Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Coney Island of the Soul: The Boardwalk on a Late Summer's Eve

What is it about the inexorable approach of the end of summer. Even though I love the fall, and even the winter, when it is not too intense, the approach of the week before labor day brings a little bit of ennui, a rootlessness and sense of endings, of movings on..

For most households that include children, adolescents and young adults, when this time of year comes around the scent of salt water, seaweed and suntan lotion begins to curdle and set into the faint whiff of the Death March to Bataan..our household is not much different.

So, the other night, we were driven by the urge to hit the beach, to pretend it was Forever Summer. We walked the Boardwalk at Coney Island. First stop, Ruby's Bar and Grille, just a stumble away from Shoot the Freak!

We got 2 cups of Coors Light and split a piece of corn on the cob. As we sat down, watching the boardwalk parade, we started chatting with one of the managers at Rudy's, which was founded, he said, in 1934. After Ruby became ill, his daughter, son-in-law and grandkids came on the scene to help to run the business. After Rudy passed away in 2000, they took over. One family member, a mortgage broker 5 days a week in Nassau county, makes his way to Coney Island from April through October to serve the summer crowds. We talked a little about the pending real estate moves expected to change the face of the boardwalk forever. Although the current economic downturn may delay for a while the Atlantic-Citification of Coney Island, it is no doubt something that will happen eventually, changing the funky face of Brooklyn's southern shoreline. I can recall hearing of policy and business discussions for years and years about the vision for Times Square improvement. Finally it happened, and the funky charm has now been replaced by corporations, branding, and higher prices. No doubt the boardwalk will not be far behind. The hawkers on the boardwalk were selling their rosary-necklaces and their neon light sticks. The spinning lights expanding in the distance to un petite aurora borealis of the mind.

Next up, we strolled further and encountered the weekly Boardwalk rave, djs driving the dancing crowd onward, as darkness fell, and the crowd settled into the moment. We hung out a bit, getting into the groove. The beat infectious, the crowd waxing and waning and waxing again, pulling in passersby, as the djs worked their magic.

We strolled further, backtracking a bit now, and, even though we were sans children, I was pulled in by the claw machine. Feeding quarters, alternately cursing fate or fortune, until I came up with a prize for My Lovely Date.

Since we hit the boardwalk and restaurants in Brighton now and then, we decided to keep tonite's visit strictly to Coney Island. Back on the street, as luck would have it, we came across Steve Power's Gitmo Better, a political statement that is part thrill ride, part side show attraction. Climb the stairs, feed a buck into the slot, and wrestle with your conscience. The spongebob and squidward logo is a stroke of sheer genius and the fact that this has been discussed in the NY Times, The Economist and the blogosphere at large, doesn't leave much left to say. However, it is in the details and nuances of this artwork that you get the real flavor of the statement. For example, the blue blazer with the American flag pin hanging neatly on a hanger, while the interrogator has changed into his work clothes of a pulled up hoodie, suggests, whatever the politics of this incident, that the Grand Inquisitor here is just a working stiff, whether for Blackwater or the Central Intelligence Agency, just a guy doing his job. Nuff said and worth the cost of admission.

After having lectured our son about the calorie counts when we bought him a Burger King the other day (you gotta wonder, which number you would prefer to be higher, the calorie count or the price) , we decided to forgo Nathan's and we made our way to Taci's Beyti on Coney Island Avenue near Avenue P for wonderful shepherd's salad, eggplant and some kebabs. The service was very warm and welcoming in this family run Turkish restaurant.

Time isn't holding us. Time isn't after us. Brooklyn, full of dreams and dreamers, here at the shore.


  1. Wonderful evocation of time and place. We're right there in the last-week-of-summer poignancy chamber and did Coney just last week; you got it just right.

  2. Thanks, Brenda. Tempus fugit, no doubt about it


Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo