THE CYCLONE! – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: CYCLONE

The first time I rode the Cyclone, I was 8, as were my friends. Mary’s mom dropped us at the rides and went to visit a friend while we girls rode the Cyclone for hours. It was off-season and if there weren’t any people waiting, they’d let kids stay on as long as they could.

I rode that beast many more times until a few years ago when my bones and Garry’s said “Enough!” and we said goodbye.

NO CHICKENS IN THIS COOP

When my granddaughter was nine, Garry and I and her parents took her to Coney Island. Garry and I grew up in New York, so we loved it. Yes, we knew Coney Island was falling apart. It has since been significantly improved, especially the big wooden Cyclone which is now being preserved for future generations.

As a kid, though, watching parts of the  coaster fall while riding was part of the experience. Kids are fearless.

It’s about a four and a half hour drive to get there. We left early so we’d have a whole day before heading home. I expected Kaity to be awed by the entire experience. She was, after all, raised in Uxbridge, not exactly action central of the eastern. Thus we suggested some of the tamer “kiddie” rides, which Kaity eyed with one eyebrow up in the air. She gave a couple a quick tries and look bored.

Then, she stood next to the huge, white, wooden Cyclone. She looked at it. Walked around it. Looked at me and said: “I want THAT one.”

I said “Don’t you want to maybe work your up to that ride? It’s a really big ride.”

“Nope,” she said “THAT one! And YOU are going with me.”

Not that I objected to the Cyclone. I was her age, maybe a year younger, when I first rode it with my little neighborhood friends. Once, we rode it all afternoon and we all had whiplash for the week. But that was me, after all … and this was my granddaughter.

We rode the cyclone six times that day. Four times in the morning, then twice more in the middle of the afternoon. By then, my legs were wobbly and I just couldn’t do it again.

Kaitlin laughed the entire time. She had the biggest grin on her face. She giggled the entire way. Did I mention she also had a broken arm — in plaster — and I had to hang on to her so she wouldn’t fly out of the car?

I am grateful that her driving is less enthusiastic than her hysterical, laughing roller-coaster experience!

CONEY ISLAND BACK THEN – 2011 & 2012

Pictures of Coney Island – 2011 and 2012, the last years during which Astroland ran the rides. It was, of course, the last time I was able to take pictures. Sandy came in 2012 and a lot of Coney Island went underwater. Surprisingly little damage was done. The pictures right after the super-storm made it look worse than it turned out to be.

Astroland’s commission to run the rides had run out by 2012. New York hired a different company who installed new rides for adults and children … and there was a major restoration of the Cyclone. I have not ridden it since the fix up, but I have heard the first drop is not quite as steep.

It has all been redone since then and we haven’t been back. I don’t know if we’ll be down there again, but I’m grateful for the time we spent. At least my granddaughter will grow up and remember Coney Island.

There’s a lot of information about Coney Island. It was the place where roller coasters and carousels were invented, for example. If you’re interested, check out this LINK.

SURVIVAL VS. VALOR – A FEW THOUGHTS

We were watching a rerun of NCIS, an episode from a few years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others and her country’s secrets.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”


My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much. We communicate a fair bit on the Internet but hardly ever in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic. Fun and I don’t regret it, but there’s nothing heroic about riding the Cyclone — at least not these days since they repaired it.

Maybe it was braver — more like stupider — when I was a kid. Back then, pieces of it would fly off while you rode the rickety rails at 70 mph. But I digress.

Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived cancer and heart problems and a myriad other life-threatening ailments (so far, so good). As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all of that and have a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s always a trip to the Cyclone and doesn’t require years of recovery and rehab.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship still alive but hardly deserving a medal. No one gives medals for surviving. Nor should they. Saving your own life (and occasionally, dragging others with you to safety) is your survival instinct at work. It’s not valor. N0t bravery.

Staying alive is hard-wired into the DNA of all living things. Otherwise, life on earth would have long since vanished. It may yet.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You make a willing and conscious choice to put yourself in peril for the sake of others. There must be a choice involved. Taking risks for fun, to make money, or because your imminent demise is the only other option isn’t courageous. It’s what we do to keep alive. Some of us are better at it than others, but that doesn’t change the essence of the experience.

Medal of honor from Obama

If you do it for fun, it’s entertainment. If you’re doing it for profit? It’s shrewd business sense.  If it’s choosing to live rather than die? That’s your survival instinct at work.

I have never done anything I would define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. I’ve gotten myself into tight corners — accidentally — and lived to tell the tale. I’ve occasionally put others ahead of me to help when I could. Never did I put myself in harm’s way to save another.

The best I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t the easiest choice. You don’t get medals for that, either.

SURVIVAL – THE DAILY POST

TAKE ME BACK – CONEY ISLAND, AS REMEMBERED

Take me back to Coney Island, the Coney Island I remember from when I was a child.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

I want to be on the Boardwalk. I want to sniff the air full of the aroma of spicy exotic food, pop corn and hotdogs. I want to smell the salt air blowing off the ocean and shade my eyes from the gleam of bright sun on white sand.

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I want to hear the endless screams of riders on the Cyclone, the squeal of kids discovering how far they can see from the top of the Wonder Wheel.

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I want to watch the people, all the different people of every color from everywhere in the world as thy gape at the strange wonders along the boardwalk, hear the rumble of the elevated trains passing.

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I want it to be exactly how it was the first time I rode the big roller coasters and screamed in delighted terror. I want to be that child again for a single day, the little girl discovering fear and wonder on a hot summer day when the world and I were both young.

SCREAMING AND HOTDOGS

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I don’t like horror movies, except the old ones which are more funny than scary. I thought Jurassic Park and Jaws were scary enough. Life is plenty full of thrills and chills without seeking out more.

Then, there are roller coasters. Especially our hometown favorite — the Cyclone at Coney Island.

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WHAT’S A HERO?

It was a rerun of an NCIS episode from a couple of years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”


My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much any more. We communicate via the Internet, not in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic.

72-Cannon-Vertical-Uxbridge-0807_076

Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all that and lead a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s the Cyclone. I could have lived with that.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship alive but I don’t deserve a medal. You don’t get medals for surviving or shouldn’t. Saving ones own life (and occasionally as collateral anti-damage, other people’s too) is instinct, not valor.

Staying alive is hard-wired into our DNA. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing choice. There has to be a choice! Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death isn’t courage.

If it’s fun, it’s entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my back not been so bad. A personal passion or hobby involving doing dangerous stuff is not brave. Maybe it’s not even intelligent.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, not brave.

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? That’s instinct.

I’ve never done anything I define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. Some of these adventures proved disastrous. Others worked out okay. I’ve occasionally been selfless in helping others when I could. But I never voluntarily put myself in harm’s way to save someone else.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

REMEMBERING – TEN GOOD MEMORIES?

From lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown comes and interesting challenge in which she asks us to post our ten best pre-teen memories. Childhood happy memories are rather thin on the ground for me, so I hope you will excuse me for including memories from other times, when I was free to do my own thing.

Please post your ten favorite youthful memories to your blog with a link to mine. To form a link, go to that page in your blog and select and copy the URL. Then come to my blog and in the comment box, make a comment if you wish and paste your URL. Then you can see each other’s lists via the hyperlinks on my blog.

And here are a few of mine.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). I think we were about 6 or 7.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). Age  6 or 7.

1. My girlfriend Mary’s mother was the only mom in our little group who had a car and could drive. She would take us to Coney Island where the three of us, little tiny girls, would ride the great big Cyclone roller coaster. We rode it again and again, screaming until our knees were so shaky we could barely stand. But we were still laughing.

2. Sixty year later, I joyously relived the experience with my 10-year-old granddaughter.

72-Cyclone with Kaitlin

3. Hanging out at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park on the Hudson River. Cutting school, taking the subway all the way up to the very top of Manhattan. Roaming the museum, pretending I was in a medieval castle. Looking down on the great Hudson River. Pure bliss.

4. The day I got my Steinway grand piano. It was my 14th birthday. I cannot imagine a better gift, ever.

5. Long days spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Traveling in time from the Egyptian mummy exhibit at the front of the museum all the way up to modern times, far at the rear. Again, I was alone, so happy to take my time and immerse myself in each exhibit.

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6. Trips with my mom into Manhattan in the winter. She wore her raccoon coat. We linked arms like girlfriends and equals. We might catch a matinée on Broadway (there were always tickets, even if the seats weren’t great) … or check out the window at FAO Schwartz.

7. We bought hot chestnuts from the vendor in front of the library, then sat on the steps under the shadow of the lions, peeling and eating them. And laughing. My mother wasn’t motherly, but she was adventurous, smart, had a sharp sense of humor, and a sharper tongue. She made me laugh. She was nothing like the mothers of my friends, but perhaps she was just the right mother for me.

8. At 16, with three wacky friends from college, piling into Micki’s VW bug. Driving all night to visit her boyfriend at his summer-house on Eagle Point Lake, high in the Adirondacks. We had no money for gasoline or food, but we were young.You could coast down the mountains to save gasoline.

9. Finding a riding stable that would rent me a good horse. Then, galloping down the trail on my own, wind in my hair. Totally lost but trusting that the horse knew the way.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

10. Getting married at 18 and realizing I’d never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.

I LOST IT

“I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

I said it calmly, though I felt rather dizzy and disoriented. That was the fifth time in a row I’d ridden Coney Island’s Cyclone. My granddaughter insisted Granny was the only one she would ride with. Flattering, but my age was catching up with me. If my orthopedist could see me now, he’d have me committed. Clearly I was demented.

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As the morning had progressed and the heat rose, the ride got wilder and crazier. It slung us through the curves, dips, and dives with ever-increasing intensity. That last time, when I got off, my knees were shaking. Actually, my whole body was shaking. I felt like a sailor back from a long time at sea.

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On the Cyclone – 3 generations riding an old wooden coaster

“Once more Gramma?”  she said, eyes imploring.

I took a deep breath. And then, I said the words I never thought I’d hear coming from my mouth. “Maybe later. Grandma’s had enough for now.”


Daily Prompt: Use it or lose it, including the line: “I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

VALOR AND SURVIVAL

It was a rerun of an NCIS episode from a few years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others and her country’s secrets.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”


My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much. We communicate a fair bit on the Internet but hardly ever in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic.

Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all that and lead a pleasantly uneventful life. For excitement, there’s the Cyclone. I could have lived with that.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship alive but I hardly deserve a medal. You don’t get medals for surviving or you shouldn’t. Saving ones own life (and occasionally as collateral anti-damage, other people too) is instinct, not valor.

Staying alive is hard-wired into our DNA. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing choice. There has to be a choice! Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death isn’t courage.

If it’s fun, it’s entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my back not been so bad. A personal passion or hobby involving doing dangerous stuff is not brave. Maybe it’s not even intelligent.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, not brave.

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? That’s instinct.

I’ve never done anything I define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. Some of these adventures proved disastrous. Others worked out okay. I’ve occasionally been selfless in helping others when I could. But I never voluntarily put myself in harm’s way to save someone else.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

BIRTHDAYS AND OTHER DAYS OF JOY

Daily Prompt: Shake it Up

by Krista on February 24, 2014
You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory. GO.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us RECKLESS.

– – – – –

And this is as reckless as we ever got. Reckless enough!

And this is as reckless as we ever got. Reckless enough!

Sorry. No pictures of youthful birthday parties. Never had one. I don’t even remember either of my siblings having a birthday party except for my sister when she was … like five maybe? Otherwise, there wasn’t much celebrating in my house. Later, when my life was my own, we had some good times.

And around we go again. I rode the beast with my granddaughter 7 times that day, twice in the morning and five more times in the afternoon. I think she was ready to keep going forever and maybe, she had the right idea.

And around we go again. I rode the beast with my granddaughter 7 times that day, twice in the morning and five more times in the afternoon. I think she was ready to keep going forever and maybe, she had the right idea.

Garry threw me a surprise party on my 60th birthday … and we went to New Orleans for my 50th. I took him to Cooperstown for his 50th. Childhood was a long time ago and stuff that happened to me as a grownup somehow seems more relevant at this age and stage. Twelve, as I vaguely recall, was not one of my vintage years. Awkward, a mouth full of braces, short, half woman, mostly kid, frizzy hair and a general look of dazed confusion at a world that didn’t seem to have anything to do with me.

It got better. Then worse. Then better again. That’s life. Much like the roller coasters I dearly love, life has its ups and downs. The downs are terrifying, the ups give you a chance to catch your breath before you plunge down the next drop. When you pull into the station, laughing and gasping, what do you say? I say: “Let’s do it again!”

This was one of my "am I going to live to see another birthday" years. I almost didn't.

My 60th birthday. This was one of the “am I going to live to see another birthday” years. I almost didn’t.

Other entries:

  1. Brent’s Ten Dollar Idea And The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  2. Daily Prompt: Shake It Up | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
  3. Daily Prompt: Shake it Up | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  4. Prayer for Faith | Daily Prompt: Shake it Up | likereadingontrains
  5. Happy Birthday to Me | Knowledge Addiction
  6. Daily Prompt: Ten Minutes of Nothing | Under the Monkey Tree
  7. Twelve | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  8. Twelve: Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  9. Daily Prompt – Reckless – Broken |
  10. My Day. | Crossroads
  11. [M.M.X.I.V. 55] Snowball fight (Fiction) | Never A Worry
  12. Daily Prompt: Shake it Up | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  13. DP Daily Prompt: Shake it Up | Sabethville
  14. Birthdays | Sinister Pacifism
  15. Twelfth birthday | Sue’s Trifles
  16. Birthday cake | dandelionsinwind
  17. DAILY PROMPT: SHAKE IT UP | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS

American Alphabet

A is for Arizona, with Big Skies and deep canyons …

Painted Desert

B is for Boston, a great city in every season …

Citco sign over Feway is part of the panarama of Boston.

C is for Coney Island. Chills, thrills and a beach too.

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D is for diner … the best place to eat on the road …

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E is for elections held all over our land …

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F is for Florida, where traffic flows across the causeway …

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G is for Gettysburg, where a big battle was fought and tourists are always welcome.

Main St., Gettysburg

H is for home, where most journeys begin.

A home

I is for Ireland and the Isle of Innisfree.

GarryInnisfree

J is for jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

K is for kitchen, where food is prepared. Or not.

Morning light in my kitchen as coffee brews ...

L is for Lone Ranger, my childhood hero who roamed the early west with Tonto, his faithful companion.

The-Lone-Ranger-Original

M is for marina, where the boats wait and the sea calls.

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N is for Nathan’s where the best hot dogs await you!

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O is for Ogunquit, the Maine beach of sunrise over the Atlantic.

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P is for the Painted Desert where storm clouds gather but do not break.

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Q is for Quaker, the meeting-house down the road where peace reigns and songs of Thanksgiving are sung.

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R is for railroad, disappearing but still alive, if you search for them.

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S is for Symphony Hall where music fills the air.

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T is for Tombstone, where the Earps and Doc Holliday’s ghosts still linger.

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U is for unicorn. I’m sure they exist. They merely are hiding … so let’s go and hunt!

Rhett with Unicorn

V is for vintage, old things that remember the roads.

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W is for Williamsburg, an old town brought back to life.

Williamsburg Lane

X marks the spot and a cross-road of life and of roads.

BostonCrosswalk-2

Y is for yellow, the color of summer wildflowers by every roadside.

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Z is for Zeus, pretending to be a swan. Poor Leda, did her parents believe her?

Zeus the Swan

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic — Coney Island Summers

My first trip to Coney Island, I was 8 years old. Over the long years, I have been there many times,  with many friends and most of my family. Riding the Cyclone with my granddaughter was a delight I never expected to enjoy, sealing the memory … the fourth generation of my family to laugh and scream with joy as we rode those shaky rails again.

Watch Out for Pigeons!

Anyone who knows me at all knows I love roller coasters. I love them all … but for me, there’s nothing that comes near the Cyclone at Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. Been riding it since I was 8 years. I’m ready to go again. Just say the word. But I think I’d have to go alone. My friends and husband have declared themselves too crotchety to do it again. Bah. Humbug.

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If a goose can bring down a 747, it is not irrational to believe a pigeon can derail a roller coaster. Just thought I’d mention it.

Here’s a crazy video of the coaster and nutty middle-aged people enjoying the last great legal high. How many of us leave this ride limping, wondering if we are as insane as we appear to be? I would say yes, we are insane. After last summer’s excursion to Busch Gardens, almost a year later … I’m still limping! But oh, that wonderful adrenaline rush as you look down the first drop, wondering if this time, the car really is going to hit a pigeon and you will go flying off into eternity. What a way to go, right?

Map of Coney Island in 1879

Map of Coney Island in 1879

This is still the best video I’ve seen to date.  Clean, almost sort of  like being there. Nah. Who am I kidding? There’s nothing like being there except being there. Garry says we’re too old, just because I can’t even stand up straight. He points out I can barely walk. But  you don’t have to walk on the Cyclone. You just sit and scream. I can do it. I can, really. Especially the screaming.

Well, we’ll always have 2009 in Brooklyn.

Ah, the refreshing sounds of joy mixed with terror! What a great thing it is to be safely scared to death. Just gotta go back … one last time. I hear the new rides are FANtastic. And here, a sentimental song and a look at those long ago days of doo wop and 1962 … beehive hairdo and mini skirts. Gee. I was the same age that my granddaughter is now … yikes.

Hey Brooklyn … how are you?

– – –

Back to Coney Island – Summer’s Back!

Astroland in a summer night, 2005

Scared and screaming, laughing and screaming some more … Sometimes hot and sweaty, dirty and grubby, or clean and shining with the gleaming water and soft sand … Coney Island was a great place to be alive. You got to be a kid, no matter what your real age!

Time to ride and scream and eat hot dogs at Nathan’s and remember how it was while enjoying what it is. Also, the beach is a beautiful as ever and the boardwalk is still unbeatable. First, how it used to be!

Us ... Coney Island ... 2007 or thereabouts.

1952 … I was five, but didn’t get there for three more years.

They still had most (not all) of these same rides running all the way through the early 1960s, but age and attrition started to eliminate pieces after that. I DID get to ride all of these!

These were the years I remember best from being a kid with other kids. Without the annoying background music, accompanied entirely by the joyfully terrified screams of kids and adults alike.

Fast forward through the declining years and the closing of Astroland, end of a long era … to 2011 and now, it’s the NEW Luna Park!

It’s back … and Nathan’s is still there, with the best beef fries and hot dogs in the world. And the water is still fine!

Old Coney Island Impressions

Coney Island was back with new rides, glitzy, fancy and clean. They kept the  boardwalk, the Cyclone, and the Wonder Wheel, but replaced the other rides and got rid the polyglot food stands, losing much of the unique atmosphere of the place . They tidied it up.

My pictures are from July 2007, one of the final two years before they “fixed it,” although I didn’t think it was broken. These are impressions, intentionally painting-like photographs. So before you ask, they are manipulated images that are intentionally a bit surreal … which, of course, is how Coney Island always felt to me.

I started going to Coney Island when I was about 8 years old and that was the first time I rode the Cyclone. The Parachute Jump was still running then. Now, although the structure still stands, the ride is no longer considered safe enough for the public.

The old Coney Island had three big roller coasters, of which the Cyclone was the largest.

The former Thunderbolt roller coaster, Coney I...

The former Thunderbolt roller coaster, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was also the Tornado and the Thunderbolt, both of which were big roller coasters. They didn’t have as large a first drop as the Cyclone, but both were famous for  crazy turns that tossed you around. And of course all three were wooden roller coaster which have an entirely different “feel” than steel coasters … mainly the wooden coasters shake more than steel coasters. They feel more dangerous and less secure than steel coasters. These old coasters didn’t have secure seating, either, just a bar across your lap that felt loose enough to let you get thrown out, or stand up. Every year a few dumb people were killed because they simply had to prove their bravery by standing and waving their arms around. One can but wonder how many beers one needs before that seems like a good idea!

Newer roller coasters have much more secure seating than the old ones did.

A goodly part of the thrill of the Cyclone was that for many years it was very rickety. It wasn’t unusual to see a piece fall off while you were riding it.

Thus, added to the thrill of the dips and curves was the not entirely unrealistic fear that the whole thing might collapse with you on it, or you might go flying off the rails for a final thrill … going out with a bang, not a whimper.

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

But now, we have to wonder if Coney Island will ever be back. The damage done by Hurricane Sandy was serious and there’s an awful lot of repair work to be done. Will they do it? Can they do it? Time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m glad we were there while it was the original wonderful midway, beach and boardwalk.