Hot Times via Weegee

As for Coney Island on weekends, block after block of beach was so jammed with people that it was barely possible to find a space to sit or to put down your book or your hot dog.

As dievca changed her calendar, she stared at the WeeGee Coney Island Photo – amazed and appalled. Too hot, too many people. This after she was lying sprawled on the sofa eating chilled watermelon in the City’s heat and humidity. Now, in the bedroom, the AC is turned on.

People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake. I can recall only white people spread out on the grass; Harlem began above 116th Street then.

(The New Yorker“Before Air-Conditioning” by Arthur Miller, June 22, 1998, p. 144)

Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig, a photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography.

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