Quadruple the fun
After a very long hiatus, end of the line dining has re-commenced. We have the great fortune that four lines terminate at Coney Island, and what better place to travel on a sunny day than Brooklyn’s amusement park by the sea. You may recall that last time we dined in Coney Island, we started by walking away from the boardwalk. This time we embarked on our journey fully intending to walk towards the beach, bathing suits on, towels in tow.
We boarded the Q line from Union Square at precisely 11:39 for a seemingly quick 50 minute ride. Catching up as usual, Bonnie shared with me her idea for a shadow puppet show in her back yard. From the moment she moved in, there have been visions of the performances to come. Thus far there have been fireworks, fire pits and bbqs, but the vaudevillian magic is still in the works – jugglers, puppets, fire dancing – I cannot wait!
I had the somewhat juvenile realization the other day, that everything I really truly love – and I mean the rip your heart out of your chest love – reminds me of one Cure song or another. If I can fit it into the framework of a Cure song, it seems to reach an emotional plane as of yet unsurpassable. Sometimes it is literally the words – “whenever I’m alone with you – you make me feel like I am young again”, and other times just a feeling. It’s slightly goth, terrifically adventurous and hopelessly romantic. One could certainly argue that there are better bands out there (or not), but none capture the undying dreams of youth in the same way – for me.
Bonnie is very much a Cure song (see picture to the left for reference – age 15, on her way to a show). From the first day we became friends, she has delighted me with her stories of impromptu performances, mischief (ala train hopping), wonder and love – similar themes I still delight in when I read her novels, or experience as part of her life. At the time, I had never met anyone quite like this bright red bobbed girl, or later her first love Nef – who traveled all across the country on a greyhound bus to visit Bonnie in New York. And when campus security decided Nef had stayed too long – the two of them stayed outside on the street together during the cold October night. You get the picture – slightly goth, terrifically adventurous and hopelessly romantic.
Coney Island gives me the same feeling – particularly our first stop – the Sideshow by the Sea. In this world of internet and virtual reality, I let out a huge sigh of relief that there are still human blockheads, sword swallowers and snake handlers that exhibit their skills live and in person every day for the bargain price of $10.
We were beckoned into the sideshow by a man in red stripes. Anytime I am beckoned anywhere, my first instinct is to run away (that is if I notice at all – I am not a very alert walker), but Bonnie suggested we go in. The first show was not yet ready to start, so we did what seemed most appropriate at the time – ordered a malt liquor strawberry margarita in a can. Actually, just Bonnie did that. I opted for a beer.
Being the first performance of the day, the audience was a bit thin – but that only meant we had to express our cheer and wonder at a volume befitting a much larger crowd. We were up to the task, and the show was so good – every clap was deserved tenfold. The emcee for the show, Ray Valenz, was everything you would want your sideshow host to be. Striped pants, eye make-up – the kind of guy who puts a power drill up his nose, licks the blood off of the drill bit and still makes the ladies swoon. I won’t give away too much about the show – everyone should most certainly go see it, but I will let you know that I got to sit in an electric chair and have a torch lit to flames off the tip of my tongue. Most certainly a good start to the day.
Now for the food. We had been told that there were some very delicious tacos in the vicinity of the bump your ass off bumper cars. In search of these tacos, we came across Cantina – Place to Beach (PTB). Unfortunately I could not partake in any of PTB’s meaty tacos, so we were directed to the side patio in the promise of shrimp. We quickly discerned that this was not the recommend taco locale, and ordered a red chili margarita (which should be renamed the pizza topping margarita), a sriracha margarita and some guacamole and chips. Well folks, I can tell you that this was the worst food in end of the line dining history. The chips tasted more like cardboard than cardboard, and the drinks were barely drinkable. On the bright side, they were perhaps the strongest margaritas I have ever had and we left decidedly more intoxicated than when we arrived.
Next stop – Nathan’s. Nathan’s is a Coney Island staple since 1916 and host of the world famous hot dog eating contest. If you don’t know it, you have clearly never been to Coney Island. I will never eat raw seafood from Nathan’s (although many do), but I will order the perfectly fried clam strips any day of the week. Bonnie opted for a corn dog, and I somehow managed to buy an old man a hotdog with sauerkraut and onions because he asked me to. I mean how can you say no when someone asks you to buy them “a hotdog with sauerkraut and onions – don’t forget the sauerkraut and onions”? You can’t, at least not if you are me.
Overwhelmed with how much there was to do, and how little time we had to do it, Bonnie and I rode the Wonder Wheel (wisely opting for one of the non-swinging seats), played some games (I am an undefeated champion at those games where you shoot water at a target), got our fortune read, paid 25 cents to fall in love (bargain) and went to a haunted house. We did not get to take a dip in the sea (Bonnie’s request) or play ski ball (mine), but we did grab a funnel cake on our way to the train.
Coney Island has most certainly changed since that summer 15 years ago when I went every week trying to win a boom box with ski ball tickets, but in the ways that are most important, it has remained the same – slightly goth, terrifically adventurous and hopelessly romantic. Oh, there is one final thing that I will tell you about the sideshow. When asked what my tombstone would read if the electric chair trick when awry, my response was, “I had fun”. And I did.