Coney Island is hip and if in doubt there’s always Brighton beach. That’s the new hipster word on the street for Summer in the City. Hot times! Thank you Lovin Spoonfull! Thank you Lawrence Ferlinghetti, West coast’s answer to poetic genius! His Coney Island of the Mind is an awesome collection of his Summer of Love point of view with the Coney spin working overtime! Check it out! They are cramming the B the A the F the Q, anxious to hit the boardwalk and the gritty pebble filled sand of these two iconic Nyc legendary beach escapes. Oh Coney has the history of the proverbial cat where it keeps coming back to life, over and over, and Brighton, well is it really America? Whenever I go, I know I’m in Kiev, stepping down from the 75 year old steps of the elevated subway platform engulfed by the smell of knishes, the sound of Russian spoken , the sight of the old world shops and inhabitants of a NY village they have claimed as theirs and made it home. I am thinking about M&M, the Russian food store of all flavors and favorites, the liquor stores where they sell the Vodka Standard the Mother of Vodka, and every flavor Schnappes known to man, and the homemade delicacies offered on the sidewalk stands each one looking tempting and appetizing but I have a mission and it’s the beach so I keep walking walking till I see the glory of the boardwalk and the sky and water beyond.
Tatiana is my sign that I am really here. The boardwalk mega restaurant, serving up every Russian delight in mega portions to the sun drenched , beach lover, who maybe didn’t make it to Miami, or Bahamas , or Long Island but hey, made it here and it feels pretty damn good!
Apartment escapee, summer weekend warrior, Nyc homesteader, you made it to one of the coolest beaches around! The other one is of course Coney Island.
Coney is Pop Central! The dreamland of colorful, kitsch, whimsy, childhood fun of past memories, from Mermaid parade to Famous Nathan’s the Emperor of hotdogs, the Polar Bear clubs meeting place every New Year, and those frank photos iconic and so real of the under the boardwalk make out sessions, of the fifties when coney was the cool summer beach paradise everyone who was anyone escaped to whenever they could.
And now? Well now, it’s cool again. Because hipsters loooove anything that’s kind of tattered, rough around the edges, bohemian, gritty, even if it’s seen as dead and buried by the people who lived it when it was Really cool. Like they discovered a rare artifact while on an archeological dig that’s suddenly made them famous. It’s soo ironic how old cool becomes new cool only through hype and bullshit, word of mouth blah blah with a dose of the media megaphone thrown in for good measure.
But for me, I dig it because it’s Verrry POP! Couldn’t get better than Coney for POP culture incarnate. That insane looking roller coaster now rebuilt, the fried clam bars and greasy fries, the oddball diverse mix of people crushing the boardwalk for a glimpse of the ocean, a scent of saltwater, a breath of ocean air, kids hysterical with happiness over the sight of cotton candy, hotdogs, and corny blowup toys, all give me and others the feeling of days long gone, called childhood, where the best thing, the most exciting thing in summer was going to the beach, and for city folk that meant Coney Island.
I painted Nathan’s in the 80’s, being attracted to the iconography of the hot dog, one of the important cultural foods symbolic of American life. I saw the artsy pop style trending like an electric current throughout the entire scope of the Coney Island fabulous persona. It is and was there , a powerful, je ne sais quois, element of crazy, fun, excitement, individuality, funk, subterranean stuff the stuff that art comes from the stuff that feeds the artist hunger with an ever abundant source, inspiring, elevating ,and delivering more and more art. But face it kids, Coney, and Nathan’s go hand in hand. Coney is Americana on steroids! It’s pop culture at its max. It is the beach place for the people. I mean the Real people. The elite hop the jitney, and head for the Hamptons, or hop their Town car without a look back. But for the Brooklyn, Manhattan transplants who are young, voted for Obama, bearded, tattooed, fedora headed, skinny jean, techies, the Hamptons seems kind of square. Stuffy, old, and wayyyyy too rich. I mean these hipsters aka the young, the “are we gonna be able to get hired after we graduate?” kids, are shacked up 3 and 4 in an apartment, in order to make rent. Hamptons? Uh, isn’t that the Mecca of the Wall Street screw ups who basically have these hipsters in hock for life , with unbelievable student loan bills they won’t ever be able to pay ????? Like, really, are they heading for Hampton hell? Nooooo. It’s Coney, it’s Brighton all the way!
A quick train ride, transversing the hinterlands of avenue H,J,M, Kings Hwy, Sheepshead Bay, graffiti left over from the 80’s providing an entertaining view as the train takes you closer and closer to the seaside amusement park , that’s hard to believe still exists – a place soooo much cooler than the picture perfect, oasis, aka Hamptons.
That’s what pop culture, art, posters, cards, all represent. Youth. Lightness. Fun. Frivolity. Kooky. Divine. Freedom. Drag. Bukowsky. Satie. Jeff Koons. Elvis. Liza with a Z. Blondie with a B. Kiki with a K!
That’s Coney Island!
It’s POP all the way, from that iconic boardwalk ingrained in the bowels of history, to the sparkling icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s fifties legends of romance and pure delight.
And 70’s horror stories of gangland wars, neglect, and the junkie haven it became.
It’s now reborn, renovated, and rediscovered by the new New Yorkers, the hipsters, the kids, the newbies
The old becomes young again!
It’s appeal, it’s nouveau, honky Tonk vibe, is IN again. yes and it’s hip and it delivers in spades.
Lucky us, Brooklynites, Lower Eastsiders, Downtowners, we get to experience the beach in the city , get our grooves on in Coney technicolor Madness, do summer our way, and beach it with the best!
Old school, new school we are all a part of this urban technicolor dream show in which we live!