Late Night Explorations – Coney Island

Saturday evening, after a day of car trouble, cleaning, and studying (for E), we got the news that our landlord wants to raise our rent for the second consecutive year. We don’t want to pay it, so that leaves us looking to move in a little over a month. We’re not very excited about this, because guess what happens in a month, exactly, from today?

E takes the bar exam.

So, Saturday evening was shaping up to be less than fun, for more reasons than our surprise rent increase. In an attempt to drown our sorrows, we headed down to the beer garden for a pitcher, but we were both sort of cranky. So we decided to be spontaneous, and hopped in the car at 11 pm to head down to Coney Island and…

…The Coney Island Cyclone.

Neither of us had ever ridden the coaster, and it seemed like just the thing to jolt us out of our sour moods. We happened upon a sympathetic security officer at the New York Aquarium who let us park there alongside the revelers at the Mermaid Ball, and we were off. Tickets are 8 bucks per person, and luckily there was no one in line so I didn’t have time to second guess my decision.

We walked onto the platform and were ushered into a car. The lap bar was pushed down so tightly I was worried I wouldn’t make it through the ride without passing out. And then? We were off.

The first drop is 85 feet tall and steep as heck at 58.1 degrees. The ride is rough in a bone-jarring way that only old wooden roller coasters can be. I was not surprised to read that someone broke 4 vertebrae on the ride in 2007.  Despite being squished in behind that incredibly tight lap bar, I still got air on some of the drops. Don’t ask me how.

After we survived our roller coaster ride (which, if you’re so inclined, you can experience virtually here), we wandered down to the beach to see the water. Coney Island isn’t exactly a picturesque beach, but it has its own charm, with the amusements behind it and the litter of days well-spent in the sand. After E got his fill of looking out at the darkened water (something that spooks me), we headed back to our car at the Aquarium, and I rolled my window down on the way home. E thought I wanted to smell the ocean, but I was really trying to ward off some lingering nausea from the roller coaster ride. Same thing, right?

In moments like that — random Saturday nights when we decide we want to conquer a landmarked roller coaster — I am so glad we live in New York City. For all its filth, and eccentricities, and tiredness, it is also a place with enormous potential for joy, maybe, once in a while, sometimes.

Okay, New York, I don’t totally hate you. You caught me.

A Weekend Trip to the Twenties

Last weekend, E and I suited up and headed out to Governors Island for the  Jazz Age Lawn Party.

It was our second year attending, so we knew what to expect. However, we went to the smaller, quieter, (hotter) August version last summer, so the sheer number of people, of entertainers, of vendors was a fun surprise.

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is less historical reenactment than it is a chance for New Yorkers to get a little whimsical with their wardrobe, break out the nostalgia, and picnic for hours surrounded by grass and trees and bikes and champagne cocktails.

The costumes this year were fantastic. A lot of people who made it work with modern stuff, and also a ton of vintage promenading. Fans and hats and parasols, and suspenders, suspenders, suspenders.

It’s also a chance to joke about people who we now know were in for a big economic surprise in a few years’ time — “Oh, golly, how much have YOU made in the stock market this month?!” exclaimed one of my companions dramatically. Perhaps we are using humor to address our own embarrassment and shame of our own actions (or those of people we knew) during the last boom. Or maybe people are just jerks.

More than anything, though, it was a visual spectacle to see so many people in costume, lounging on blankets, strolling among the trees, or dancing a few steps of the Charleston to the sounds of a live band. There is a feeling of safety when you are surrounded by so many people doing what can be construed as a foolish thing in one place. On the ferry over, the benches were full of a mix of people in costume and wide-eyed folks in normal clothes who had no idea what was going on. When the silly ones are the ones in the know, there’s something special happening.

We’ll see you again soon, Governors Island — possibly even for the next Jazz Age Lawn Party in August.