Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 8, 2010: New York - Coney Island Freaks & Nostalgia, PS1 Contemporary Art, Risotteria

At my sister's suggestion, we went to Coney Island on Sunday morning. She had been previously and mentioned that there's a big redevelopment plan in the works, which could obliterate much of the classic, corny, nostalgic buildings and businesses in the area - so if ever I was going to go, this was the time.

I was not disappointed. It's both humble (a multitude of small, independent businesses and a community garden in an empty lot) and over the top (grandiose claims about the wonders of the freak show, towering un-used amusement park relics). The beach was huge and packed with eager sunbathers - the steady breeze off the water made it surprisingly comfortable in spite of the blazing sun. The decaying architecture of some of the original buildings was amazingly elaborate, with the kind of terracotta decoration you'd never see on a new building (after visiting the Building Museum in Washington these kinds of details seemed to jump out at me). Left to my own devices I might not have gone to the freak show, so I'm glad Heather talked me into it. It was impressive (crazy feats of sword swallowing, contortions, flame dancing) and funny. I was relieved that it wasn't the sad display of oppressed mutants I'd imagined it might be - all the performers seemed to be fun, hip people who just happen to have off-beat interests.

After Coney Island we went to PS1 Contemporary Art Center. It was bigger than I expected, although I should have expected that. Not only is everything in New York City always bigger than I think it will be, it's also fill a former public school building. Lots of interesting art inside, plus intriguing remnants of its school days, like wire screens lining all openings in the stairwells, presumably to prevent students from dropping things down (or, I hope not, jumping themselves). Outside was a fun installation with beach sand, balls, and hammocks - the hammocks were exceedingly relaxing.

For dinner we headed back into Manhattan to Risotteria, a favourite restaurant of Heather and Anthony. We made a brave attempt to visit the High Line Park, but were stopped short by a sudden downpour and our lack of umbrellas.

Photos: Shoot The Freak - where you shoot a person ('the freak') for fun (but my favourite part if the letter 'K' about to drop off); Lola Star, one of many kitschy shops; Coney Island beach stretches on forever; Heather and me in front of the closed Roller Rink; elaborate terracotta decor on the Roller Rink - the kind of detail that would never make it onto today's new buildings; a community vegetable garden next to the Roller Rink (squash looks kind of droopy - needs water!); kites fly overhead; the now defunct parachute jump tower; Frankenstein guards the roller coaster ticket booth; the coaster in action; the freak show; the Statue of Liberty in the distance (behind the Kars 4 Kids billboards - there are advocates that kids need cars?!) en route to PS1; view of the Post Office out the window of PS1; Heather and me in the hammock at PS1 (it could hardly be possible to look more like sisters!); the Chrysler building at night

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