Death, pizza and Coney Island in the snow

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The cold was hostile the day I went to Coney Island. It was hostile — absolutely and unrelentingly mean — all the 10 days I was recently in New York. The cold was so cold it made you angry. There is no reason for it to be that cold in a place that doesn’t have penguins, polar bears or indentured elves.

The sidewalks were frozen and likely will remain frozen until someone with a lot of spare time gets an extension cord and a very big blow dryer. This week, after walking four blocks from the natural history museum to eat mediocre Mexican food, I’m certain the cold turned me sterile for six to eight hours.

On the way to Coney Island — a 30-minute F-train ride from where I stayed in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn — there was the above-pictured graveyard.

I saw it from the train and liked its bleakness. The Internet told me later that it was Old Gravesend Cemetery, which got its first interred around 1658. So it has very old dead people under the ice, snow and arctic gloom. Also, that’s a great name for cemetery: Gravesend. But I think of Gravesend as more of a graveyard than a cemetery. Cemeteries are park-like gardens of memorials and topiaries. They’re nice places, with flowers, picnics and fairway grass. Graveyards are glum and lorn, surrounded by wrought iron and marmoreal angels in disquieting poses.

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The picture above was the first time I’d seen Coney Island in person. It was through a subway-car window on a day with no sun.

We went to Coney Island to eat at Totonno’s, which along with John’s on Bleecker, Grimaldi’s and Patsy’s, is one of New York’s venerable coal-oven pizzerias. The pizza was outstanding and worth the pilgrimage, but it didn’t transcend special-occasion pizza. It’s a long way to Coney Island, and there is a surfeit of superlative pizza in lower Manhattan and nearer Brooklyn — like Best Pizza in Williamsburg — which makes the F-train odyssey unnecessary.

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The Coney Island trip also featured exploration. I ate a Nathan’s hot dog and subsequently felt disgusting. This had nothing to do with the half a pizza I ate 30 minutes earlier. But it’s possible the Nathan’s hot dog was a victim of expectation. I anticipated a religious experience; I got a generic tube of reheated meat paste.

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Coney Island is bleak in the snow. This is the beach, looking like something out of a Flannery O’Connor story.

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The amusement parks were, of course, closed for the winter. But they looked romantic in the snow.

If I were rich and in New York, I’d 1) live in Cobble Hill or the Upper West Side, 2) have a town car driven by my “man,” who would see to my “affairs” and “accounts” and the pressing of my tailored shirts (he would wear sunglasses at night and intimidate curious youths), and 3) make a show of paying too much money to have the amusement-park lights turned on one snowy night. Then, I’d take my supermodel inamorata (she’s French and libertine) there and woo her with my status, class and gentlemanly affluence.

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