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Coney Island

(Stock photo credit: Boston Public Library on Flickr)

My grandmother, Marilyn Tanzer, was a knockout.

“I used to be a very pretty girl, you know,” she would regularly announce to her four grandchildren. Grandma was voted “Prettiest Face” back in high school and had pictures to prove it. But nobody needed proof.

Legend had it that the first time she trained her long-lashed eyes on her future husband, Sidney, she ran straight into a closet and refuse to come out. She was aghast at the thought of going out in public with him.

Sidney was decked out in waist-high, bright yellow rain boots, and that was just not acceptable for the glamorous Marilyn. But they were married for over fifty years, until her death in 2011, so I guess they worked things out.

Her beauty was outshone only by her spunk. She often recounted how she decided to get working papers at age fourteen, falsifying her age so she could earn money of her own—which she spent mostly on riding Coney Island’s famed roller coaster, the Thunderbolt, as often as she pleased. So I like to think that my own crazy New York City misadventures—armed (until last year) with my very own fake ID—were inspired by Grandma.

She taught me that you don’t have to take it when you think someone is treating you shabbily, and that here’s no substitute for “telling it like it is.” She did just that all her life, combining scathing honesty with blistering wit. Even just before she died, she told a nurse she was unhappy with, “I’m gonna beat you up on Avenue U!”

I’d like to think that Grandma’s wit, her edge, her fierce commitment to honesty even in the most uncomfortable of situations, have all rubbed off on me. As an aspiring journalist, I’m convinced that having such a tough cookie as a role model will serve me very well.

Myles Tanzer (22)
Staten Island, NY