Rachel’s New York blog # 8
Wednesday in New York… This was my Coney Island day, which I ended up doing on my own. Solita had an interview (not that her interviewee showed up or anything…) in the afternoon so couldn’t come. I caught the Q train out to the beach. My first stop was at Nathan’s, home of the famous NY hotdog. Of course I didn’t get a hotdog, being a vegetarian, but they have wonderful cheese fries –which are like ridged potato chips, except they are hot chips, nice and thick and brown, with lots of goopy fake cheese (love that stuff!). I took pictures of them, but they aren’t developed yet.
I ate the fries while walking along the boardwalk, checking out the dilapidated buildings and Mexican families playing along the beach. I walked back up the beach, letting the waves lap my feet. When I got back to the site of the amusement park, I decided that it was time to go on the Cyclone, the very famous, very old, Coney Island roller coaster. I had thought this closed down so I was totally psyched to be able to get on it. I love the old wooden coasters that revolve around a couple big drops. The Cyclone was indeed a good coaster and well worth my $4.00. I walked around the amusement parks (there are two small ones) without checking out any more rides, pondering about how kind of gross the place is. To be fair I was there during the afternoon and amusement parks look their best at night when all the lights are on, but there is something just a bit sad about Coney Island, with its garbage and dilapidation. I walked around more, looking for the freak show and was more and more struck by my ambivalence about the place. On the one hand it is gross – there’s a market that was really just a few trailers on a rocky, broken bitumen lot, with a couple families eating around plastic tables, and a couple food and drink vendors and many bits and pieces lying about, bags, old furniture, etc. – but on the other the seediness is a style in a way, a very concrete atmosphere. Perhaps the market comes alive on the weekends. I found myself wanting the place to be redone, cleaned up, brightened up. But then, I wonder, if it were to become nice would that mean rich people would come and displace the people who are there now? Maybe it’s better to have a dirty, unkempt place where poorer people can still have fun and swim and be at home than to have another gleaming place for rich people to play? Oh, and you Australians would be horrified at the beach. It is totally flat, with rough dark sand, heaps of vehicle tracks and lots of bits of black rock – which doesn’t make for a pretty sandscape. And that’s not taking into consideration all the garbage. But given it was a weekday, there were still plenty of people splashing in the waves and baking out in the sun.
I finally found the freak show. I was so excited because Coney Island is one of the last places left that still has a freak show. There were no bearded ladies or otherwise deformed people, but alternative types who still kept up with some of the traditional tricks. The MC was a young, geeky, theatrical guy who also hammered huge metal implements all the way up through his nose. There were two girls, one with a highly tattooed face – as if she came from the Pacific Islands. The other girl got in a box that was then stuck through with huge blades and contorted her body around the blades. She also swallowed swords of various lengths. The tattooed girl walked up a ladder of swords and ate fire. There was a highly tattooed older man who lay on a bed of nails, with another bed of nails on top of his belly, with two audience members standing on top of that. There were a couple other tricks, but I’ll leave some for surprise in case you ever decide to go! It was a good show, but I had to wonder about the safety of swallowing kerosene and whether the swords were sterilized.
When I got back to Manhattan after Coney Island I decided to catch a Broadway show. I kind of wanted to see Pillowmen (a violent show about torture) because it had Jeff Goldblum and Billy Crudup in it, but they were selling standing room tickets for $25.00. Doubt, which won the Tony, was offering balcony seats for $27.50, so I decided to sit. After getting my ticket I found a vegetarian Japanese restaraunt. I had a hard time figuring out what to choose off the excellent menu of fancy veggie fare, so ended up with an appetiser platter of fried and cold rolls and other delectables. A nice dinner.
I can’t say I was impressed with Doubt. It’s about a nun who thinks a priest is sexually abusing a boy and there was really nothing interesting about the whole doubt, intuition, proof, faith thing. There was one interesting scene where the boy’s mother gets angry at the nun for trying to accuse the priest of molestation because her son, the first black boy in the school, is finally on his way to college with the help and kindness of this priest – and besides her kid is gay anyway. That was an unexpected reaction. The rest of the scenes were theatre dialogue. The acting was decent but they all put on these super-heavy Italian NY accents which were really irritating and sometimes hard to understand. Anyway, it was a disappointment that there was no one I love to watch act on Broadway at the time and that the show wasn’t very good. At least I didn’t pay that much. I wonder if Pillowmen would have been better…