Coney Island. The mention of it typically incites one of two extremes in people: joy or disgust. Having lived in Brooklyn for a little over a year, many people were surprised to hear that I had never been to Coney Island, but no one was ever willing to join me. While most of my friends have had formative NYC experiences at Coney Island—which generally end in a long and regrettable subway ride home—the visit seems to leave a foul taste in peoples’ mouths, as acerbic as the following morning’s hangover. Whenever I suggested a trip to Coney Island, people would wince and recoil in disgust. “But you should go!” they would say. I did. Perhaps I was swept away by my most recent viewing of the 1979 cult classic, the Warriors, but when we were laying around one lovely Saturday in September and my boyfriend suggested we bike to Coney Island, I was thrilled.
Maybe going in September, after the summer craziness is the ticket, but Coney Island was great. There were no crowds. And where were the overflowing trash cans? The screaming children? The swarms of brash seagulls? The needles discarded in the sand? After watching a moderate-sized crowd dancing to a house DJ, we strolled the boardwalk, and nodded our heads to Bomba rhythms from live drummers as we watched people fishing off the pier. Sure, you got slapped in the face with the aroma of stagnant salt water when the breeze picked up, but what do you expect at the ocean?
We strolled back to the boardwalk—which is smaller than i imagined—and sat down for some overpriced beer and the obligatory hot dog, counting the number of people in Warriors vests that walked by (nine). After wandering through the various theme parks and watching people on rides I would have chanced as a kid, we settled on the Wonder Wheel. it’s pretty much a must at Coney Island. While the $8 price for one ride is a little outrageous, the view from the top is worth it. And after I got over my fear of heights (you’re UP there!) I actually enjoyed myself.
Maybe I got lucky, but I found Coney Island to be, dare I say it…a pleasant experience. I see why Coney Island is a New York institution. In a dense city like NYC, I can see the attraction of having access to a space that feels expansive, where you can see for miles around and, if you go in September, stretch out your arms without hitting the person next to you. Like most New Yorkers, I can now check Coney Island off my bucket list, and while I may not go back for awhile, at least I will smile at the thought of it.