Friday, August 7, 2009

Mermaid Avenue

For the first time, I took a quick walk along desolate Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. Woody Guthrie moved here in 1943. He wrote a song about it that begins, "Mermaid Avenue that's the street, Where the fast and slow folks meet, Where the cold ones meet the hot ones, Just a block from Coney's beach."

The song is full of borscht, beer, chop suey, and bagels. I didn't see many of the things Guthrie wrote about, but I passed the remnants of the Terminal Hotel, its windows plywooded shut. I saw the Jiffy Cleaners and a place that gives away free phones and sells hot bagels.

The Friscia Pharmacy announced its 90th anniversary with bunting and glittery garlands, faded by the Coney sun. I went inside, searching for some 90-year-old something.

I managed to find this handsome couple--a springless scale and a stamp dispenser. But mostly it's just a regular mom-and-pop drugstore, full of the usual headache pills, suntan lotions, and Mad Libs.

Jimmy Prince, the longtime butcher of Major Markets Meats, is gone along with his shop, which closed earlier this year after being in business since 1932. A new shop has opened in the space, but Prince's hand-painted signs are still there, urging people to keep Coney clean.

Gowanus Lounge
visited Prince in February and speculated that this neighborhood will vanish with the Coney rezoning: "there is a developing pattern of speculators buying up dozens of properties, probably with the hope of demolishing the homes or businesses and rebuilding under as-of-right zoning that will allow development much larger than what is currently there."

The Coney that appears in the Major Meats mural, a light and airy Coney, hunkered low to the ground, is going to vanish. It may take Mermaid Avenue with it. We'll see. As Guthrie wrote at the end of his song, "Mermaid Avenue, she's a nervous jerk, But, still, she's hard to beat."


Mykola Dementiuk said...

Did you get a chance to see these old Coney Island pics?


Mykola Dementiuk said...

Here's some more Coney Island stuff


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Is that a painting of the original Thunderbolt? With the house below that Mae Timpano lived in?

Looks like it. Long gone.