coney island, baby

10 Dec

In her memoir, ‘Just Kids,’ Patti Smith writes, “I always loved the ride to Coney Island. Just the idea that you could go to the ocean via subway was so magical.”

"It was our kind of place: the fading arcades, the peeling signs of bygone days..."-Patti Smith

“It was our kind of place: the fading arcades, the peeling signs of bygone days…”-Patti Smith

Absolutely. I’ve had a strong affinity for Coney Island for a while, but up until my most recent visit to New York I had never been.

Coney Island is the 20th stop on the Q train– at least 15 stops from where I was staying in Lefferts Garden. Still, I was closer at that point than I had ever been, and the prospect of going to a closed, decaying carnival in early December seemed romantic at the very least.

Inside the train station was a lifeguard stand; the stained glass walls had a modest painting of a Ferris wheel. Hanging from the awning were crooked letters boasting “CONEY ISLAND” to the street, to the left of which heaps of trash and cracked open Solo cups could be found. Outside, people waited for nothing at all.

"The pier was swept away in a big storm in the eighties but Nathan's, which was Robert [Mapplethorpe]'s favorite place, remained. -Patti Smith

“The pier was swept away in a big storm in the eighties but Nathan’s, which was Robert [Mapplethorpe]’s favorite place, remained. -Patti Smith

The Cyclone roller coaster was stagnant and blocks of wood jutted out of place like a fallen Jenga tower, (what I assume was a by-product of Hurricane Sandy) but it was easy to imagine what the carnival would look like were it lit up. On this super pale winter day, Coney Island was the place of my dreams.

I don’t know that you can call it a cult following, but Coney Island does have an intriguing fan base.

Of course, native New Yorker and my hero Lou Reed named his 6th solo album, “Coney Island Baby,” (1975).

Obviously, Coney Island inspired the painfully good doo-wop song, “Coney Island Baby” by the Excellents. (1962)

Of those inspired, though, my personal favorite is the creators of Coney Island Babies.com, a husband-and-wife musical duo whose specialty is performing songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s for baby boomer parties, pool parties and community events for the 55+ generation.

Also called to mind is the 30 Rock episode in which Kenneth sees the ocean for the first time at Coney Island, checking this off his bucket list in anticipation of the apocalypse.

See the rest of the pics from my trip here:

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