I have written about my trips to Coney Island as a young adult when I lived in Jersey City on this Blog as part of the Alphabet Challenge. My theme was “places I had been.”
On April 3rd I posted: C: Coney Island.
C: Coney Island
Last year, I had planned on taking my grandsons to New York City with a side trip to Brooklyn to scour the neighborhoods and check out the restaurants and, especially, to see Coney Island. The COVID-19 Pandemic interrupted my plans.
Truth be told, I really wanted to go to Coney Island. I haven’t been there since the 50’s. My high school friend, Gloria, and I would take a couple of trains from Jersey City to Brooklyn at least once a week during summer vacations. Besides slathering baby oil on our bodies and roasting in the sun, we also went on the rides:
I’ve read that the Parachute Jump still stands since it has been designated a city landmark but Coney Island as I knew it is gone. No matter when I return the beach and ocean will greet me.
On June 3, Lois, my long-time nursing friend, and I flew into LaGuardia airport. We had five days to explore the city that had just loosened Covid- 19 restrictions. We decided to visit Coney Island over the weekend.
Yes, the Parachute Jump still stood as an empty landmark on the horizon. The Cyclone clattered on wooden slats as I remembered all those years ago, still accompanied by the screams of the riders.
Nathan’s hot dog lines weren’t for the faint of heart—a two-hour wait before we had warm hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut in our hands.
Wanting the beach and ocean to “greet me” turned out to be unrealistic. The beach on that hot Sunday was covered with blankets with hardly a place to put down your foot as you tried to make your way to the ocean. You were grateful not to step on a leg or arm of a sunbather or knock over one of the children jumping around. Finally, we reached the waters’ edge, dipped our toes into the Atlantic, took a deep breath and maneuvered our way back to the boardwalk.
None of this felt like the Coney Island of my youth. So many people, long lines, limited seating, hardly a meditative moment to breathe in the salt air and enjoy the solitude. Solitude? What had I been thinking of?
Lois and I were distressed at seeing a homeless woman pushing an empty shopping cart. She wove through the throngs on the boardwalk, naked from the waist up, stopping at each garbage can, tossing the contents onto the ground as she searched for food, seeming unaware of her surroundings or her state of undress. The crowds on the boardwalk gave her wide berth.
Lois and I watched and pondered–what should we do? What could we do?
I take these memories of Coney Island home with me: the crowds, the rides, Nathan’s, the boardwalk, and the Atlantic Ocean along with the vision of the unfortunate woman, who will no doubt, continue to haunt me.
It wasn’t what I had expected.