooner–the best I can say is that it was a weird summer).
Oh, what a day to go: the weather was perfect, the water was cold and (mostly) clear, and the people-watching abundant. Everything here feels so old; a novel sensation when compared to Manhattan which vacillates between lauding the very old and the very new.
Of course, Coney Island has classic landmarks of its own: Nathan’s Famous, the (very scary-looking) Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone to name a few, and they certainly had visitors there in droves, armed with their dSLRs to capture them all in their nostalgic glory. I think that’s what I liked best about visiting here: it feels like it never left the late eighties so it still has that very rough around the edges atmosphere. Very little here feels modern–hell, even Beer Island was blaring Eighties-era Billy Joel, much to Michael’s consternation.
Perhaps the strangest thing about visiting this resort is how little you have to do to get to the beach: once you arrive at the Stillwell Ave station, you walk two blocks, cross the boardwalk, and boom: you’re there. No beach tags like you find in New Jersey, no four-hour drive to get down to Maryland, no hotel room necessary. Spending the cost of one round-trip subway ride takes the pressure off of getting one’s time and money’s worth on the beach so I felt completely fine with swimming for an hour, throwing my mini and my t-shirt back on over my bathing suit and doing a little exploring along the boardwalk.
I think that’s the other strange thing about visiting C.I.: the presence of a boardwalk. When you’ve spent the last twenty-odd years associating boardwalks with a.) compulsively needing to walk to both ends of them while on vacation and b.) being on vacation, period, it’s odd to only spend a half-hour walking on a short expanse of one, sticking to the area close to our subway station. I realize that we only saw a tiny portion of the boardwalk that day as we didn’t make it to Brighton Beach or further south, but it was still…strange. This can likely be attributed to the fact that I’m a creature of habit, however.
Also strange: as we were headed towards Nathan’s around 2:45, people were still streaming onto the boardwalk and beach, armed with copious amounts of beach gear. Michael quipped that “everything else starts late in New York–why would going to the beach be any different?” and he certainly had a point Sunday.
As for Nathan’s…well, they say that you should avoid all Nathan’s stores except for the original–and honestly, I can’t say I blame them. While the original hot dog is delicious, the sautéed onions we both had on top were a little bland for me–and when you’re eating your dog on the sidewalk because no seating is available, it’s not like you can just reach for the salt-shaker. Maybe it was an off day and someone forgot the salt when they were making this particular batch. I will say this: the Coronas that we had with our dogs? Those, my friends, were out of this world. Beer always tastes better when I’m at the beach–perhaps it’s the sea air that heightens the palate?
Regardless, if the weather holds this coming holiday weekend, we’ll be back.
(Note: if these photos seem weird at all, it’s because they were taken on my cell phone. Given that I love the sand and more importantly the surf, I did not want either near my faithful Nikon, and my Samsung Reality did well in its place I think.)