Coney Island, Baby

For today’s update I will will be passing by the facts: I’m sick, it’s the anniversary of 9/11 and New Orleans is underwater.

Yesterday Damon took a vacation day. His off days are Thursday and Friday, so we don’t ever have a full day together. But we did yesterday. We celebrated by sleeping in and then jumping on a train to Coney Island. It was such a freaking fun day. Here are some vignettes:

Things we ate:
— corn on the cob (me)
— clam strips (Damon)
— fried shrimp (I start, Damon finishes)
— onion rings (Damon)
— french fries (I start, Damon finishes)
— ice cream (Damon)
— Nathan’s hot dog (Damon)
— caramel apple (I start, Damon finishes)
— beer (Damon)

We walked on the beach and waded a bit in the ocean. Or rather I waded a bit. Damon stayed at the edge so that he wouldn’t have soggy, sandy sneakers all day. The people watching is unbeatable. There’s a wonderful combination of hipsters, Russian immigrants (my favorites are the old men in their bikini bottoms), families and a sprinkling of tourists. I think it’s probably pretty thin on tourists since it takes almost an hour to get there on the subway, and there’s so much to do right in Manhattan.

I found what looked like a breast implant on the sand but Damon said “Don’t touch it!” and then told me it was a jellyfish. We saw many more jellyfish implants after that.

After putting in some good coastline time we headed over to the rides. It sounds lame, but I got such a thrill out of watching Damon ride the rides. Because no way was I getting on the things he wanted to ride. There was one called Break Dance where the cars spin you at warp speed in about three different ways at the same time. Oh, and they’re tipped forward. Imagine The Rambler, and then imagine something 10 times wilder. 95% of the people I watched ride that thing looked positively sick and wobbled off like they could really use a stretcher. Damon, on the other hand, rode it with a huge grin, waving at me and making faces. He’s got amazing equilibrium, and no matter how much it tossed him around he was always able to turn in his seat and find me instantly and give a little wave.

So we tested that ability by moving on to a ride where they strap you into a harness on a wheel that goes way up in the air and then spins around, hangs you upside down and backward, dangles you face down 30 feet in the air, all seeminly at random. So I watched my husband spinning upside down over the pavement. Everyone else on the ride was clinging to their harnesses, but Damon stretched his arms and legs out wide. Which was very funny because it made the woman next to him scream, and nearly did me too. Once again his strange ability to maintain was demonstrated when he got off the ride and then told me the things he’d seen me doing on the ground.

After a few rides we decided to head out to the end of the pier, as the sun was going down. But just a few yards down it we were hit by this awful stench. A little investigation showed us that there was a small, dead whale that had washed up on the beach. The smell led me to believe it didn’t beach and die, since it wouldn’t be so ripe so fast. I think it was a baby, it was about the size of a large sea lion. It was terribly sad to see, as there was at least one visible slash wound that I took for a propeller cut. It was drawing quite a crowd and police and parks services showed up in no time. We decided not to dwell and moved off in the other direction to see the sun go down.

All the rides lit up as soon as it got dusky and that meant it was time to hit the Wonder Wheel. It’s an amazing ferris wheel with two rings of cars, one on the very outside of the circumfrence and then a smaller ring within. The inner cars are on a sort of figure eight track. That means that when the wheel passing a certain point, both rising and descending, that your car will go sliding down and backward (or forward) about 10 feet, hit the stop point and then swing back and forth at that point. This can make quite an impression on the descent because it happens quite high in the rotation and it feels like your car is about to fly off the front of the wheel. I was very very brave about the whole thing in that I didn’t cry at all.

After that Damon took one more turn on the Break Dance and then we capped the evening off with a round of mini golf. I lost, but I should have won. I choked on the 7th hole and lost my lead, to be beat by 1 point at the end. I love mini golf.

We came home then and collapsed on the couch to watch Hoosiers. Damon gets all teary every time Gene Hackman says “I love you guys.”

What a perfect day. It was great fun at every turn, but on a deeper level it was one of those days where all the junk gets stripped away and we felt so totally ourselves. And the beautiful thing about that is that it reminded me just how much I love my husband. I mean, I know that. But I felt so lucky to have him, to be me, to be healthy and priveleged. That’s what it means to be happy. At least to me.

One hilarious note about Coney Island: It’s still got that sort of 1950s style in many places – murals, facades of drive ins, etc. But the current style is definitely turning to hip hop. Most of the ride operators were black guys with big gold chains and jerseys. There’s one ride called The Polar Express (I’ve seen it lots of places and it’s always called that). The backdrop is painted with polar bears and glaciers. But where some of it was worn away and needed repair they’ve painted in portraits of Tupac and Biggie. Did I mention that I forgot to put the memory card in my camera? Kicking myself still today.

There’s also an attraction called “Shoot the Freak.” There’s a drop off and empty space between two buildings and you can look down about 15 feet from the boardwalk railing. Down there is a sort of junkyard scene. You pay a guy three bucks and he hands you a paintball gun with 15 shots in it and then he calls out the freak. Some guy comes out from behind a big umbrella and runs around and you get to try to shoot him. The barker pitches the game by shouting things like “Shoot him in the head! Shoot him anywhere you want! He likes it!” I did not try to shoot the freak, but I admit that I watched someone else shoot him.


3 responses to this post.

  1. When we were up in New York with Geek Love this summer, all the kids from the freak show came to see it and Cap’n Dave, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island insisted onb giving us a guided tour of the negihborhood. It was absolutely amazing – Jim Stacy (owner of the Starbar in Atlanta) actually cried. One of the best afternoons I can remember in the city. And the cyclone! That there is such a thing as a municipal roller coaster generating revenue for the city – and it’s on such a confined space? I think any city with 3 acres to spare should build one. It so beats parking meters…


  2. I have such great memories of Conney Island! My dad grew up not far from there and we used to go a lot when I was a kid. My dad used to always brag about riding the cyclone – at that age I was all about the Tilter World myself. One time, I made my Aunt Barbara ride it so many times, she got sick. 🙂


  3. You guys come on up! You and Damon can ride the scary, spinny rides and I’ll ride the baby rides with Roan. Ryan can join either pair as he pleases.


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