Monday, June 8, 2009

Franks and Freaks

Nothing says summer like a day at Coney Island. Eating franks and shooting freaks. Handing over your ticket for the ride. Sipping ice-cold lemonade. I heart Coney. We all heart Coney. How could you not?

Of course with the new development that’s underway, it may not stay so easy to love. But when we went yesterday, we were relived to find that though there were some absences – the go-kart places an batting ranges which used to be on Stillwell Avenue have been pushed out to make way for Thor Equities’ Festival by the Sea – most of the Coney faves were still standing, for now.

Since Primo is suddenly anti-sand, David and he stuck to the boardwalk while Sec and I got gritty. She played in the sprinkler on the sand for a while and then on the playground, where she removed her hat and dumped an entire pail of sand on her head.

“Let’s run to the ocean!” I said, fun-loving, footloose mama that I am.

And we ran, me and the girl holding hands, and splashing in the freezing water and laughing. I was literally in the process of thinking, “Why does everybody complain about this beach? It’s clean! It’s totally clean!” when a Park department guy wearing an orange shit blew his whistle at me.

“Get out of the water!” he yelled.

“Me?” I asked, incredulously.

“Yeah, you,” he replied, with an unspoken, but crystal-clear “knucklehead” implied.

“We can’t go in the water?” I pressed the point.

“It’s contaminated,” he replied, no beating around the bush.

Oh,” I said, surprised, “With what?” It didn’t make a difference what the answer was really -- contaminated is contaminated and I wouldn’t have let Sec stay in if the risk factor was sewage rather than a deadly parasite. Still, I was curious.

But the man was already blowing his whistle at someone else.

So I dragged Seconda out, literally kicking and screaming and we headed over to meet Primo and Pops at the kiddie ride area, where Prim was riding Dizzy Dragons.

My son is the most serious-looking amusement rider you will ever encounter. He loves to ride, he thrills to ride, he can’t get enough of rides, but if you saw him on a merry-go-round, or sitting in the belly of a spinning clown, you’d think he was trying to figure out the theory of relativity, he is concentrating so hard. I mean, his brow is actually furrowed.

When he’d used up his three allotted tickets, we left the rides and treated ourselves to “freshly-squeezed lemonade” on the boardwalk, in the spot where the fabulous Lola Staar boutique used to stand (you can find her now at the Brooklyn Flea).

“We’ll take a small.” I told the kid behind the counter.

“For two dollars more you can get a large and get free refills,” was the counter offer.

But I’ve been to a movie theater or two in my lifetime and I know how to decline the up-sell.

“The small is fine,” I said, handing over $3.

The kid placed a small cup under a metallic hand-cranked juicer, where a half-lemon was pre-placed. He pulled the lever and a few drops of juice accumulated in the cup. Then he poured these driplets into my cup, placed it on a shelf beneath my sightline, and then, five seconds later, handed me a full cup of “fresh squeezed lemonade” which tasted suspiciously like Crystal Light.

“Everyone is a shyster on the island of Coney,” concluded David.

Shysters or not, nobody nowhere nohow makes a frank like Nathan’s. So we chowed down, David with his Coors and chili cheese dogs, the kids with their corn on the cob and me with fries on a pitchfork. The Beatles were right. Happiness is a hot dog. Yum yum chomp chomp.