Saturday, April 18, 2009

Coney Island Daydreamin'

It was a perfect day to hit the shore. Coney Island was bustling. Ruby's Bar, which we had visited late last summer, was still open and doing business, although a large banner outfront indicated stores for rent, contact Thor Equities if you please. That was true of loads of real estate on the beach, either closed or temporarily opened pending the Thor Equities flip. Sure enough, Astroland was gone, but the Wonderwheel was twirling in the warm spring breeze and the screaming of the rollercoaster riders could be heard for miles. Sections of the boardwalk here and there are gated pending much needed repairs. We strolled all the way down to Brighton. Tatiana and Cafe Volna were doing very good business on the day before the Russian/Eastern Orthodox Easter Sunday tomorrow. Lots of happy strollers, tourists and hipsters under a gorgeous sunny blue sky, folks out on the beach already, anticipating the season of mellowing out. A bunch of guys with a variety of instruments, set up on W. 17th street, for some free-form Saturday afternoon jamming. We were there a little early, so the hypno-techno- dance scene a few blocks down, was not yet in action. And, oh yeah, the public restrooms were open and in pretty clean shape so far. The Coney Island Museum had a nice crowd hanging outside, but we didn't stop into see the sights, at least this time.

We continued past Volna and headed over to Brighton Beach Avenue. Vendors on the street were selling traditional Russian Orthodox Easter cakes and pastries. We stopped in at St. Petersburg, a fabulous Russian book, DVD, music, and souvenir shop. Judy picked up a Mareska (nesting) doll, some books on contemporary Russian Art and a groovy Russian-American Brighton Beach t-shirt. The staff at St. Petersburg were very helpful. Fabulous videos, international music, and a great selection of books, handmade household items and other "chachkas" make this a fun destination. Your intrepid reporter bought a Russian phrase book, so that I can work my way past the few words ("Where is the pharmacy" plus a few swear words)that I have picked up in the NYC multicultural maelstrom.

We stopped at a fruit and vege store to pick up a few items, and, forgetting how far we had walked, I carried a good 20 pounds of groceries back to the car on Neptune avenue. (Duh!) But all in all, a great outing.

Coney Island is a neighborhood in transition. It is going to be an interesting summer. What will the future bring? Who knows. But I do know one thing: get there before it changes even further if you want to savor a bit of the forty-deuce by the water that longer-time New Yorkers have known as our Coney Island of the mind. This little bit of Real Nature on the southern tip of Brooklyn, from the sideshow tradition to a simulacrum of Russia on a different shore, the place where all Brooklynites and New Yorkers along with visitors can freely commingle: Coney Island, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes.

-Brookyln Beat

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