Coney Island was one of the places I looked forward going to most. It’s just the kinda place mentioned in movies, I’ve seen a photography book with images from Coney Island in the 70s and recently Patie Smith published her biography with an image of her an Robert Mapplethorpe in Coney Island on the cover. So, I was really excited and I kind of knew what to expect.
The F train takes you all the way to Coney Island. It’s amazing that you can just hop on a train in the city and in about 30mins you’ve got the Atlantic smack in your face. Not only that…but you feel like the F train has acted like a time machine. Stepping out of the station and walking towards the promenade is like being in the 70s (because I really know what that is like) Everything is a little bit run down…restaurant signs are spray painted on run down bits of wooden board, everything is painted in tacky colours of bright, as opposed to in the city everyone is overweight and none of the attractions have been changed since I don’t know when. They have gotten rid of the Freak Show though only to replace it with “Shoot the Freak”.
“Shoot the Freak” is a paintball game where the target is a guy walking around a derelict yard. You can buy up to 75 shots and let all your aggressions out on the poor dude. He doesn’t even duck, run or hide. He just slowly walks back and forth, back and forth and when he gets hit he wipes the paint off his goggles or clothes. It was heartbreaking.
The promenade is really alive. Every couple of meters someone had set up a boombox and there were couples, mostly in their 40s and 50s, dancing salsa. While I was walking around watching people I felt like I wasn’t really there. It felt like I was watching all of this from a distance. From 2010 whereas they were still in the 1970s.
There is a dock there that runs right into the Atlantic where people were fishing, dancing, eating and drinking. The fishers had a real little community…everytime someone would catch something a crowd gathered around the lucky fisher and it was really apparent how proud they were of their accomplishment.
At some point a guy with two snakes wrapped around his neck sat down next to me. He was trying to make a couple of bucks by posing for a photograph. I snuck in a couple without him knowing. Now I feel kind of bad about doing that.
If you walk down the Coney Island promenade you get to Brighton Beach. It’s not as famous as it doesn’t have all of the rides but it’s just as nice. If you leave Brighton Beach to walk the streets of Brighton you find yourself in mini Moscow. Every shop is Russian, there was a really cheap and cute Russian bakery, restaurants, hair dressers and fashion boutiques. You know that instantly recognizable Russian style….the fur coats, the bling, tight flimsy materials? Well, those shops had all of that and more.