Saturday, August 16, 2008

Come Monday...

Today in a fitting end to the summer we totally Brooklyned it up by checking out the scenes in Red Hook and Coney Island. (Turning "Brooklyn" into a verb is troublesome because it looks wrong whether I put one 'n' or two when adding "ed" for the past tense there.)

Red Hook is the location of the new IKEA. (Finally! NYC has IKEA!) We stopped by there but didn't find the futon cover we sought. It was predictably scary, being Saturday; I had soooo wanted to go there weekdays only but it just worked out this way. The real draw in Red Hook were the Latino food vendors gathered around the park, selling tacos, pupusas, enchiladas, juices and horchatas, empanadas, you name it. It's quite the festive atmosphere, with soccer games, picnics, birthday parties, and a mix of ethnicities, ages, families, young singles, etc.

Unfortunately, I am outraged because I guess before this year there were MORE vendors and they sold out of tents but this year they were delayed in starting back up and had to get trucks due to the public health officials getting involved. I'm not sure the details, but I really can't see why they'd have to get those food vendor trucks (ice-cream man style) to sell food. Because now you've got engine noise, pollution, and a waste of gas and lots of their money on gas, and in this fuel economy? There are fewer vendors this year because they can't all afford the trucks. It's utter crap! Get outraged with me! I think it's a conspiracy between NYC officials and oil companies.

We did, however, get to see a soccer game come to an end in dramatic fashion, including one man punching another spectator. We stayed around to watch the next soccer game for a while, then left for Coney Island.

As we arrived on the subway, at the very end of the F line (or as the case may be with today's track work, the G train taking the F's place), I remarked that Coney Island is one of the most famous places in the U.S.A. that I haven't hadn't visited. I was excited to finally see it!

It is all that I thought it would be, and more. It is all that I thought because it had the boardwalk, roller coaster, ferris wheel, cotton candy, pier, boardwalk, sand, water, and loads of sketchy people. It was more because it was fun! And, I daresay, charming.

When I first moved to New York, in fall 2006, and was living my unfortunate incarceration on Long Island, I started hearing about how the famed Coney Island of Americana lore would soon be to nothing, or rather, be replaced by condos and more upscale development. Apparently the amusement park is officially closing at the end of this season. This is an outrage!

Why do we need hotel, resort, water park, restaurants, shopping? Why do we need them inSTEAD of older buildings, the famous roller coaster, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, random dance party on the pier, and assorted freaks?

Actually people were on the whole decidedly un-freaky. Although there was a little game of "Shoot the Freak," which was basically paintball and for $5 you could buy five shots or something, maybe 30 for $10, I forget the amounts. A dude stood there with the helmet, shield, and knee pads. I've never paintballed a day in my life, but was nonetheless captivated for a moment or two watching Shoot the Freak. There's no particular reason why it was called that, a the guy was just a guy wearing a helmet and probably switched off with the dude taking the money. The great thing about it was that unlike even the shooting the duck or the water into the clowns' mouths for a stuffed animal or whatever this was plunked down in the dirt and weeds between two food stand/drink places. What ingenuity! What entrepreneurship! What low overhead! How can some developer's condos (not Trump, by the way) or whatever possibly replace this?

Other than one multiply pierced guy who was carefully eyeing everyone at pocket level, I really only encountered one sketchball. On the pier (which was brimming with sketchballs whom I didn't precisely encounter) as Brian and I leaned over the side watching a guy a few yards away chucked a can into the water. (Like, a food can, not a pop can.) Then he tossed another. This annoyed me, not the least reason of which was that were trash cans placed regularly along the pier and one was eight feet, maybe, away from him. So I went over and politely told him and the woman with him that I didn't think they needed to throw the cans in the water and I pointed out the trash can a few feet away.

The woman said, in a somewhat apologetic matter, "Oh I didn't know the cans went into the water." The cans were, like, Chef Boyardee or something...they were pouring things on bread for dinner on paper plates. It was pretty sketchtacular. The man, a piece of work, was more spaced out. "What happened?" he asked me. I repeated myself, again pointing to the can, and then he repeated himself, "Wha hap un?"

To give you an idea, this guy was basically Carlos Santana's crack baby. He was around 40 (you'll see next paragraph how I know this) but looked closer to sixty. Wild-eyed, wild-haired, and wild speeched, I can't remember which clothes he was missing, but the ratty ones he had did little for him. The wife was a bit more put together. I went back over to Brian and resumed gazing at the water/beach/amusements.

Soon, dude ambled over and began talking about what I'd said. This was not an easy man to understand. He started out saying he'd been here 33 years, no, make that 37 years...but then he moved on to how he didn't throw the cans -- the wind blew them, and who am I to go talk to his wife, and so on. The last bit was interesting, because I didn't go over to talk to his wife, I just ended up talking to her because he was too drunk to understand me. I think he wanted to start a fight with us but he was too spaced out to do so, so I didn't really fear him much. Within a couple minutes he had started talking to Brian instead of me, which is funny in such a faux-machismo way. I was completely not interested in arguing with him, but it was hard to resist whenever he ended a segment of his rant with "You understand me?!" saying actually, no, I really didn't get all that. Finally, the conversation devolved into this man saying he was going to jump in the water to go get the cans.

The cans, by the way, were long gone at this point. Kind of like this man's mind. However, the four gentlemen next to us were now also involved, because when wild-eyes said (as he did a few times) "What business is it of yours?" and Brian said "It IS our business" the man next to us piped up, "It's our planet!" which is exactly where I was coming from so I knew we were all on the same page.

The crazy man who has spent his life here throwing cans into the sea eventually got his shoes off and was trying to gear up for his jump in, but something finally persuaded him this was a terrible idea. I was pretty amused the whole time. I also told him we were basically ready to leave and might not stay for his little show, but I don't think he heard me. He finally returned to his wife and -- horrors! -- the two small children who materialized from running around to eat dinner off the paper plates with them and then, I might add, threw out trash in the wastebasket. Ahh, hope for the next generation!? Those poor kids...

The four men next to us turned out to be tourists from Atlanta. We chatted for a little while about the pier, craziness, and so on. I like to think I contributed a little something to their New York experience. And it's nice to have some good ol' boys who've got your back in a little pier encounter. Plus, the teenage son's post-encounter imitation of drunk removal of shoes was priceless!

I definitely recommend visiting Coney Island before its "warts and all" feel is made over.

A couple hours later as we strolled back to the subway at the end of our satisfying day, we passed an outdoor bar with tables and chairs in the sand where I heard the strains of Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday." First of all, who doesn't love a little Jimmy Buffett at the beach? But secondly, I start school on Monday. My third and final year of law school. And that's weird. So who doesn't love a contemplative Jimmy Buffett song for such a moment?

"Yes, it's been quite a summer
Rent-a-cars and westbound trains..."

I just love the wistfulness in that song. And I've been thinking a lot about California lately. But starting my last year of law school this Monday just made the phrase ring in my ears. I even paused on the sidewalk to listen to all of it. Of course, when you pause on the sidewalk between the boardwalk and the subway, you get to not only listen to the end of the Jimmy Buffett song but also see a stray cat roaming around the trash cans (I love the kitty! Hope it got a mouse) and a man relieving himself in the bushes. What was that Jimmy Buffett sang about enjoyin' the scenery...?


Brian said...

I forgot to mention that one of my favorite parts about the guy, which pertains to his wardrobe as you noted, were his shorts with a loose-fitting waist, precariously hitched up by a belt, and which appeared to be unzipped and unbuttoned. I couldn't really tell what underwear he was wearing, and I made a point of not looking too closely, but they looked to be white with some silly black lettering.

I noticed this fashion faux-pas while stealing a couple glances at his general person in the midst of his drunken rambling and pseudo brio, which I guess he didn't notice.

Anonymous said...

Linda - loved the post. I should hook you up with my friend David, who is shooting a documentary in Coney Island and hangs out regularly with the fire eater in the side show. He had a digital media gallery show in LA last fall with a lot of footage from there. To say it was hysterical would be an understatement. Great stuff! Rene'