Saturday, August 30, 2008

a trek to coney

Growing up, I thought Coney Island was the quintessential theme park, so it was only natural that Ian and I made it one of our top New York must-see destinations. If you've been thinking it's a sort of old-timey Six Flags or Disneyland, scratch that. It's more of a permanent Sheboygan County Fair, but instead of animals, there's a circus-style freak show. And if it can even be considered a theme park at all, that theme would be seedy. But nonetheless, it's got a charm that keeps people coming back (okay, not charm -- more of a desire to witness the weird). Anyway, there's a rockabilly festival there today, so we hopped on the train in hopes of some good music, sand and sun, and oddities we likely wouldn't see anywhere else, not even on the subway. Since you may never have been to Coney Island, we took some photos so you can feel one step closer. (And if you've been there, leave a comment! I'd love to hear what you thought.)

This is the (in)famous Coney Island boardwalk. It's quite long, extending east past the New York Aquarium, and west past the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball stadium. Behind the souvenir shop, note the Wonder Wheel, the scariest Ferris wheel ever.

We really did try to enjoy said Wonder Wheel (of Death). In the other photo, you may be able to see why it feels so scary: Many of the compartments (each bigger than a VW Bug) are on curved tracks, so they get flung around when the wheel turns. But not to worry -- a sign next to the waiting line assured us that no accidents had occurred on the ride in 85 years. Awesome! Except that it was built 89 years ago. So is that 85 years since the last accident, or a combined total of the 85 years during which a mishap did not occur, the last casualty actually being this July?

The Wonder Wheel is part of Astroland, which was built in 1962 and is the last remaining Coney Island amusement park. There have been many others built there since the 188os, but most of them (including Astroland) burned down. The Cyclone roller coaster (on the right), where Ian once almost met his doom, was built in 1927.

Astroland has tons of the normal amusement park attractions, like bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, arcade games, tilt-a-whirls, kiddie rides, and even a log flume. Here's Ian, having just commemorated the day by committing a federal offense.

A trip to Coney Island should always involve eating at Nathan's. These are the guys who host the annual hot dog-eating contest on the 4th of July. Ian would probably take the train to Coney just to go to Nathan's, but luckily the brand has a nice presence in grocery stores now.

Hot dogs are great, but I'd been thinking about having a mango-on-a-stick since the last time we were at Coney Island, exactly a year ago. They're delicious -- the vendor even offers toppings, like chili powder, salt, and lemon juice. While I was sure I'd like it, Ian was a self-proclaimed disliker-of-mangoes. Until today. (Victory is mine, but he's clearly not ready to admit it yet.)

Did I mention the original impetus for our trip to Coney Island was the rockabilly festival? Well it was, and this year it was held in a fenced-off area away from the beach (last year it was on the boardwalk), and there was an admission fee! So we enjoyed two songs from the other side of the fence.

Though Coney Island is full of weirdos and death-wielding rides (I'm sure of it!), nobody needs to feel endangered. Here are three of the approximately four thousand police officers that we encountered during today's visit.

And if you think Coney Island is just a bunch of metal and hot dogs (and mangoes on sticks), think again. There's a gorgeous garden right in the middle of everything.

This is the Stillwell Ave. station -- it's the last stop on several subway lines, so there are trains everywhere, running on several levels. The station itself is an architectural marvel too, and is one of the MTA's newest. (And if you've never been on a subway train, here's one for reference.)

The ride to Coney makes for lots of sightseeing as well, because most of the Brooklyn stops are above ground. The bridge in the distance is the Verrazano-Narrows, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island (the fake borough).

If you pay attention, the railways have tons of cool structural shapes. The last two shots were taken from the Manhattan Bridge. It has two levels which allow for roads, sidewalks, and tracks to get people back and forth over the East River, and connects Brooklyn (well, Long Island, really) and Manhattan. And in case you were wondering, that really is the Brooklyn Bridge.

No subway ride is complete without some street music. This man, who was at Columbus Circle, was playing the Kora. It has a really distinctive sound that's a mix between a guitar and a didgeridoo; when he started to sing, the sound was incredible. But the station is -- I am not exaggerating -- 300 degrees, so when our train came we said goodbye and headed home. I hope I run into him again.

I hope you enjoyed your vicarious journey! At least you don't have the sunburn to prove it (I'm pretty sure my freckles quintupled in number). I'm off to bed. Good night!


Jenny/Mom said...

That was a wonderful entry! I feel like I've now been to Coney Island. A note to Ian -- I always thought I didn't like mangoes. Then last month, Mary Albright brought some mango salsa to our home. It was FANTASTIC. I've been converted.

Katie Barnes said...

I would love to go to Coney Island sometime. There's nothing like amusement parks and world-famous hot dogs! I went on a ferris wheel like that one at Disney's California Adventure Park. I admit it was quite scary, and I think I experienced a bit of motion sickness. Still fun, though :)