For family fun day, we decided to go to Coney Island. It isn’t far by F train – about 35 minutes from our house – but it manages to transport you to a different place. The train ride itself is always fun for the kids since much of it is above ground and they love watching Brooklyn pass by, cemeteries and all (unaware of what they are, Mia actually calls them “cities”). Once there, it’s always refreshing to see the ocean, and the horizon serves as a reminder that there is a whole world beyond our lives in our own little neighborhood. It seems like every year Astroland is threatened to get shut down in favor of new development, but last summer it managed to steal one more year of existence. Perhaps because of this, the visit seemed already nostalgic. We got there on the early side so the rides were mostly empty and you couldn’t help but notice how old and sad and run down the place was. I actually prefer it that way since there is a long history that gives this amusement park great character and soul, something that shiny new amusement parks are completely devoid of. I have my own history with Coney Island as well – not necessarily childhood memories, but adventures during my college years that I won’t go into detail here. Coming here stirs up old ghosts so it’s a bit strange to spend the day here with the kids: same place, new life.
Kids being kids, they had fun riding the carousel, eating corn dogs and ice cream. I kept trying to see the place through Claudine’s eyes, a confusion of saturated colors, whirling tea cups, huge steel machinery spinning multiple arms, garish clowns with gaping mouths hiding trash cans, and a kaleidoscope of trippy music. She seemed to take it nonchalantly in stride considering it was her first visit here, but it was Mia who seemed a little overwhelmed, even though she had already built memories of this place on her own. Funny how that works. We’ll most likely be back before Astroland gets shut down for good, but it’s easy to say that and then realize that time has gone by and you’ve missed that window, so I say a goodbye every time we come, not knowing if it will be here next time.