Monday, August 06, 2007
Driven by blog peer pressure by trusty getto, I took the time on my recent trip to New York to check out Coney Island. My only knowledge of the place is the distant memory of The Warriors and the many grainy sepia images that always accompany cable channel shows on roller coasters. The first thing we saw was the grand-daddy of all roller coasters, The Cyclone. My son and I immediately got in line. Since on the first ride, we were in the middle of the car, we exercised our four dollar ride again option and that is when this picture was taken.
For as small as it was, the Cyclone was one of the more frightening coasters I have ever been on, especially since I don’t like the wooden bone shaking type. The Cyclone is not just rickety, it is steep and fast for such a little looking coaster.
Coney Island itself was both more and less than I expected. Astroland, which may or may not become some resort condo development, was no trashier than dozen of traveling carnivals I have thoroughly enjoyed, albeit it’s a permanent fixture. After two trips on the Cyclone, we weren't ready for any more carnival rides, so we pressed on to the beach. The boardwalk was suitably wide and grand but suffered from some serious maintenance issues. Loose boards and open holes made walking a hazard, so I have no idea how other people kept tempting tetanus by walking on it barefoot.
The food was varied and delicious. We ate the mandatory Nathan’s hot dog even though we could have gotten the same thing at every turnpike rest area in Jersey. But it just seems better on the boardwalk.
Every couple of feet there was some sort of live entertainment. There was a jazz group of Messianic Jews (a concept my kid couldn't quite comprehend), a karaoke kiosk that I was dragged away from before I could sign up, and a very good Cuban band with a large crowd watching folks dance to the tunes. Down the way, we could see a stadium full of people watching the Coney Island Coasters play. Truly something for everybody to enjoy on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
People-watching is the real main attraction, particularly if you are fond of tattoo ink. There were some really awesome tatts on display. I kept worrying about crossing the line from glancing into gawking. One girl had great art that kept disappearing into her bikini only to emerge somewhere else. My wife expressed concern about the shape these images would transform into as age and gravity take their toll.
The surrounding town has obviously seen better days. There were way too many boarded up storefronts and the places that were open made the tourist shops in other towns look like Neiman Marcus. Prime beachfront property was being used as a parking lot for the large collection of the proverbial short buses I have ever seen. It seems there is a lot of land and rehab opportunity available with destroying what little charm remains.
I appreciate the function and history of Coney Island. It’s great to have a beautiful beach just a short distance from the city with direct public transportation access. I’m not beach person but I’m glad I got to see this historic gem of an older era before some developer turns it into a glitzy reminder of what it once was.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Is Coney Island a run-down blight or a treasured piece of Americana?