Location Coney Island
Rent $780/mo. (market)
Square feet 700
Occupants g8s (photographer; waiter, Florent); Patrick Burlingham (painter; waiter, the Park); Dennis Bowling (waiter, Cafeteria)
How can you possibly go to work when you can hop around in the sand, ride the Scooter, have an ear of corn or something, and stare at the seagulls that fly to “There You’ll Be” playing at the refreshment stand where the men with tan stomachs sit on white plastic chairs screaming at each other, “I don’t want shit”? Then there’s the old Shore Hotel with the laundry out front. This place is compelling. [g8s] We don’t go to work until the graveyard shift. [Dennis] So in the mornings, we can sleep on the beach for hours. [g8s] It’s low-key around here. You can walk out in your bathing suit, hair a mess. I got the apartment over two years ago. I was living in Park Slope, but I was down here taking photos. I thought it would be nice to live here. I couldn’t find a real estate agency. The woman at the deli said most buildings are owned by government agencies, 17 blocks of projects. She’d heard of a landlord who was remodeling a building. All of us came to New York a few years ago from Kalamazoo College in Michigan.
You’re the boys of summer. I was just looking at a book of Bruce Davidson’s photos from ’59, kids from Prospect Park going to Coney Island, boys in T-shirts, with long arms, big hands, tattoos, who spent their days smoking cigarettes and kissing their girlfriends on blankets under the boardwalk, and then the famous photo of the blond girl combing her hair in the mirror of a cigarette machine. She was very beautiful. Then I read, “She was always sad, always fixing her hair,” and when she grew up she “put a shotgun in her mouth and blew her head off.” [g8s] Like in Requiem for a Dream, which took place around here. [Patrick] Our neighborhood—we’re just west of the water—is mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican, though a Russian laundry just opened. [g8s] It’s all mixed. I eat a lot at La Frontera, a Mexican restaurant near the subway. It’s across from Carolina’s, where you see old Italians come on weekends. [Patrick] There’s a lot of action in the Little Mermaid Bagel Shop. [g8s] One of the bagel ladies manages Astroland in the summer. [Patrick] She looks very tired sometimes.
This apartment is so old looking, stucco ceiling, crumbly sash windows, like where someone would be in a T-shirt in the ’40s hoping he’d get the dough to put on the feedbag. [Dennis] I do feel like I’m being pulled back in time. [g8s] The light here is so amazing. It bounces around through the space all day long. [Patrick] We like to sit in the kitchen and look out the window at the restaurant across the street. Everybody’s always out in front, like 20 people. [g8s] They have roosters in back. [Patrick] People think I’m insane when I say roosters are keeping me up. [g8s] Then I’ll be on the phone and my mother will say, What’s that? Oh, that’s just the Cyclone.
Are you going to be here forever with calliope music in your brain? The winters are hard. It’s so cold near the ocean. There’s a lot more blue in the light. It’s very empty. [Patrick] It’s hard to get friends to visit. I’d say gentrification begins and ends with us. [g8s] It’s an hour commute. [Dennis] I probably pay twice as much on car service as I do on rent. My roommates make fun of me. The car service pulls up. I don’t even have to tell them where I’m going.
They know—Cafeteria in Chelsea for your waiter job. You get out, flashbulbs popping. Oh, sure. Sometimes we all go to Manhattan together for dinners, parties. We’ll be all punked out. There was a period where we all dyed our hair primary colors.
You’re like the celebrities of Coney Island. The neighborhood has names for us. g8s is Chino. Patrick is Blanquito. I don’t know if I want to know what mine is.