June 17th, 2006
|08:21 pm - Today's LJ Mash-up|
After a hearty breakfast of blueberry muffins, bacon, and scrambled eggs I headed out to Coney Island to spend the afternoon with friends along with a number of LJers visiting from Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Toronto, in town for the Rufus/Judy/Carnegie Hall concert and NYC's Leather Pride Weekend: 2fruition, turbillion, chrisglass, mattycub, telemann, umkinda, and a Live Journal Non-Believer Infidel Who Shall Not Be Named (even though he's damn cute). Look for pictures on their journals.
We ate hotdogs at Nathan's Famous, cotton candy, banana and pistachio soft ice creams, rode the bumper cars, went on the Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel (a specially engineered Ferris wheel with cars that swing from the center toward the outside, a marvel of engineering, which Disneyland replicated for their newest amusement park), shot the freak (a shooting gallery where you get to shoot paintballs at a live person), and had fun with a photo booth machine that lets you superimpose new hairstyles on your head (look for new user icons by several of the above).
While several of them went to the Sideshow to see the tattooed man, the sword swallower and the fire eater and such (I'd already seen the show), I went to the small and charming Coney Island Museum, where they displayed artifacts from the lost Coney Island, including beautiful signage, funhouse mirrors, classic bumper cars and wicker boardwalk strollers, one of the mechanical horses you rode that circumnavigated the park a century ago, and all sorts of other memorabilia and ephemera.
Most moving was an installation by the artist Lee Deigaard to observe the 100th anniversary of the execution of Topsy, a Coney Island elephant that was cruelly put down by electrocution, which 1,500 people gathered to witness. It was a decorated mutoscope incorporating the 1903 film footage of the execution by Thomas Edison (who was both the executioner and documentarian). On the mutoscope's placard was a haunting poem in elegy and memorial. I can't do the beautiful sideshow-playbill typography justice, but here is the text of the poem:
I WILL REMEMBER WHAT I WAS
6,600 volts; 1,500 OAFS LOOKED ON!
I HATE THEM, EVEN THOUGH I AM AN ELEPHANT...
IF THE RIVER IS TURBULENT,
I AM NOT FRIGHTENED
A STAR OF DEATHLESS
& PAINLESS PEACE
NO ASTROLOGER CAN FIND IT
UNDER THE LOTUS PLANT, THE REEDS, THE MARSH...
TAKE ME WITH HOOKS? YOU'LL NOT DO IT AGAIN.
I AM SICK OF ROPES & SNARES
-- Lee Deigaard, 2003
During Coney Island's nadir about 15-20 years ago, especially on visits during its off season when what remains out there is shut down, I've called it "a shadow of a ghost." This sunny and hot but not too hot afternoon it was a vibrant explosion of sights and sounds and colors and tastes and faces and screams and blaring music and rumbling subway trains. And with the development coming to Coney Island, in another 15-20 years much of this will no longer exist.
I also have decided that Coney Island is exponentially more fun the more friends you go with. As we returned to the city on the F train, as members of our group were getting off at their various stops, everyone kept risking having the doors closing and missing their stops, giving everyone long hugs goodbye. An artist and teacher of mine once observed that the thing about amusement park rides is -- all they are, really -- is that "they move your body in ways it's not used to moving." So do friends. Thanks, guys.
It's hands down the most bizarre early film ever.