The last piece of advice I had before going to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, was "Don't upset the locals."
"Viiiiie you take my peecture vivout permission?" snarls an old Russian lady, after cursing me in her native tongue. The only Russian I know is 'Glasnost', 'Perestroika' and 'Double Vod-ka' and by her tone I guess she doesn't want to discuss any of those.
I also am pretty sure she won't appreciate a diatribe on how photojournalism relies on catching your subject unaware, so I lie and say I was taking a picture of the building behind her. She stares are me so intently I feel a piece of my soul breaking off and crumbling into dust.
From there on, it is not just my imagination that every other old lady on the beach is giving me stinking looks-The Teenager notices too. There is a price on my head with the elderly women of Brighton beach and I'm scared as they all have big umbrellas.
I continue to document our day at Little Odessa with my camera though. Hey, I've been chased out of town before, it's no big deal, especially when you've done the dreaded death knocks as a reporter. Sometimes then, there was Alsatians involved and I was on The Gurnos estate in Merthyr, so I am pretty robust.
After what seems like about three minutes tanning on the beach, The Teenager announces she is bored. I thought at 16, we had moved on from this hyper attention deficit problem, yet we enter into a bartering phrase about what time we can leave.
"Can we go at 3 p.m. Mum?"
"Can we leave at 3.30?
"I would go sooner that later if I was you."
"And why is that?"
"Cos there is another old Russian lady coming towards us and she's giving you like, proper evil stares."
So we pack up swiftly and make our way down to Coney Island by walking down the shoreline.
On the way a man is practising Yoga and he's doing the crab. On the beach. I am fighting to find the pun.
A mile down the coast and we arrive at Coney. The Russians are replaced by a motely crew of ghetto unfabulous, freaks, schoolkids, tourists and Manhattanites enjoying the 'irony'.
The Teenager and I wander up the boardwalk in the searing sunshine, burgers and doughnuts smoke in the air. We stop and stare at attractions like 'Shoot the freak' with it's real human target. I buy a cowboy hat and get the feeling I should be drunk or on hallucinagenics to fully appreciate the place. Everyone else apparently is-all sipping on what looks like giant plastic bongs full of Margarita. Maybe If I got wrecked I would wear a g-string in public?
We sit down by a seafood stall and watch the colour and craziness go by. I snap away with the camera and The Teenager threatens to get the train home on her own if I don't stop.
"Mother. For god's sake! Why won't you put the camera down?"
I pause thoughtfully and look wistfully at the sky and say: "I guess...it's because...you know, I want to document life wherever I go."
She says "Ugghhh. Because you are a *rolls eyes* bloody journalist?
And I say "Nah. Just because I'm a nosey cow."
And we both laugh until snowcone comes out of our noses.
And because nice moments are rare when your children are Teenagers, I take another picture, but this time in my head.
It's the best one of the day.
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