Monday, June 25, 2007

Last Time This Year...

This is to be the last year for Coney Island, the last chance for the run-down summertime sidewalks, with their dusting of sand skittering in the breeze, to skin the knees of unwary children, those whose eyes wander everywhere but right in front of their noses.

The last summer for Astroland, the sole remaining amusement park in Brooklyn, the park whose sale cleared the final land obstacle for redevelopement, the acreage that provides the last piece of the puzzle for the ultimate disfigurement of the seaside dreamland.

Coney Island is a strange place. It's a place that tugs at the heartstrings of people who went there once, 20, 30, 40 years ago, who come back now and wonder what happened to the place, and why no one goes there anymore (ignoring the fact that they, themselves, haven't been there in 20, 30, 40 years). Did they not realize that mass cultural tastes as well as the technical advancement and sophistication of entertainment, not to mention its year-round availability, would surpass the seasonal offerings of seaside barkers and simple rides?

And there really isn't a whole lot to it these days, either. The Cyclone is on West 10th Street and Surf Avenue, Astroland fills the next block to West 12th Street (there's no W. 11 St. in Coney Island). Some Go-Kart tracks and batting ranges take up the next block to Stillwell Avenue, then the lots are vacant for the rest of the boardwalk to the baseball park and the parachute jump.

After that there's Nathan's on Surf Avenue of course, across from the subway terminal. There are a few minor arcades and food stands along either side of Surf back towards 10th and the roller coaster, but that's about it. The New York Aquarium is just east of the Cyclone, and if you went to elementary school in New York City, you've been to the New York Aquarium.

To be continued....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The 25th Annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Uncle Sam on stilts led off the 25th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade this past Saturday, June 23, 2007. This was the first time I was able to attend; in past years I was always working on whichever the particular June afternoon it was held on. It's notable, too, in that this is also the last Mermaid Parade to be held at the Coney Island of today, for by next year much of the neighborhood between the Cyclone and the Parachute Jump may be a construction zone.

The Queen Mermaid and King Neptune
Patti d'Arbanville and Adam Savage were the grand marshals this year, or the Queen Mermaid and King Neptune. They were pushed along the parade route in a pedicab-type vehicle, fronted by a phalanx of burly yet stoic security guys, the quiet type, from whom a friendly glare is all that's needed create a pathway.

The Golden Girl
Alas, the golden girl here was not one of the security detail, unfortunately, or else I would have be pestering the marchers beyond their natural disturbance.

You know how to tell it's still early in the year, and she needs to spend a little more time in the sun, doncha? Her complexion is a little pastie...

Hardhat Hottie
And this one isn't really part of a construction crew, though any teamster would welcome her.

Jellyfish Dancers
These were really creative costumes. Giant domes of netting on hoops, bobbing up and down and swirling around, the women in ankle-length white satin gowns wriggling along, just like jellyfish.

A Girl's Gotta Do...
10th Street in front of the Cyclone was the main staging area for marchers on foot; pre-registered marchers got themselves in order there, and day-of registration was also taken. No one is turned away from the Mermaid Parade. I got these shots of a green mermaid keeping her energy up in the hot sun, with a combination of the savory and the sweet.

...What a Girl's Gotta Do.
My wife thinks there's something beyond sensuous in the way she licks that cone. I have to admit, there is a certain sense of absolute pleasure there. So it's a little tough, then, knowing that just outside the frame, she's also holding a slice of pizza....

Lobster Girl
"If you don't get out of the sun you'll wind up looking like a lobster!" That's what my mother used to say to me at the beach. Now, we were not a family to dine on lobster, and the closest I ever got to those undersea insects was the fish counter at the local Grand Union supermarket. There was a murky tank there with these monsters lolling about, their claws banded shut, but they looked more black and dark green than cartoon-y fire engine red.

Come to think of of it, lobsters turn red only after boiling. So then, this is a dead lobster walking. Spooky.

I think a costume like this, grand as it is, could do with the addition of one more prop, namely, a pat of butter on her tail, as well as someone dressed as a giant pot, perhaps even with dry ice providing some steam. He could run circles around her, waving a pair of tongs.

Get A Load of Those Puppies...
I was following this one down the boardwalk for a bit when I called out, "Hey, could I get a shot of those puppies?" I got a wisecrack in return, "Maybe if you're lucky!" and a diva's pose.

I should note here, that owning to the sensitivity of my eyes, I wear very dark glasses on bright sunny days like this. If I didn't, I'd be squinting and in a bit of pain trying to shoot through the glare. The sunglasses make it a little tough to see the displays inside the camera viewfinder, even trying to check the exposure on the monitor is hard, so I tend to glance at the histogram graphs, and keep my fingers crossed.

In the excitement of an event like this, I try not to effect my surroundings, only to record them. So I don't always pay very close attention to what's going on. I'm more interested in how I'm going to compose the image for my presentation of it. So all that, coupled with the dark glasses, meant that I didn't take a good long look at this picture till I got home.

Oh my. Oh. My.