Coney Island Reloaded

Yes, I know, beach season has long been over. The Hamptons and Montauk as a top destination never came true, regretfully. But I have one last post about this for you: Coney Island reloaded! I wouldn’t have thought I would ever go back to Coney after September (the last time was indeed in August, when it was hot, sticky, and sweaty, and there was no chance to not make that day a beach opportunity). But this time I was on a mission: I wanted to visit the New York Aquarium again, as I had only been there once and this was at least a year ago.

So last Friday afternoon I made my way out to the second last stop on the Q Train. Surf Avenue, here we come! The Wonderful Elena had already waited there and filled her hungry stomach with fast food from Nathan’s. Not a hot dog, though, as I want to point out, even though Nathan’s is the hot dog joint to go to, as they host the annual 4th of July Contest over there (which was won by a Californian this year with the record of 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes).

Back to the story: The Aquarium is a fairly small institution and it had somewhat disappointed me last year, as I had expected a bigger selection of fishies and attractions. Same with the Bronx Zoo, which is relatively unspectacular compared to the other sites you find in New York. I suppose it must be hard to find a decent-sized space for animals in a tank, so Coney Island seems to be one of the only spots willing to host such an attraction (after closing down in Battery Park one century ago). It is one of the oldest locations, too. I am not sure how many creatures it has in total but it is pretty diverse as the selection goes from mammals over birds to reptiles and amphibians. In June of 2010 I was lucky to witness a seal show, during which the keepers were animating three different animals to do various things for about half an hour.

Unfortunately, during our visit in early October there was no such thing going on. Friday afternoon happens to be a give-by-donation-entry charge, as the attraction usually costs $15. Understandably and more so justified by the animal-keeping and related expenses than the actual size it displays. Albeit the show was canceled, we still had fun looking at sharks, which I had missed the other time, and carefully checked out the jelly fish, buried creatures in the sand, and cute little sea horses. I do have to say that these things tend to be more enjoyable when you have company, rather than going by yourself. The penguins were not out anymore, or they were on vacation to the Arctic, but the walruses appeared to be humongous through the glass, when contently swimming around in their pond.

After one and a half hours we had enough (it doesn’t take that long to walk through it), and before we went our own ways I suggested to check out the Boardwalk one last time. You see, Coney Island is so colorful from the Memorial Day Weekend on, but it is a quite depressing and very lonely spot to visit from November to March. Last year I had brought my German visitors here one day before Thanksgiving and I tried very hard to hide my tears of shock, as I had never seen a deserted Coney Island in my life before. But that particular Friday was sunny and kind of warm (of course not suitable for a swim anymore), so a good amount of strollers, tourists, and locals could be found walking around the part we went to. And then the Wonderful Elena and I did something I hadn’t done in the past one and half years I’ve lived here: We had a happy-hour-beer at a random “bar” on Coney Island! Yicks!

I know, this must sound somewhat unexciting to you. Bar = happy hour = beer! But, wait a minute, this is CONEY ISLAND we are talking about. The place you either bring your own bag of booze and save it for the afternoon with your friends in the sand, or the place you go on one attraction after another (Wonder Wheel and Cyclone to be highly recommended) and don’t want to drink anything (with alcoholic substance, that is). Bar culture in Coney turned out to be interesting, I dare say. We mostly found locals there, who were already drunk tipsy, or other foreigners to this area, such as us. And not to forget the homeless, alcoholic people who were simply soaking up the last rays of sun, such as everyone else.

The Wonderful Elena ordered a Star Island Single mermaid creation, which tasted like mushroom, and I had an eagle motive printed on my glass, which wasn’t all too good. Both beers came in a bottle and must have been from Long Island or even Brooklyn. But hey, we went for those fancy stickers on the bottle, and that by itself was worth it. I guess it has some sort of flair to sit in a half-empty bar at the beach in New York and to watch people walk by or take in the waves of the ocean while talking to your friend.

I think this is the first time I have said a decent good-bye to a summer destination I yearn to go back to in less than eight months from now. If I am still here, that is.

Oh Coney Island, you have brought so much joy to my life, I wish I could give back!