n honor and celebration of Leandra’s rapidly growing #lovesummerhateeverythingelse hashtag-cum-revolution, I, someone who admittedly prefers the fall, went out on an important mission to explore the summeriest place I could think of to see if I, too, could catch the summer-love contagion. An hour-and-twenty-minute subway ride from Manhattan later, I arrived on Coney Island.
As a first-timer, I was genuinely shocked by its size (so much room for activities!) and the sheer number of things to do. The summer energy was radiating off the pavement (or was that just the high-80s-and-sunny weather?) and nearly everyone I saw seemed to be glowing in what I can only assume was a mixture of sweat and true elation.
I wondered about the people who work there. Between the theme park, food stands, shops, boardwalk and more, there are so many employees and entertainers who keep it all going. Do they relish in the summery goodness or get sick of it? Would they rather be somewhere else or nowhere else? How long do they plan to stay?
Nine workers graciously allowed me to bother them while on the job to ask these questions and more, and the results are the following slices-of-life: a behind-the-scenes look at the people who perhaps embody our beloved hashtag more than anyone else. As for me, I’ll definitely be back soon to bask in summer a little bit longer.
“I make a lot from the bonuses in this job, so whenever I have a day off, I always go shopping and buy new shit that I don’t need. I wear a lot of skateboarder clothes … I like all the fuckin’ fuckboy brands. I used to skateboard way back in the day, but I stopped when a bunch of bandwagon kids started hopping on the Supreme wagon, like, ‘Oh, dude, skateboarding’s so cool, I wanna do it now.’ All the posers.”
“I recently moved and found this picture of myself from years ago. I brought it out because I want people to see it. Can you guess which one I am? I’ve been working here 18 years. I used to operate the rides, and just to see the smiles on kids’ faces, that makes me happy. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else right now; I’d be right here.”
“I’m trying to get into psychology or social work. Even working here, I contribute to that goal by asking people if they need me to take their garbage, communicating with people and trying to help anyone out as best as I possibly can. I’m passionate about trying to help. My favorite part is seeing everybody celebrating at times like the 4th of July, whether it be dancing, looking at the fireworks, or people dressing up as mermaids or something. You find a whole range of people and characters here.”
“I’m from Spain, but I’ve been living in New York for two months now. I wanted to experience the United States and improve my English. I got the opportunity to work here, so I can stay in New York for the whole summer. I like so much — dancing, museums, musicals, theater, going to other cities and spending time with other cultures.”
“I like meeting different people here, people from all over the world. I also love music, and we have concerts on the beach, so it’s fun to go to those. I listen to everything — jazz, rock, rap. I play guitar. My friend is trying to get me to join a band, and I think I might do it.”
Luis, 53 (middle)
“We are called the Men of Salsa. We continue the spirit of Latin music here by teaching salsa class for free. It’s a culture we don’t want to give up. I’m here Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 3 in the afternoon — I’m even here in the rain. I’ve been salsa dancing since I was five years old. I’ve known these guys 35 years. If anyone is having a hard day, tell them to come by.”
“I love crazy New York in the summertime. I’ve been working here for 20 years, but I used to operate the roller coaster. I had to get hip surgery though, so they put me on this for now. When I’m not here, I’m trucking.”
“My co-workers bring a different kind of energy and make the day go by fast. I love enjoying a nice hot day on the beach here. But I’d rather be on a cruise to Bermuda.”
“I’m a bartender and manager — you see everything as a bartender here. My wife, Veronica, and I also run a non-profit organization together, Coney Island Autism Angels, which we started four years ago. Our daughter is autistic. She was diagnosed at the age of two, and she’s 17 now. There was no awareness on Coney Island. There were no activities for children on the spectrum. We raise money to help parents with bookbags, back-to-school supplies, Christmas, Thanksgiving. We also have swim play for the kids every Monday at the YMCA. We’re very small, but we are a registered 501(c). We try to help families in need.”
Photos by Hannah Meader.