A Digital Journal

Photography by Tony Triolo

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Last month we had a big family reunion planned for the New Jersey shore.  My nephew’s wife’s family owns a beautiful beach house on Long Beach Island within sight of the casinos at Atlantic City.  Although the event had been in the making for close to a year, we seriously considered passing it up due to the tornado that seriously damaged our house back in April (see the previous post).  Since that day, my wife and I have been preoccupied looking for another place to live, locating available storage space for recovered items, fighting with insurance companies and on and on.  By the time June rolled around, a break from all the craziness sounded very appealing, so we went ahead and told our nephew to put us back on the guest list.  We really need a break, and the prospect of sitting in a beach chair watching the fishing boats heading out of Little Egg Harbor for the day’s catch, was just too good to pass up.

Coney Island Boardwalk

The four days of sun and fun passed by all to quickly as they always tend to do, but I was not ready to go home to Alabama just yet.  I had agreed to drive my father on to New York so that he could visit his sister and a close family friend once the reunion wrapped up.  He had not seen either person in a very long time, so I volunteered to take him.  My only requirement, was that once we reached the big city, we would rent a car.  I did not want to subject my new (tornado insurance money) vehicle to the rigors of the road or the whims of the insane drivers of that fair city.  While I haven’t been home in a long time, I can still remember the deplorable condition of the roads there where the potholes have their own potholes.

Beach Umbrella

My aunt lives in Brooklyn.  She always has.  She was born there and has not travel very much.  My father grew up there as well, and I think he was more than a bit excited to get a chance to visit some of the places he remembered from his childhood.  He was anxious to show me his old school, the old neighborhood diner, and his favorite bakery, Cucio’s, which is still in operation.  His memory isn’t what it once was, and we had to rely on my GPS to find the place.  The custard-filled donuts were still as good as he remembered, so the effort definitely paid off.

A jogger runs past the original home of Nathan's hot dogs on the Coney Island boardwalk.

Nathan's Hot Dogs

My dad’s mission on the day following our arrival was to get my aunt out of the house.  Her eyesight has been in gradual decline, so she tends to stay close to home where things are familiar.  He felt she needed to get some fresh air.  I didn’t quite see the logic in this suggestion.  After all, this is New York City.  Not until I moved away to college, did I realize that the sky was not a constant shade of gray in most places.  So, after donuts and coffee, my father suggested he take my aunt for a walk on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach on Coney Island.  I wasn’t too keen on the idea recalling unpleasant visits there during my childhood, and more recent news accounts of the increasing crime and vandalism there.  It was almost a moot point, however, as we struggled to find the place.  How do you not find an island?  It took another request for assistance from our trusty GPS to finally find the boardwalk which turned out to be less than three miles from my aunt’s house.

Italian ice vendor on the boardwalk

As it turned out, my fears were unwarranted.  The beach was reasonably clean and the boardwalk was in good repair with only a sampling of graffiti.  After taking several photos of my dad and his sister, I focused on some other things.  It was really a beautiful day, unseasonably cool and the sky actually was blue – a rare sight indeed.  I’d hoped to get some photos of what remained of the amusement park there.  This was once the home of the famous Steeplechase ride and is home to the Cyclone, still considered one of the best all-wooden roller coasters in the country.  Nathan’s hot dogs were born on this boardwalk, and I can still remember the French fries they sold there.  It was too bad that they didn’t open up for another hour or I would have checked to see if they were still the best fries I had ever tasted.  Never mind that I had just consumed two custard-filled donuts just 90 minutes earlier.  I felt bad for initially dismissing the prospect of revisiting this city icon.  Coney Island proved to be better than what I remembered.  Give a lot of credit to Mayor Bloomberg and the borough leaders for making the place better than it once was – or at least the way I remembered it was.  I would have loved to have spent the entire day there making pictures, but we were on a tight schedule and we had to leave.  The next morning we had to head back home to Alabama.  Of course, that’s assuming that our GPS would get us there.

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Architecture, Photography, Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments