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"Step right up. Mumble. Mumble mumble, freak."

Posted on October 8th, 2007 after 8451 miles by Dean Croshere.

After lounging around for a couple of hours yesterday, I figured it was time to go see something. Brooklyn had to have something interesting, it is New York after all.

While I mentally searched for something to do, the soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream came on. Specifically, the song was “Coney Island Dreaming.”

Oh hey, that’s here, isn’t it?

Before I go into my experience of Coney Island, I should lay out my expectations. I knew it was a beleaguered amusement park that tries to be edgy. I always think of horribly distorted laughing plastic clowns, the most disturbing of “carnies,” and hot dogs that are amazing, i.e. edible. All in all, I expected it to be an entertaining experience in a disturbing subculture.

What I saw was lame.

It was a beautiful, if a little hot, Saturday afternoon. Admittedly, it was late in the season, but such a day should bring people to a permanent carnival for some disturbing fun. At least, this was my expectation.

The place was pretty much deserted. A few of the rides were running, including the big Ferris Wheel that had tracks to allow the cars to move around while going in a circle. Novel, I suppose.

A few of the carnie games and food stands were open. I had already eaten a bite, but I figured a Coney Island hot dog was worth a try. I had two options for dogs. One was Nathan’s, the original Coney Island hot dog place. The other was a video arcade that offered 2 dogs and a soda for $3.

Nathan’s was across the street and the traffic lights never seemed to change, so I went with the video arcade place. Frank’s Fantastic I think it was called.

The dogs were long and slender and not any tastier than any other dogs I’ve eaten. In fact, they were best described as ketchup and mustard delivery vehicles.

I munched on these dogs as I began to wander around the carnie town that was mostly deserted. A carnie ghost town? Sounds like Scooby Doo.

I stopped to watch some guy spend money shooting a game roughly based off of pool. It appeared he had to sink a shot that defied physics. If he did, he would win a Playstation 3. There were some strange rules attached to the game, I’m not sure what they were, but I’m sure they were designed to separate money from fools.

“I’m not lying, the Playstation is right here!” The carnie laid his hand on a not shrink-wrapped black box emblazoned with an image of the expensive game system. “You can go home with this right now.” I’m sure the system itself was hooked up to the carnie’s TV at home. “Now,” the carnie continued, “five will get you six and if you get three on two you can go home with this system!”

The guy forked over some cash. I’m not sure how much, though I’m guessing it was 2, 3, 5, or 6 bucks. I walked on.

Around the corner there was a small group of kids being led in a song by a guitar-wielding guy who’s skin appeared to be almost entirely red. The amount of said skin that could be seen did not make me happy.

The song was something about zoning laws. They repeated the same two verses about 10 times, but I still didn’t understand anything past the words “zoning laws.” I’m sure the kids really cared. After all, I see 8 year olds complaining about zoning laws all the time.

As I wandered around the area, I gave in and decided to try a Nathan's original dog. It was almost exactly the same as the two dogs and a soda place. There certainly no difference in taste and, of course, it was $3 on its own.

After a bit of adventuring, I found the “Cyclone” roller coaster. The Cyclone is ride guaranteed to beat the crap out of you, but be fun enough to be worth it.

It was closed.

I had no desire to ride the slightly enhanced Ferris Wheel, and every other ride was a kiddie ride. There were cars that went in circles on tracks, boats that went in circles on tracks, and horses that went in circles on tracks. There was a free fall ride that looked like it fell about 20 feet. Sounds like a blast, though I’d rather jump off a high dive or rock for free.

Finally I walked by a place telling people to “step right up, step right up.” I gravitated towards the speaker. “Step right up” is the call of the carnie, promising something interesting. By this point I was really hoping to be thrilled. Guess what?

I wasn’t.

I should have expected this. The phrase “Step right up” needs to be said with confidence. It needs to say, “You will come here, you will give me money, and you will be happy that you did.”

Instead, he seemed to be saying, “My boss told me to say this. I’m getting paid minimum wage. My life would be easier if I was a Wal-Mart greeter. I don’t really care if you do this or not.”

It was a shoot the freak booth. A bunch of paintball guns were set up and some guy put on a bunch of paintball armor and slowly moved around holding a trash can lid. People shot the lid. Lame.

The whole Coney Island thing seemed to be lacking confident identity. The place tries to be disturbing and unclean. The target market seems like it should be teenagers and adults that still act like teenagers. “Bump your ass off” does not sound like family fun. Even so, all of the rides at the place were hardly interesting enough to thrill a kid old enough to know what an “ass” is.

The beachfront was nice. I would not shed a tear if the whole place was torn down and turned into a nice suburb of Brooklyn.

On my way back from Coney, I stopped at Prospect Park. There was a really cool arch and fountain thing. I wonder why no one mentioned this as something to take pictures of in Brooklyn. I suppose because it is hardly cared for. I tried to read the plaque describing what it was about, but the plaque was actually a plastic sign that was smeared and falling off the post.

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