Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coney Island, R.I.P

On Sunday, September 21, Coney Island’s amusement park closed down forever. The rides stopped, the lights dimmed and the music died.

To me, that’s a really sad event. Just about the only amusement parks left are the glitzy Six Flags conglomerate parks that cost an arm-and-a-leg to attend.

Really, I don’t know how a family of four can afford those places. The Six Flags near Chicago is now a whopping $54.95 for a one-day admittance. You’d need to be a Wall Street CEO with a golden umbrella to get in there these days.

Also, the Six Flags parks are so far out of town to get to. The one near Chicago is forty miles away from the city. If you’re taking public transportation, that would involve a bus, a subway, a commuter train, and another bus to get to. By that time, the park is closed.

If you drive, parking is twenty bucks.

Then there are the lines! Oh my gosh, the lines! Get in line for a major ride and you’ll notice Cro-Magnons near the front of it. On a crowded day, you’ll be lucky to get on five attractions during a day. You’ll also spend at least thirty bucks on food and drink.

Adding all that up, you’re plunking down about twenty bucks per ride. Not to mention the emergency room fee for dehydration, sunburn and a requisite Valium drip.

It wasn’t like this at Coney Island. (I sound like an old fuddy-duddy)

From anywhere in Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, or Brooklyn, you could hop on the subway (the D, F, or Q lines) and they all ended up at Coney Island. There was no entrance fee.

You could pay three bucks and ride the world famous Cyclone roller coaster.

Constructed in 1926 before insurance companies mandated lots of superfluous “safety features”, it had these incredibly steep drops and wild turns that you just don’t see on coasters these days. It didn't have these over-the-shoulder harnesses; just a simple lap bar with the padding held in place by lots of duct tape.

If you wanted to ride again, you simply held out two bucks to the guy operating the ride and he’d just let you stay on for another round. It was all very “New York”.

Afterward, if your tummy was up to it, you could munch down on an honest-to-goodness Coney Island hot dog from the original Nathan’s. I doubt that the grill had been cleaned since 1905 and that’s probably what made them taste so good.

When I lived in New York, I’d often just hop on the subway, take a few spins on the Cyclone, walk along the boardwalk and head home.

See how happy I was?

A more enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I cannot imagine.

Even if I didn’t spend an afternoon that way, it was always nice to know it was just a grungy subway ride away.

Now it will all be closed down. The Cyclone roller coaster will still be there, thanks to the fact that it’s been made into a national landmark.

But all the other attractions like the freak shows, the other old rides they don’t make anymore and Nathan’s hot dog stand will all be developed into condominiums.

The nearest Six Flags is in New Jersey.

Shame on them.

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At 11:22 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

I'm more sad about Nathan's shutting down than the roller coaster shutting down!


At 8:40 AM , Blogger Barb said...

That is so sad. I've only been there once (we used to spend the summers with my Aunts in NY) but it was a blast. I was equally sad when they shut down Palisades Park. Now, that was a good time!


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