My father will disagree with me for saying this but... I think that Coney Island has a vibrant personality that makes it beautiful in its own right, even if it's a decades-past-her-prime, much-aged Miss America kind of beauty.
I only go there once or twice a year -- for an annual Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game with my dad and friends (as I did last night) and maybe for a beach day on occasion -- but inevitably when I go, there's something about it that appeals to me.
I do love simply being near the ocean. The air feels and smells different, and the sounds of waves and seagulls tell you unmistakably where you are.
But there's more to it than just its oceanfront. Coney Island wears its history on its sleeve and all over its face really. There is a stark contrast, among other contrasts, between the shiny roller coasters in the new Scream Zone amusement park and countless rundown buildings that sit vacant in their lots. Old and new are haphazardly thrown together, as are the varying demographics of its visitors. It's a bit all over the place, and events like the Mermaid Parade perpetuate that feeling. Perhaps it's an intriguing place to me because of all that's confusing about it.
You might say Coney Island doesn't know what it stands for.
Yet, my father tells of a time when it did know what it stood for, and he laments all that's changed in the near-century since then. Ironically, though, I've rarely seen my father so animated as when he's out in Coney Island, standing on the boardwalk chomping a Nathan's hot dog, telling me the stories of his humble but happy childhood there. Despite what he intends, his storytelling has the effect of making me love it more.
I'm sure that our impasse comes from the fact that I never knew Coney Island in its glory days. I only know it now. So the extent of its degradation is lost on me. But no matter how many different ways he tries to get through to me, my soft spot for Coney Island is going to remain. My father is largely responsible for my love of New York City in the first place, and he's going to have to accept my love for the neighborhood of his upbringing as part of the package, even though he now resides far away in the New Jersey suburbs.
I guess I've just got enough love to go around. There are worse things, right?
I love you, Dad!