"This used to be the grandest part of town.
Now it's all scuffed up, subsiding into the ground"
Faded Glamour by Animals that swim is as close to the perfect pop song as anything I've ever heard. Its description of a place once buzzing with life is quintessentially English so it's strange that it rings through my head as I step onto the boardwalk at Coney Island.
I love this place. Nothing about it appears organised or uniform. There seems to be nothing plane or plumb. But you can feel the romance in every loose board of wood and the charm in every rusted rail. The smells are almost tangible. The sea air, the fried food and the grease from the fairground combine to summon up memories of youth. I feel very alive here with a heightened sense of past and future.
Coney Island has slipped from being the place to be to being an antiquated curiosity. One frequently threatened by the destructive impulses of progress and homogenisation.
Alphabet City in Manhattan has gone the other way. Once spoken of as a no-go area for tourists, gentrification has been good to this place and, sitting on the terrace outside 7A, it feels like it's populated by a microcosm of all the different strains of cool the world has to offer.
When the sun shines, 7A (on the corner of... Oh, I don't need to tell you) is a beautiful spot to sit and engage in some people watching. It's Friday night and we're getting some sustenance for the night ahead. My burger fulfills this roll amply. There's a great "meaty" patty that comes with awesome sauteed mushrooms and lettuce and tomato. I choose to add monterey jack cheese and ask them to hold the cress (I've nothing against the flavour but I can't abide the texture). It really is stunning. There's a lot going on in there but it's all good and results in a heck of a satisfying burger. Across from me Bobs, looking stunning in her new wayfarers, has cheese and spinach ravioli and gives it a huge thumbs-up. We have a couple of beers and some red wine and it all comes to around 50 bucks with tip. Good times!
Oh, I'm still exclusively listening to music released by Matador records in the mid to late nineties. I'm currently becoming dangerously obsessed with the mighty Chavez.