09 Jan The Master of Half 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 Ruby’s. 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 Ruby’s 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 Ruby’s 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 I’d 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 I’d 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 Ruby’s Bar and Grill. There was always a party at Ruby’s, 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! It’s 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.
After years of fading away in illness, the Master passed away yesterday. Although the life seemed to be draining from his frail physical frame, his eyes still shown with the most beautiful brightness and laughter. He was one of my best Coney Island friends. Most of my fondest Coney Island memories include the wonderful enthusiasm of this fabulous man.
The Master embodied the Coney Island of today. It will never be the same without the Master…. but the never ending Coney Island party goes on and the laughter and energy that the Master shared with us will always radiate from the Coney Island Boardwalk.
“WWAAYYYpppaaa! It’s Part-time!” will always resound in my heart! I love you Master.