RETURNING TO DREAMLAND

This video was created and posted on YouTube by BooUrns28. It’s a tour of Coney Island and includes some of his thoughts and memories delivered in sterling Brooklynese.  If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you’ll have to link to The Poet by Day to see it.

The lagoon and tower at Dreamland Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, 1907.

The lagoon and tower at Dreamland Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, 1907.

One belongs to Coney Island instantly . . . “

I’m playing with writing a poem about the Coney Island of my childhood and youth. I know “the good old days” weren’t what they’re cracked up to be and nostalgia is an unhealthy indulgence. Occasionally, however, it provides momentary relief from the questions and tensions of the present.

The materialistic 50s and rebellious 60s: Lugging bags with bathing suits, the requisite portable radio, beach blanket and towels, hopping on the BMT, enduring summer’s outrageous heat and humidity, and heading for Stillwell Avenue and Coney Island, a place of delicously unhealthy food and all that is weird but engaging.

nathans_coney_island_july_2007

The raucous Coney Island rides were never to my taste, but some of the strange shows, the boardwalk, the people-watching, the beach, riding the waves, the carnival games, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and french fries, and holding out for Surf Avenue and Shatzkin’s potato knishes . . . . . . these were fascinations. 

The old Coney Island was once so much a part of American iconography and honky-tonk subculture that it’s probably on your radar even if you’ve never been there. It’s the stuff of artists rendering in everything creative: photography, movies, music, fine arts, books, and poems. Link here to a short film, In Memoriam, Coney Island 1952, which was an International Venice Film Festival prizewinner. The narrator is Henry Morgan. This movie catches the flavor of the place as I and my contemporaries knew it with its incredible crowds and all that is odd, funny, vulgar, dubious, kitschy …  and yet, somehow perfectly wonderful.

© 2016, words, Jamie Dedes; photo credits ~ Dreamland Tower, public domain photograph courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress, Nathan’s Famous photograph courtesy of Willyumdelirious under CC BY 2.0 license.