Posted by: emjb | June 26, 2005

Still have sand in my shoes

I am wearing my only pair of shorts that fit me these days, and they still smell like beach. Sunblock and maybe saltwater, probably sweat. It’s a good smell, even though I’m happy to have washed all the sand out of my toes. Coney Island sand is tempermental; some places smooth and pretty, others mixed with what appear to be shells, and also, 100 year old trash; beach glass, broken plastic utensils, cigarette butts, and you hope, no hypodermic needles or other nasty things.

Coney Island is the People’s Beach, and it’s not glamorous. The water’s pretty cold most of the year, the entertainment is low-end, the food cheap. No Baywatch babes, lots of startlingly large people in swimsuits, and families with herds of children. There’s talk of gentrification on the way, a mall that will take out some of the seedy gift shops and clam stands, that might make the Mermaid Parade we saw this year the last one ever. Photoblogger eggrollboy has some pictures here.

That would be a shame. The Mermaid Parade has a very homemade feel to it…in fact it’s so informal on the bit where it goes over the boardwalk that people kept pressing in too close to the paraders..there weren’t any barricades. There were barricades and larger floats further down, where the parade hit the streets. We were on the boardwalk, so we didn’t see everything, but it was fun and nice, and strangely small-town for New York. We’ve been to the Macy’s parade, and what was funny to me is that even a parade that well-organized had many of the same problems small ones do; keeping a steady pace, keeping the crowd entertained, music getting off-sync, and floats drifting off course.

After about 2 hours it was over, which was a good thing for my tired legs. Also I was tired of the Frenchman who kept swinging his bent elbow into my boob then saying “Pardon.” Dude, it’s a crowd. Put your elbow down, instead of having to say Pardon all the damn time. Also, I wanted to step away from the man next to him, who was enormously fat, hairy, and shirtless. Even with his cowboy hat on, all he needed was some tusks to be identical to a walrus.

After the parade there were no benches left to sit on. We had to just commandeer a space on the boardwalk, and spread out some towels so we could sit down and eat our Nathan’s Famous hotdogs. We were doing all right, until the guy next to us brought out his butt-ugly hairless Chihuahua dog, and an amazing number of people crowded in to look at it, nearly stepping on us. There was nothing worth looking at, where I could see; just a Chihuahua without much hair. But then I think they are more rat than dog anyway, so I’ve never understood the appeal.

So we went down to the beach and walked in the water, and even so crowded, it was very peaceful. The ocean is such a large thing, and it can make crowds look small when you’re standing next to it. You forget about them altogether. Deanpence had apparently never been to what he considered an ocean…he doesn’t count outings to the Gulf of Mexico, but whatever. Now he has dipped his toes into the Atlantic and can mark that off his list.

It was hot, but the breeze made it glorious, and by evening, a little too chilly. We ate at some mediocre but overpriced Russian restaurant, stopped for ice cream from a Mr. Softee truck on the way to the train, and made our way back home without incident. I had been expecting heat and exhaustion and frustration, but it was, for once, just a nice day out.

Oh, and I have to mention my surprise at the cleanliness and efficiency of the public restrooms. You had to stand in line, but there were two Park Service attendants there to clean up any mess immediately and also to shout “Next!” when a stall opened up. It was not at all the nightmarish spectacle of clogged toilets and nasty floors that I was expecting. It was awesome, and amazingly civilized for a city that generally thinks, if you have to pee, that’s your problem buddy. Yay for someone, somewhere, understanding that a clean place to pee is the one thing everyone deserves.

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