It’s still there, waiting for you. It offer laughs, thrills, sand, waves, cotton candy and hot dogs. It’s still got the boardwalk of all boardwalks. If it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it as the perfect antidote to life and a rejuvenating elixir the likes of which could never come out of a bottle. It’s called Coney Island and one of the best places on the planet for over a century and a half. Located on Brooklyn’s southernmost shore, easily reached by train, bus or car, it is still the most unusual and interesting of all amusement parks. It is not a theme park unless you consider “anything goes” a theme. It is not owned by any giant corporate parent company, instead by a bunch of small entrepreneurs of the odd, the ridiculous and the fun with a capital FUN.
There is a sublime chaos to Coney Island that people love. There are are no uniformed minions directing you anywhere, no official mascots in dopey outfits (unless tattooed ladies in grass skirts count) urging you to spend your money in any particular establishment. There is no schedule and no admissions policy. You can have hot dogs for breakfast at Nathan’s or soft-shelled crab on toast. Dinner can be cotton candy and jelly apples. You can swim in the ocean, bake on the sand, cruise the boardwalk or scare the daylights out of yourself riding the Cyclone, that ancient wooden roller coaster that gets more rickety and thrilling every year it defies the wrecker’s ball.
There’s all sorts of kiddie parks with their thrilling rides or gentler merry-go-rounds and the like for the very young ones, plus the favorite of teenagers, the fabled bumper cars where the whole object of the ride is to smash into one another, the opposite of road rage for big laughs and a bone-jarring good time. There’s a minor league baseball park there now, and just maybe the home team is in town that day. There are side shows with exotic dancers and tattooed people and midgets and sword swallowers and jugglers and strongmen and acrobats and clowns, all these people speaking English in some vaguely Eastern European accent and seemingly raised in their oddball family business. There are scary house of goblins rides made for clinging to your sweetie in the dark. The spielers and hawkers outside the kewpie doll game booths are world class mini P.T. Barnums, every one. “Come on, pal, win a doll for your doll! Ladies, win a teddy bear for your teddy bear. Step right up. Everybody’s a winner!”
You might want to cap your day by taking a spin on the Wonder Wheel, that giant Ferris Wheel that takes you to what feels like a mile above the sights and sounds, the magnificence of Coney Island at your feet. When you get to the bottom of the circle the sounds sneak back into focus, the music, the delighted laughter of little children and the thrilled shrieking of the people on the rides. And then you rise again, into the heavens and breezy serenity and that spectacular view of the ocean, the city and all those darned lights! And all the smells! You sniff the clashing odors of the salty ocean air, the suntan oil, the dizzying varieties of food and the sweets of every description being made on the spot and sending their sugary message across the summer breeze right into your soul. It is an experience you will never forget.
Another star attraction of Coney Island is the customers of the place. First and foremost of course are the peewees, those little bundles who seem to be all huge eyes and broad smiles from the minute they get there. Even for those children who have been there before there is still so very much to see that is new and exciting and so very different and such BIG FUN! And their parents and grandparents and big brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins from every imaginable background are also once again turned into children for a day, our hearts and souls touching that brass ring of joy and wonder that never leaves us, needing only a Coney Island to remind us what a joy and a gift it is to be alive, so astonishingly alive! So before the summer ends, awaken the joy and excitement within you and go to Coney Island, that magic place in Brooklyn that promises you joy, laughter and thrills. It’s waiting for you, and it always keeps its promises.