Coney Island Gems

photo (23)The Coney Island amusement park is a slice of real life theater sandwiched between a lovely stretch of beach and a somewhat down-trodden neighborhood. When walking along the scenic beach, one must take care not to get cut by broken glass, but then again paying attention is one of the keys to survival and enjoyment of life.  The Coney Island amusement park and boardwalk brings out a sense of peace and subtle joy in a diverse mix of people of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.  Like any good theater, it wouldn’t be as thrilling without suspense and a sense of manageable danger.

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The Cyclone is an historic wooden roller coaster that is about the opposite of the pristine, smooth, safe, cushioned roller coasters you find at Disneyland, which is part of what makes it so great.   When riding the Cyclone, I feel like I’m pretty much experiencing the wild, jerky, precarious ride that people did when they first hopped aboard in 1927.  They have added some new wooden boards which don’t look as pretty as the old ones, but probably prevented me from getting the whiplash people used to complain about when riding the Cyclone.  The only thing that would have made that experience better for me is if I was wearing a flapper dress.

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The palpable sense of history and somewhat ominous underbelly is present at Coney Island.  After all, this is the home of the infamous freak shows and is the inspiration of the movie the Warriors.    However, things are far more tame now and this seems to have turned into a place where people can come and get along, regardless of their backgrounds or predispositions.

*photo taken from Ruby’s website

One of my favorite things about Coney Island are the “characters.” The type of people who stand out in a crowd- not because they wear outrageous clothes or look gorgeous, but because they have a genuine quirkiness of which they might be aware of but have no control.  They can find acceptance at the family-owned bar Ruby’s Bar and Grill on Coney Island. Ruby’s is the perfect venue for people-watching, one of my favorite past-times. The first time I went to Ruby’s, a soda can went flying by my boyfriend’s face, not because they didn’t like him, but because that’s how they passed a soda from the kitchen area to the bar.

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Flying trays were also a common occurrence. A neon Budweiser sign fell from the ceiling.  I also saw a woman swing her three year old child into the mouth of a garbage can repeatedly, much to the child’s delight.  There’s something slightly on edge and chaotic about Ruby’s, but that is part of the charm.  Spontaneous dancing, a great juke box, fried food, and a wide selection of beers and cocktails all make this a popular hangout. And on a gorgeous summer day, they take the doors off the place so we can enjoy the view of the beach at Coney Island and watch all the beautiful freaks walk by.

2 thoughts on “Coney Island Gems

  1. Just saw The Warriors directed by Walter Hill (1979) the other night! After a gang summit goes wrong, The Warriors, a leather vest-wearing street gang, desperately flees the Bronx to Coney via Union Square: “We hafta transfa at 14th street!!” while being chased by cops and The Boppers. They also have a run-in with the all-girl gang, “The Lizzies”. Clearly an inspiration for Michael Jackson’s Beat It. A must see!


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