03 Aug The Master of Coney Island
The thought never crossed my mind to question the title of the man known as the Master. I met him on a snowy winter day in March. Sitting on a crate, in the snow. The Master was touching up the paint job on the colorful food signs at Rubys. With a paper plate pallet, he was touching up the ketchup on the hot dogs, filling in the corn kernels which the sea air had worn away, painstakingly making sure the salt specks on the french fries sparkled as the new season was approaching. The Master introduced himself to me as I waited for the landlord to arrive to look at the small space next to Rubys which was for rent. The Master gave me a rickety folding chair to sit in. I watched him paint in the snow as I waited for the landlord, and awaited the moment that the beautiful nine years of owning the shop next to Rubys was to unfold. My friendship with the Master was to be one of my most cherished aspects of that experience.
There was only one person Id ever seen question the title of the master, and that was my sassy 90 year old Grandmother,Virginia Pasquale. Nothing gets past VP (as my brother calls her). So upon being introduced she asked with a discerning look on her face so what are you the Master of? This may have been the only time Id ever witnessed speechlessness from the Master. After and awkward pause Virginia asked of Coney Island? To which the Master replied No, no, no, only half.: He was the Master of half of Coney Island. Apparently it was our half
For years before we met, I had seen Master (whose real name was Genaoro Venegas Rivera) on the boardwalk, enthusiastically inviting anyone and everyone to join the party at Rubys Bar and Grill. There was always a party at Rubys, as far as the Master was concerned and he was always the life of that Party. The Master would burst into my store (at least once a day) and shout at the top of his lungs WWWAAYYYppaaaaa! Its Party-time!!! He spent most of his life on the Coney Island boardwalk, always wore a sailor hat and had a zest for life and a sparkle in his eyes. (The above is part of a piece I wrote about Master after his death in 2009)
Missing you, Master. The boardwalk has never been the same.