We arrived at Coney Island under a blue sky, the first we’d seen since arriving in New York. Apparently back home, warm weather and sunshine has been going on without us; we’ve had mostly gray and drizzle while tripping around Manhattan. Still, we’re in New York! And today, Coney Island!
Despite the sunny Sunday, relatively few people thronged the boardwalk. The only line we faced was the one at Nathan’s, where we started with pretzels and fries. I ordered an almond pretzel, they forgot to make it, I ended up with two pretzels as consolation: a cinnamon-sugar one, crunchy and sweet on the tongue, and a plain salted, still warm and soft.
Before we could get to our first ride, the lure of “Break-a-bottle-win-a-prize!” drew Nick over to a game booth, where he did, in fact, break a bottle and win a prize. After posing for a photo with the purple elephant stuffie, he found someone to give it to. When the little girl realized he was gifting her with this magnificent toy, she flung her arms wide to accept it, then wrapped it up in a tight hug, big grin cracking her face.
That accomplished, we boarded our first ride, the Soarin’ Eagle. I hadn’t looked at it too closely before buying tickets. It was a rollercoaster and I generally love rollercoasters, so sure, let’s go. This one called for climbing up several rungs and lying prone against the padding, face exposed to the wind, as the safety rails closed on our backs. “Just like that,” the attendant reassured us. Then, clank, the machine lifted us parallel to the ground and moved us like Superman through the air. We spiraled up to the top, encased, shins pressing against the metal bar. I closed my eyes and kept them that way. I opened my mouth to scream a few times, especially when the ride corkscrewed us through the air at high speed. “It’s okay, Mom!” Nick hollered. We yanked to a stop. My shins felt like they’d been kicked. I checked for bruises and we moved on to the silly Steeplechase, where instead of climbing into a car, you ride astride a horse, sort of like a carousel on a track.
The bumper cars offered even more comic relief. The beats pumped as we powered into and around each other, thrilling with each successful aggression. Meanwhile, three of the attendants leapt from car back to car back, hopping off on the center island, then jumping onto the bumper, swinging around on the rail, riding along for a moment before stepping to another car. With the party music thumping, their constant moves made for a near-dance performance and added an extra dimension of excitement. This was no tame bumper car ride – this was a high-energy crash and speed experience! Giggling, we moved on to, at last, the Cyclone.
My kind of rollercoaster. Plain old cars to sit in and wooden rails that shake and moan as you creak up the prelude to the first drop. Everything looks rickety and old, and you can’t help but wonder if this is going to be the moment the aged structure gives out. And then you reach the peak, the cars hang for a split second, long enough to realize you can’t see the tracks, the drop is so steep, and then BOOM, you’re falling down one drop, launching back up, flying down the next, wind smashing your face and flinging your hair, a cacophony of screams packing the air as you rip around a turn so fast you smash into your seatmate and the whole time everything is rattling so hard you can’t believe nuts and bolts aren’t just shaking out of whatever they’re supposed to be keeping together. Suddenly you screech to a dead stop, are jerked forward then back as the coaster rolls you into the loading and unloading zone. Everyone laughs, relieved to be alive.
The rest of the time passed in a happy blur of arcade games, boardwalk strolling and being carried aloft in the Wonder Wheel.
For dinner, we hit L&B Spumoni Gardens, which boasts a crowd straight of a Sopranos or Godfather scene. The dining room was packed. At least three old Italians celebrated birthdays. The waiter would come out bearing a platter of spumoni cones, everyone would sing, the spumoni would be set in front of a small, wrinkled person and all the folks at that table would clap as the celebrant attempted to blow the candles out. Sometimes help was needed. We ordered a Sicilian pie, a pear salad and a bottle of Chianti. Despite been filled by all that, we opted to ask for some spumoni, too. (When in Rome… or anywhere in Italy…)
What arrived was a monument of sweetness. Four cones balanced together into a pyramid, under which stood a mountain of spumoni and on other side of that, a piece of cake. (One cheesecake, one chocolate mousse.) Chocolate syrup and sprinkles decorated along the edges.
We powered through about 90 percent of the cold, sweet, creamy dessert before admitting we couldn’t finish it all. We returned home, full and tired, and called it a day.