Sunday at Coney Island

I really enjoyed the concert at Coney Island a few weeks back with Squeeze and the Romantics, so I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get to the Joan Jett show last Thursday night (I had work the next day and I also wasn’t feeling well).  My girlfriend did go to that one, and she said it was a fantastic concert.  Too bad I missed out on it.

So my girlfriend Michele suggested that, since I missed the show, we should go to Coney Island this past Sunday.  Even though there weren’t any special events, we’d have the entire day to enjoy the place.  Despite the fact that it’s a pretty long train ride from where we live, I do like going to Coney Island.  It’s an interesting area with a lot of sights, a beautiful beach, and a great deal of history to it.  Last August we went for a day, and had a lot of fun, so I was certainly up for another leisurely day trip there.

Since we decided to take our time, we actually got there mid-afternoon.  The area was jam packed with people.  Nathan’s was overflowing with customers, the amusement park rides were busy, and there were a lot of people strolling around on the boardwalk.

One of the first things we did was to ride the Wonder Wheel.  I have to be honest: I am scared of heights.  Until a couple of years ago I had never taken a ride on a Ferris wheel before.  I finally got on one at a local fair in Queens, and that was after much prodding from Michele.  Well, the Wonder Wheel was much bigger (and higher!) than that one, so I wasn’t eager to try it before now.  Last year at Coney Island, I wouldn’t set foot on it.  This time, I agreed to go on it, but I made Michele promise to hold my hand.  Yeah, yeah, I’m a wimp.  It was fun, though, and the view was fantastic.  I took a few awesome pictures while I was on the Wonder Wheel.  Having said that, I will not be going on the Cyclone roller coaster any time soon!

A view of Coney Island from the Wonder Wheel
A view of Coney Island from the Wonder Wheel

We walked around on the boardwalk for a while, doing some people watching.  It was pretty hot out, so afterwards we headed over to a place called Cha Cha’s Bar & Grill.  They used to be on the boardwalk, but they had to relocate.  Fortunately, they found a new location close by on Surf Avenue, across the street from Nathan’s.  We had a nice light dinner there.

Afterwards, we went back to the boardwalk and onto the beach.  We had a good time just relaxing on the sand, dipping our feet in the water.  There were some really aggressive seagulls chasing after food.  I get the impression that they must be well fed, taking scraps from beachgoers.  We had a huge laugh when we spotted this one very plump seagull running along the shoreline with a Tupperware container full of food clasped firmly in its beak!

Finally, the sun started to go down.  After walking along the boardwalk for a bit more, we made our way back to the train and headed home.  For once there weren’t any problems with trains being re-routed or unexpected track work, so we made it home at a reasonable hour.  That said, there was one guy on the F train who was talking very loudly to himself.  And of course he had to sit just a few feet away from us.  It always works out that way, doesn’t it?

Anyway, we had a good day.  Here is a link to the gallery on Flickr where I posted the photos from yesterday, as well as the ones I took last year:

As I mentioned before, there is a lot of history to Coney Island.  There have been some amazing buildings in area in the past that no longer exist, due to fires and demolition.  I realize that time marches on, and progress needs to be made.  But it would be nice if some of the past was able to be preserved.  How cool would it be if the Elephantine Colossus, a hotel actually shaped like an elephant, had survived to the present day?  Fortunately, at least some of Coney Island’s historic structures are still relatively intact and have been designated as landmarks.

Elephantine Colossus
Elephantine Colossus

If you have the opportunity to visit Coney Island, you definitely should.  It is well worth seeing the area now, before it changes beyond recognition.  I read in the newspaper today that some local politicians want to build a casino at Coney Island.  I think that’s a bad idea, and apparently so do a lot of other people.  That would just change the area too much, and bring with it a host of problems.  There has to be other ways to reinvigorate the area while still keeping the character of the neighborhood intact.  But, as I said, change happens.  So take advantage of the present to see Coney Island while it still retains some of its rich history.

Putting the Squeeze on Coney Island

I’ve had this blog for a few months now, and I realized that I haven’t written anything about music.  I actually do listen to a lot of music.  It’s just that I find it a difficult subject to speak about.  If you’ve read my comic book reviews, you may have noticed that I focus on plot and characterization, but not nearly as much on artwork.  I sometimes find it a struggle to intelligently write about the elements of illustration and storytelling.  Likewise, along those lines, it’s very difficult for me to explain precisely why I like or don’t like certain music.  So don’t expect to see too many music reviews here!

Anyway, this summer there’s been the 34th annual Seaside Summer Concert Series going on at Coney Island.  Usually the shows are held on a Thursday night, which is a bit of a problem for me, because it takes a long time to travel to Coney Island from where I live.  So if I have work the next day, it’s not a great thing for me to have to try to make my way home from there after the show, and then be at the job a few hours later.  I just seem to need more sleep than most people.  So I hadn’t gone to any of the concerts this year.

Last week, for some reason, the concert was on a Friday night instead of a Thursday.  Since I didn’t have work the next day and could sleep in, my girlfriend pestered me into going.  I have to admit, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the line-up: Squeeze and The Romantics.  I knew a couple of songs by each band, but I would definitely not classify myself as a fan.

When we got there, I wasn’t too impressed.  It had been raining most of the day, and now the weather was very overcast & breezy.  Hardly any people were there.  Row upon row up empty chairs sat before the stage, looking quite forlorn.  If I had been in either of the bands, I might have taken one look at that scene, gotten back in my trailer, and hit the road.  Yeah, it was that bad.  It was like something out of This Is Spinal Tap, when the band hits rock bottom, and ends up playing to a crowd of a dozen people at an amusement park.

But apparently the show must go on.  The Romantics came on first, and did a decent set.  The only two songs I knew were “Talking in Your Sleep” and “What I Like About You.”  But I enjoyed it.  Like I said, though, I felt bad for the band having to play to a nearly-deserted venue.  People started to slowly trickle in while The Romantics were playing, and even more came during the intermission.

I was half-expecting these new arrivals to be scared off by Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who took to the stage to talk incessantly, rattling off all sorts of nonsense in between name-checking every single corporate sponsor.  That’s politicians for you; they love the sound of their own voice.  But people stuck around, and by the time Squeeze took to the stage, there was actually a halfway-decent crowd.  Still lots of empty seats, but nowhere near as bad as before.

Okay, I was really impressed by Squeeze.  The thing is, I thought that I only knew a couple of their songs, namely “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Tempted.”  Those are two decent tunes, although “Tempted” has unfortunately become one of those horribly overplayed numbers, so I didn’t think that I’d even want to hear it.  But the band did a really great live version of it.  And, surprisingly, it turned out I knew more of their songs than I thought.

Back in the mid-1990s, I used to hear “Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)” on the radio all the time.  I thought it was by some alternative band whose name I could never find out.  I had no idea that it was actually a 15 year old song by Squeeze.  Even more surprising was when the band launched into “Cool for Cats.”  That was a jaw-dropper.  I love that song.  I had no clue that Squeeze sang it.  My exchange with my girlfriend during the show went something like this:

“Wait, Squeeze did this song?”

“Yes. You never knew that?”

“No, I thought that it was by some British band.”

“Squeeze is from England, Ben.”

“Oh! I thought they were from the South or Midwest or something.”

*Ahem!* Shows how much I know.  Anyway, as I said, I really enjoyed the Squeeze set.  They did a fantastic job, and I’m sorry that they ended up performing to such a sparse audience.  Not sure they were happy about fireworks going off at the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball stadium next door, either!  Hope this whole experience doesn’t dissuade them from returning to New York in the future.  I’d like to see them again.  (I’m actually listening to their greatest hits CD as I type up this blog entry.)

Looking over the concert line-up for the rest of the summer, I saw that there were a couple of other shows I’d like to catch.  But they’re on the regular Thursday dates, though.  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I saw in Central Park several years ago.  So, if I miss them, at least I was able to catch them in the past.  No, the one that really bummed me out was that next Thursday at Coney Island they’re going to have Dennis DeYoung from Styx, Lou Gramm from Foreigner, and Bobby Kimball from Toto, all on one stage.  When I saw that, I disappointedly cried out “Awwwww, man!”  I would really like to catch that show, but I have work the next day.  What a bummer.

That said, if the Pet Shop Boys ever end up playing at Coney Island, I don’t care what day of the week it is, I am so there!