Once upon a time when me and the whole world were a good deal younger, my father had a business partner. I don’t remember his name, but he was a big, bluff Russian who used to come over the house, visit, and make gallons of cabbage soup. He must have thought there were a lot more of us than there were because my mother couldn’t figure out how to store so much soup, even though we had a full size standing deep freezer in the basement and a huge fridge in the kitchen. He and my father would go into the kitchen and produce these gallons of soup. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.


Bob (or whatever his name was) was accident prone and an enthusiastic teller of stories, most of them about his own misadventures.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting because he never said anything except very loud. “Very sunny. Blue sky. A nice day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. And she asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. I mean, she didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”


We all nodded dutifully. Because he was my father’s partner and we were kids, so what else was there to do?

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.”

We nodded some more. Our job. To nod. Look very interested.

“I opened the umbrella and had to find the right place to put it because, you know, if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit until I found just the right place. Then I took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could and it went pretty deep. Seemed good and solid.”

We were still nodding. I must have been — maybe 10? — and had been taught to be polite, no matter what, to grown-ups. We did not call adults by their first name. I think my teeth would have cracked if I had tried or my tongue would have stuck to the roof of my mouth.


“What with everything looking okay and my mother settling down in her chair with a book, she looked happy. So I figured it would be a good time to get something to eat and I told her I would go get us some hot dogs — and something to drink. She said that was good, tell them to leave the mustard off because — she’s always reminding me but I know, I know — she doesn’t like mustard.

I walked all the way over to Nathan’s — that’s a pretty long walk, all the way to the end of the boardwalk — because they have the best hot dogs” at which I was nodding with real enthusiasm because Nathan’s really does have the best hot dogs, “And I love those beef fries. I got five, two for her — with no mustard — and the other three for me because I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his large belly, “And I started walking back. I could see where to go because of the umbrella’s stripes. I could see it all the way from the boardwalk.”

Nod, nod, nod.Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather suddenly was changing … some clouds were coming in from the ocean. It was getting a windy — a bit — and this was happening all of a sudden while I had gone to get the dogs. Funny how the weather changes so fast along the water, you know? So now, I’m almost there. Up comes  a big puff of wind and that umbrella pulls right up out of the sand and flies at me and whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my whole head was going to come off.

I dropped all the food and fell right over. Like a rock I fell and just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was completely compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Completely compost!”

Be careful of flying umbrellas at the beach. They will turn you into compost. That’s not good, especially when your hands are full of hotdogs.





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  5. Excellent story, it is amazing how we hold onto the details especially about hot dogs…and the sad irony of not eating those famous hot dogs. Your images are also beautiful and adds so well to the story! Marilyn. Thanks for connecting and posting on my blog, I appreciate it – have a great week!


    • I enjoy your work too 🙂 Coney Island was a favorite place. We haven’t been there in a few years and whether or not we’ll get back again, I don’t know … but from most of our lives, both of us were regular visitors. And oh those Nathan’s hot dogs. The ones you get in th grocery store are NOT the same, no matter what they claim!


  6. You dropped the Nathan’s hot dogs! You dropped the hot dogs! Great post, wonderful photos (the first one is iconic), and I am glad you were not hurt in a permanent way.
    You dropped the hot dogs!


    • It wasn’t me … it really WAS my father’s business partner. He was a whack job. HE dropped the hot dogs! Don’t blame me … I didn’t do it! I’m innocent! (Until proven guilty.)

      I am very glad I took so many pictures of Cony Island when I was there, before Sandy did a real number on it. You know, the old boardwalk washed away in the storm surge. They’ve put in a new one, but it can’t be the same.


  7. Coney Island seems like a great place to street shoot. And there is enough urban grunge to probably make me happy. It’s sort of out of they way so I haven’t visited during my last two visits to NYC. May be in the future I’ll go there.


    • Yes, it always has been a great place to shoot people, lots of people. I haven’t been back since they rebuilt it and it got hit by Sandy. I hear they’ve mostly restored it. But they lost that gorgeous old boardwalk to the ocean. I know they’ve replaced it, but that old one was a work of art and survived many storms … until Sandy. The rides are all up and running and Nathan’s is open for business in the same location (100 years and going strong). It’s like a miniature of the world … every kind of person you can imagine, all plunked together, happily sweating and eating on a hot summer day!


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