When a post card cost 3 cents.
July 29, 2012—
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—-I never thought I would see her again.
In the early autumn of 2007 I said so long and see ya’ later to Ruby’s Bar & Grill. It was an amicable parting. She wanted to dress up and move into a higher plane. I wasn’t getting any younger and I still liked old stuff like hearing the Drifters sing “Up on the Roof” on her jukebox that skipped a beat in the thick summer air.
Ruby’s opened in 1934 and became the oldest bar on the Coney Island Boardwalk. She closed in November, 2010.
There was no fancy exit threshold. Ruby always opened up to the great possibilities of the Atlantic Ocean with the bar’s tough canopy of a garage door. Up and down. Hot and cold. Crazy love.
When she closed, she left behind booze drenched nuts, screwdrivers and mustered saws, all of which seemed to fix rusty hearts. My appreciation of Ruby along with some colorful history is archived Dec. 14, 2010 on this site.
Last Sunday I returned to Coney Island to walk the boardwalk and take in a Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball game.
Hot damn in cold water.
Ruby’s was back.
She looked better. She sounded happier. The walls were freshly painted in sea blue and bright blue and pink cotton candy hung over the open air grill.
The bar was packed with new friends and the Coney Island Lager was ice cold. There were hipsters, youngsters and on the ocean side of the bar you couldn’t miss bikers from The Sons of Anarchy and the Italians (New York City).
On a cloudless 85 degree day they had to be the only people on the boardwalk who wore black leather vests. I later saw the Italians bikers throw out a first pitch at Italian-American Heritage night at the Cyclones game. I can’t imagine bikers of any ethnicity throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.
The jukebox played some different songs, including Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Bill Withers “Lovely Day.”
One couple walked into Ruby’s and ordered a couple of beers and a couple of shots of tequila. I was only at the bar for 45 minutes, but before I left she asked, “Are we on a date?” He nodded his head yes and they embraced.
Hearts were beating under the boardwalk.
And I still heard “Up on the Roof.”
With the end of every relationship, you are cast adrift for a period of reassessment. Where is your self? Who are you when you are alone? If your are lucky, you come around again like a carousel and find your center. This is what happened to Ruby. This is what happened to me.
Ruby’s was rescued in part by the New York Economic Development Corporation (EDC) which helped renovate Coney Island. While I was in New York I read a New York Times piece that said attendance at the Coney Island amusement parks increased to 640,000 in 2011, up from 400,000 in 2010 according to the EDC.
I’ve been to Coney Island a half dozen times since the 2001 Mermaid Parade, and last week the world around Ruby’s was as busy as I have ever seen it. I also saw more families at Coney Island than I had in the past. A beautiful woman can do that to you.
Ruby’s then and now.
I noticed cool offshoot activities like “Coney Island Flicks On The Beach,” a weekly summer series that concludes on Aug. 6 with free screenings of “Mission Impossible” and “Ghost Protocol.” Movies begin at 8:30, following 90 minutes of mirth from area DJs and the Coney Island Dancers.
I also chatted with folks from the must-visit Coney Island History Project. That group’s 2nd Annual History Day takes place between 1-6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Live acts include Benjamin Ickies & the Coney Island Screamers and Lady Circus. Anyone who wears 1920s clothing snags a free ride on the Wonder Wheel.
All such good news. The past does not always have to be old.
New York City bought 6.9 acres of Coney Island and granted a 10-year-lease to Central Amusement International , a division of Zamperia Amusements International, an Italian manufacturer of amusements that has done work for Disney. The city invested $6.6 million and Central Amusements dropped $30 million.
So this is how Ruby came back. Her renovation was mandated in the new lease.
A new lease on life, a new lease on love.