Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New York: Cop jokes and old-time flavor at the Coney Island Nathan's

Text and photo by George Molé

Professional duties took me to the Coney Island section of Brooklyn today and, not one to waste an opportunity, I soon found myself on line at the original Nathan's, Surf and Stillwell Avenues, New York's hot dog cathedral.  I was with another cop, both of us in uniform.

A frail-looking older man, thin, a bit stooped, wearing a baseball cap, moving with the help of a wheeled walker, was in the place.  His walker, parts of which seemed to be covered in leopard-skin, had an American flag flying from the handlebar.  He said something in a low voice, and I asked for a repeat.

"Tell me a cop joke I haven't heard before," he demanded.

We were stumped, and said so.  "All right, here's one," he said.

"A cop pulls a guy over.  He looks at the guy's license, and tells him, 'Hey, this says you're supposed to be wearing glasses, but you're not.  You're getting a summons.'

"The guy says, 'Wait a minute, I have contacts!'

"The cop says, 'I don't care who you know, you're getting a summons.'"

We all laughed.

"One day," the man went on, "the Pope tells his chauffeur, 'I want to know what it's like to drive.  Let's switch for today.'  So they do.

"The Pope's not driving too well, weaving around, and he gets pulled over by a cop.  The chauffeur, who's in the back seat, says to the cop, 'Do you know who you're stopping here?'

"The cop goes back to his car and calls the sergeant.  'Sarge, I got a problem.  I think I pulled over somebody very important.'  The sergeant asks, "Who is he and what makes you think he's so important?'

"'I don't know who he is, Sarge,' the cop says.  'But the Pope is his chauffeur.'"

Okay, this guy is good.  "Are you a Coney Island lifer?" I asked.

"Yeah, I was born in Sea Gate in 1935," he said.

"What do you think of the changes they're doing here?" I asked.  Coney has been the focus of a lot of construction--and a tsunami of vicious destruction--by the developers to whom the city gave free rein to remake the historic amusement district.

"The changes are good, but they were going too far," he said.  "But I'd like to see them put in a bowling alley.  Maybe a pool hall."

"At least they saved Ruby's," I observed.  Ruby's is a classic old Coney Island bar that had been on the verge of being closed by the developers, only to be reprieved at the eleventh hour--but not without being forced to modernize their atmospheric place.

"Yes, that's good," he replied glumly.  "But it lost some of the old-time flavor."

Losing the old-time flavor--there's a lot of that going around lately.  The old Yankee Stadium.  Too much of the old Coney IslandPrime Burger, the lovely old Midtown eatery.  Our old Constitution.  So many of the old things that gave our lives flavor are melting away like snow in spring.

"Okay," the old man said, "an avid golfer finally gets sick of his wife.  He pulls a golf club out of his bag and hits her--one, two, three, four times, and she's dead.  The cops come, and the captain tells the guy, 'Well, you're going to jail, of course, and we're also going to alert the media.'

"The guy says, 'Listen, could you tell them I did it in three strokes?'"

By this time my partner had ordered and I was next.  "Excuse me, I have to order now," I told the old man.  And when I turned around again he was gone.


If you want to be able to remember some old-time things, including this old guy's old jokes, buy yourself a copy of Secrets, Tips, and Tricks of a Powerful Memory: The Memory Shock Oh-So-Easy How-to-Remember User's Guide for Your Brain by Barry Reitman--foreword by yours truly. It's now available on Amazon, in print and Kindle editions--click here to take a look. And if you want to read my foreword--which will definitely make you want to buy the book-- click here.

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At July 4, 2012 at 4:17 PM , Anonymous Barry Reitman said...

Loved the column and the jokes, George. And thank you so much for the plug. After all this help you've given me, I think we should be 50/50 partners in the profits from the book. To date, you owe me $1,076.52.

At July 8, 2012 at 12:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful and sad at the same time. Great jokes, love the older man. Hope he appears in your life again.

At July 8, 2012 at 10:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read your link to Coney Island, did they manage to save the boardwalk? Or is it doomed to be cement?

At July 9, 2012 at 4:29 PM , Blogger George Molé said...

I don't know where the boardwalk situation stands at the moment--I haven't seen too much updated information lately on the whole Coney Island preservation movement. I think some of the steam has gone out of that movement, and understandably so--numerous historic buildings have been destroyed by the developers, with the permission of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. And those who care about the area's heritage have been powerless to stop it. (There have been some small victories, like the landmarking of the beautiful Shore Theater.) Take a look at the excellent blog Amusing the Zillion (http://amusingthezillion.com/) for more detail on this heartbreaking story. And I'll be doing some writing on it as well.

At July 9, 2012 at 6:21 PM , Anonymous Diosa said...

Thanks George for bringing back fond memories of my youth. Growing up in Coney Island, I was fortunate enough to have the beach, Luna Park and of course Nathan's in my backyard. Many a summer day was spent at the beach soaking up the sun (who cared about SPF) and savoring the fare of Nathan's.

At July 9, 2012 at 9:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's ashame, it seems developers always get what they want, doesn't matter what the people want. Reminds me of Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi.

Would love to see movies on the beach, great idea. The video reminded me of going to Asbury Park when I was a kid, except Coney Island looks like it's on a much grander scale.


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