When I was in Berlin last year, I met a girl from Australia who I stayed in touch with, who happens to be in New York for a couple of weeks. Last Saturday, she took the train down to my stop and we did some exploring, starting with a quick stop at Greenwood Cemetery. The green parrots were strutting around on the ground, eating freshly planted seeds. It was the first time I’d seen them up close. I read that they descend from parrots that escaped from shipping crates at JFK in the 1960s. I took some cemetery pictures with my Ikimono camera, but will have to wait to develop the film to see how they turned out.
We left a sunny, warm Brooklyn where I didn’t even have to wear a jacket and got on the train for Coney Island. When we got off the train, we were surrounded by fog and a cold wind was blowing up from the ocean. It was like we’d gone to an alternate dimension. A seedy carnival in a cloud.
I’m not sure if it is more sketchy than in the past or less, although the early heyday of Coney Island is definitely gone. It’s closer to the Oklahoma State Fair than I was expecting, creaking deathtrap rides and all. The containing cars on the Wonder Wheel rock back and forth menacingly and shady characters half watch the rides they’re controlling. Although that made it much more interesting to me. I read that a new shiny park is supposed to be opening up this summer, but all we saw was construction equipment sitting idly.
We didn’t risk our lives on the contraptions, but instead just meandered along the boardwalk. Despite the wind, there was still a fair crowd and summery hip hop music blasting from somewhere. There were also numerous manifestations of the terrifying Steeplechase Man around corners and on buildings, including a mural with his mouth wide open swallowing fish whole. He looks a lot like the man in the movie Mr. Sardonicus, whose face gets frozen in a skeleton grin when greed drives him to dig up a grave.
We also walked by the famous Cyclone roller coaster, which originally opened in 1927. I got nauseated just watching the abrupt turns and jolting drops that the cars made over the wooden coaster.
I was a little surprised that the Cyclone is basically in a parking lot next to the subway tracks, in the shadow of a massive housing complex. There is no glamor in the Coney Island of 2010. There was, however, a sense of the surreal, mysterious, and just weird watching the nearly 100-year-old coaster with fog everywhere, not knowing if people were screaming or if that was just the screech of the tracks, so close geographically to where I live and type this now, but an unfathomable mental distance.
We walked along the beach, getting sand in our shoes as an unintentional souvenir. It was actually a lot cleaner than I’d expected, although I’m sure it’s much different at the height of summer. We also walked down the pier over the ocean, and much of the shore completely disappeared from our sight.
We then caught the train back to Park Slope, where the station was still labeled BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit), from when the boroughs all had their own subway companies. I may have to go back to Coney Island for the summer Mermaid Parade, as I would be interested to compare Coney Island on a busy day to this that I experienced in the fog. However, I wouldn’t have wanted it any different for my furthest visit south in Brooklyn.