On Saturday, I took my first ride to Coney Island since Superstorm Sandy. Although some parts of the boardwalk were closed and I saw damaged and destroyed buildings, as well as beach erosion, things weren't as bad as I expected. Then again, last week, I rode through Rockaway Beach in Queens and Long Beach in Nassau County, two of the most devastated areas. In those two places, the boardwalks were completely destroyed, houses leveled and streets and the beach strafed as if they'd been hit with millions of rounds of mortar-fire. At least most of Coney Island was still intact.
Still, I was surprised to see this:
I have memories of Coney Island, and Nathan's, going back half a century. One of my earliest childhood memories was being there for a Fourth of July celebration with my mother, her parents, my father, two of my uncles and one of my aunts. I recall it because, according to my mother, I wondered aloud, "Did you tell all of these people it's my birthday?"
I have been to the boardwalk billed as the world's most famous hundreds of times, at all times of the day and year. Never can I recall seeing the original Nathan's closed--before the other day.
So I wasn't surprised to see all of the other stores and restaurants shuttered. Granted, many of them would not have been open at this time of year. But even with the few people who wandered on to the intact areas of the boardwalk, Coney Island seemed desolate in a way I never could have previously imagined. In fact, I don't think I ever used "Coney Island" and "desolate" in the same sentence until now.
But I actually rather enjoyed it. For one thing, the few residents I saw didn't seem shell-shocked. But, more to the point, the sky--from which snow flurries floated to the cold but suprisingly serene sea--was, in its gray light, as bracing to look at as the chilly air felt against my skin.
Because Coney Island has offered me such sensations, I will continue to ride there. I don't know when CI will "come back" or if everything will indeed be open for Memorial Day weekend. But at least it's still there, and I can still ride to it.