Coney Island High
I had the pleasure of playing Coney Island tour guide to Tony Carnevale, Dave Thunder, and Jen McNeil, all of whom have never been there before:
● The NY Aquarium: Tony Carnevale and I got there just in time to see the hilariously cheesy and adorable sea lion demonstration. We also saw the walruses which are very social animals and exhibitionists (last time I was there one masturbated in the window, much to the horror of toddler-toting parents and the vocal delight of the many pre-teens in the vicinity). A side note about penguins: they are only cute when there are a bunch of them waddling around. When there is a lone penguin standing there doing nothing their cuteness factor falls dramatically. What a letdown. On the plus side, they had a jellyfish exhibit that was awesomely creepy.
● Spook-a-rama! We went to all three Haunted Houses in order to contrast and compare. The first one, Spook-a-rama, was great because it all takes place in one room which isn't really dark so you can totally see where you are going and make out all of the skeletons/ghouls/electric chairs etc. long before you reach them. This ride will also give you whiplash since it arbitrarily jerks you around in circles the whole time. It is 50 years old, and it shows. When Jen and Dave showed up we made them ride it for the full experience.
We went to the second, the awesomely-named "Ghost Hole" which was more of a standard haunted house in that it is pitch black until you reach each supposedly scary exhibit and you are routed through many levels and corridors. For some inexplicable reason, the sound effects consisted solely of car alarms and machine gun fire. I suspect that the sound designer grew up in some sort of wartorn neighborhood, as this was the auditory experience provided. This ride was also made better by the fact that every time we went through any doors or turned a corner Tony would yell out "Ghost Hole! GHOST HOLE!" This added to the experience considerably.
The last one, Dante's Inferno, was also pitch black and had much better (and appropriate) sound effects of people screaming, but the exhibits were mostly of gorillas and werewolves. I think there can never be enough fake gorillas in a haunted house. After sampling the trifecta, Dave and Tony pronounced Ghost Hole the winner for its use of car alarms. Spook-a-rama remains my favorite for its old school charm.
● Rides: The water flume is the best ride in the park because it is relaxing, refreshing, and still provides you with that one moment of adrenaline-inducing fear as you are plummeted down a mini roller coaster sans seat belt or safety bar. We all agreed that its only fault is that it is a relatively short ride and they should let you go around twice for your four bucks. Still awesome though.
Dave convinced me to go on the Cyclone. I have only ridden it one other time and it scared the crap out of me. This time it was just fun. Score, Rachael=1, Childhood Neuroses=0. Thanks Dave Thunder!
● Pizza: Tony had heard about a famous pizza place named Totonno's, which claims to be the oldest pizza parlor in the city. We trekked through the grizzled streets of Coney Island to find it and were met with the most awesomely gruff pizza parlor staff ever. Upon entering two 55 year old (ish) women come barreling at you telling you at very high volume to wait outside. Once you are finally invited to enter, they throw a bunch of styrofoam plates, cups, and plastic utensils at you and pressure you to order immediately. We ordered two pies: sausage and pepperoni. They were delicious and were completely worth being demoralized by middle aged Italian women.
● Boardwalk Oddities: While it doesn't compare with Venice Beach, CI has its share of interesting people and attractions. Besides the now famous Shoot the Freak where you can paint ball some poor sucker in a strangely setup area that is filled with umbrellas and mannequin heads, we also encountered a guy with a bucket that read Animal Rescue. Besides looking suspiciously unofficial, he was wearing a boa constrictor around his neck, a parrot on his head, and had an uncomfortable looking giant lizard thrust under his arm. Somehow carrying animals around in the blazing sun for the better part of the day doesn't seem all that humane to me, but that's Coney Island irony for you.
We debated going to the sideshow, which in my recollection is pretty much a collection of tattooed people and other equally unimpressive attractions. Dave nixed the idea by saying "I would go if there were retards." I guess he has a point. A sword swallower is one thing, but a retarded sword-swallower? Now there is some real drama. (My apologies to any retards reading this journal).
There was also a mariachi band in full costume serenading people on the beach. Awesome.
● Ices: Dave is very selective about ices and will only eat Gino's brand and no other. He says that you have to check to make sure that they are really Gino's because even though the signs say they are it is often false advertising. I am not sure how he checks this out but he has clearly devised a method for doing so and after we got the nod, we all indulged (Me-chocolate, Dave-rainbow, Tony-orange creme). Counterfeit ices! Who knew?
● Karma is a Bitch: Jen had to leave to perform her Pearl Brunswick show and after walking her to the train, Tony, Dave, and I went to the beach to chill out. We watched a guy who was clearly a total asshole berate a 5-year-old for playing catch too close to his blanket on the beach. The ever gallant Dave Thunder got up and walked past his blanket and kicked a ton of sand in the guy's shoes. Tony dubbed Dave the passive-aggressive vigilante of Coney Island. I sense a Channel 102 pilot in the making.
After this, Tony and I went to see "You and Me and Everyone We Know" which was underwhelming. When a movie contains a discussion on existentialism involving a goldfish, you lose me (This sounds interesting as I am writing it, but believe me, it wasn't). However, I did not leave the theater with that knot of rage I can get in my stomach from mediocre movies, so I guess it was enjoyable enough.
Apparently a day at Coney Island lessens my critical instincts. Not entirely a bad thing.