Sunday, October 26, 2008
A Visit to Coney Island
I had a tonnage of school prep to take care of, so I did what I've done in the past when I need to get work done: go to Coney Island.
I don't know what it is about boardwalks this time of year. Maybe we're close enough to summer where we can feel the pulse of good times still in the atmosphere. Maybe it's the fact that we're not surrounded by crowds and can actually take pleasure in looking at the sea, while listening to the clunk of shoes hitting the wood. We were here last for the Mermaid Parade, at the end of June. We went with our friends Michael and Luis; we had a great day, but it was hard not to feel a little beaten down by the throng. We actually found an escape route: if we hopped on the line to the Cyclone we'd be able to get to the boardwalk, where we could breathe and move at least. Well, we really hadn't prepared ourselves for how rough the ride was. After all, the Cyclone was built in the twenties, long before shock absorbers and the like were built into the design of such things. Actually, I think people in the 20s might have wanted to be shaken awake, and there I was, 80 years later, pressing the soles of my sneakers against the bottom of the car, bewildered. I felt every jump of the thing in my back. The ride was sublime, especially before we dashed down the first slope (that view of the ocean!), but who knew I'd barely be able to walk two days later, when I was teaching a writing workshop in Amherst?
Anyway, some of my happiest times have been solitary trips to empty beach resorts in the fall. Wildwood a few years ago. Brighton in the U.K. a few years before that. Atlantic City. Ocean City. Today turned out to be one of those trips, and it was made even better by the fact that my students are writing amazing work. They're clearly trying to knock each other out. There was something immensely satisfying and calming about sitting on one of the boardwalk benches, story in hand, feet up on the railing, the beach and sea ahead of me. Tankers in the near distance. Autumn sun. And that smell in the air: fish and ions and minerals.
The photos above: The old Child's Restaurant, at West 21st Street and the Boardwalk, now a skating rink in summer: Lola Staar's Dreamland. Fabers Fascination on Surf Avenue. The Polar Bears, who swim every Sunday, a little after noon, all year long, whatever the weather. The Parachute Ride, which plays an indescribably mournful chord when the wind blows through it in winter. (Or is that from Deno's Wonder Wheel?)
I finished marking up the second student story on the subway ride from Stillwell Avenue to Union Square, and there I was in the happy park, buying my Moose for Obama and Wolves for Obama T-shirts.
I loved New York today.