Friday, August 24, 2012


Coney Island was a disappointment after such a long train ride to get there, although on Mondays many of its attractions were closed. I got the same feeling I had went I went back to Atlantic City in 1995 and found the wrecking ball leveling everything I thought of as valuable, and building mockery in its place. My visit to Coney Island came the same day Mayor Bloomberg suggested gambling might be allowed there as a way to boost the local economy – even though he fundamentally disapproved of the vice.

While there is beauty to be found even in the most desolate of places, such as with the fisherman who kissed the fish he caught before tossing it back into the waves, and the other black fishermen who insisted on keeping the pier free of trash, Coney Island seemed empty to me – especially after my April visit to Seaside Heights, which even at that early time, seemed filled with life. I went back Wednesday to take another look, and realized that it remained what it always had been, a haven for teens who needed to see and be seen, before they moved into the broader world, beach bum men with muscles and tans, striding along the boardwalk trying to impress people other than themselves, and pre-season high school football teams there to get united before they hit the grid iron.

Both places seemed remarkably lonely, as did the ruins of the East Village I visited in between, the gutted fish of what had once been the center of counter culture, now devoid of meaning as counter culture invaded every other town like the extended waves of a nuclear blast, leaving lives in ruins, and people confused as to what roles they need to play in a world that no longer had room for them.

This last was particularly evident when I visited Liberty State Park last night and saw the rich racing their sail boats near Ellis Island, while I dodged bicycles on the walkway – the old symbol of American immigration locked to pedestrian traffic so that people wishing to visit their glorious past had to pay for the privilege.

This tourist vision of the world I took this week made me realize that everything has become a tourist destination, specialized for people who aren’t like me at all. My visit to Woodstock in April was far different from those I took in the 1990s, when there was still life there among the natives, and the aging hippies were still respected, instead of looked on as a kind of aging beach bum going through the motions and seeking attention.

We walk in a limbo of time when changing generations means changing visions for the world – and for the first time I truly understand the frustration my father’s generation had with life, the survivors of the Good War forced to deal with the rising tide of the British Invasion, our bulk pushing them out of the places where they felt most comfortable, where they once belonged, just as we baby boomers are being pushed out.

Tonight, I return to New York, to a museum of art that is no longer modern, seeking images that I can relate to, cling to, finding immorality within their frames.


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