An excerpt from “Shot Dead Cathedral,” by Cody Melville, written 1987.
All summer I haven’t had a chance to get to Coney Island. Going there is always a favorite loner event for me. It’s not the Coney Island my parents knew, prospering, packed all the time. I remember going as a kid with my father and two older brothers. It still had some glory then. It was amazing magic; it left some great scenes for my brain to recall. Today the place is worn and tired, same scenes just beat. No crowd covers the boardwalk anymore; the rides are antique and screaming for attention. It’s sad but I like the sadness. I’m fascinated by the left-behind bits and pieces of the dead era, the evidence of one-time prosperity.
I like to do things alone. I’m a great loner; I never enjoy things as much in the company of other people. Sarah also is a great loner, a big thinker. She absorbs everything, then one day she’ll shock the hell out of you and play it all back. Two loners together, Sarah and I, went to Coney Island. It was getting late in the season, and the day was cold, and the crowds were small. We skip the rides, and end up in a bar I still don’t know the name of on the boardwalk. The front, a large garage-type door when opened, exposes the entire bar to the beach, the boardwalk, and the incredible water. This place is more like another time than any other here. It’s old and beat, but inviting and comfortable for whoever comes along. Crammed in are old tables, half of which have the chairs turned up on them.
We sit at the long bar. There’s Coney Island history hung up all behind it. Post cards and photos from summers gone a long time ago. The people in the bar I guess are the regulars; we were the strangers, although we never felt not welcome. The jukebox was loud, and the records too are from another time. A lady who looks like she’s in her sixties dropped some coins in the slot, a haunting slow song from the Big Band era sweetly screams out of the box. The muted trumpet blows a sad intro, then a woman singer sings about the love that got away. The lady dances with an old man in a green maintenance suit. She’s wearing a dress that at one time she would have considered for evenings only. Her makeup is as thick as her brown wig, and she dances with ease to the record that she without a doubt knows better than herself.
Next to the cash register behind the bar is a photo that catches my eye. It’s a shot of a middle-aged man from the waist up. I tell Sarah that if my hair continues to recede and I live long enough, that photo is what I’ll look like in twenty years. She doesn’t share my vision and laughs at how I see myself, then accuses me of having had too many beers to influence any accurate glance into my future. She may be right; still I swear my future face stares at me from behind the bar with Polaroid accuracy.
We walk along the boardwalk after the bar; the sun is going down, and we’re drunk. Everyone is speaking Spanish except us. I knew that that would be the best time I would ever have had with her.
Cody Melville is a singer-songwriter, wrote four bad books, eventually forced by circumstances into practicing law. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9RjPtvGuPA