Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Fourteenth Date!

Yet again, I found myself running late. I know it’s not at all shocking by now but if you are unaware of just how many distractions exist in the twenty-first century then I doubt you’re a reader of my blog to begin with. Today the subject of my tardiness lay in Bikinis. I was headed to the beach, Coney Island to be exact, and lay on my wooden bedroom floor with no less than six bikinis strung around me in my room like the after affects of a tornado rainbow. Not only would I be baring myself on this first date, down to my pale skin and freckled legs, but I couldn’t actually find a matching suit. It had thrown me through a loop. Then, I stopped and realize that should my date be lucky enough to see me in a bikini on our first date, well then, my date couldn’t very well complain over whether or not it matched. This wisdom in hand I grabbed the closest set I could find, threw on some purple shades and ran out the door to date number fourteen!

The Time: 1:05pm, Saturday, August 14th
The Place: Brooklyn Public Library, Coney Island Branch, 19th and Mermaid Ave.
What Creative Time Says: Some space is shared and some knowledge is shared.

On this Saturday I was headed to Coney Island. Home of the annual sandsculpture contest (which I have won, albeit with adorable kids but I won nonetheless), the mermaid parade (which my friends have protested in) and, of course, the nathan’s hot dog eating contest (which I was thoroughly grossed out by in the summer of 2006 right after moving to NYC). I head to Coney Island at least once a year and always find something new, something sunny, and something supremely odd. With a key in hand, I knew this time would be no different.

I was nervous for this date, perhaps so more than all the others. It followed on the tails of two dates where I may have become too detached for my own good and I needed something to kick my butt back into the world of fun and romance. Something to make my stomach flip and nerves slip away. As I walked up to the Brooklyn Public Library,  key in hand and passport and pocket, my date’s reflection greeted me first in the plexi glass windows. I saw a rather short individual, with sun bleached hair that could do with fall darkening and a nervous yet adorable smile, containing excitement and possibility. Oh, and she too, had a key in her hand.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, today I was going on a date with myself and Coney Island, where you can be whoever you are right out in the broad of dailylight even it is a, gasp, single woman!, a place that has gone through more transitions than a s scandaled US senator and has always come out on top, was the perfect place to do it.  You may protest and most certainly parts of me did when I came up with this hair brained scheme. After all, our society works in twos, we’re not supposed to go to the movies, to dinner, and certainly not the beach, with only ourselves provided the much needed company we all craved. But here’s the thing. I wanted to go to the beach, I wanted to eat a Nathan’s hot dog and I wanted to ride the Cyclone. I wanted to experience the joy of opening a lock in New York and there was no one on that particular day who I’d rather go with than myself. So that’s exactly what I did.

For those of you who remain unsatisfied, well, the library agreed with you. The gates remained firmly closed (budget cuts I was told) and I imagined a rather large woman rolling her eyes and saying “uh-HU you’re not gonna get in here without no man.” I guiltily smiled, holding up my key as if to say, well, I tried, and bowed out and away from the elusive sight. While walking back towards the beach I stumbled upon a community garden, my third through this whole key journey and ate a fresh tomato with Carlos who runs the place. “You got a boyfriend?” he asked me, teasing with his male friends smoking cigars and roasting corn. “Still looking,” I smiled back, making a mock sailor’s gaze with the palm of my hand, “let me know if you see anyone, I’ll be by the ocean.”

So a key site I would not visit but a day at the beach, well, that was something I could sink my feet into. I found a spot between the nutcracker salesmen, tattooed snake wielding locals, and blasting radios, and settled into Anna Karenina for the afternoon. Did I mention this was after I chatted with two very cute boys from Germany awaiting their flight to Las Vegas. Flirting with cute boys you find along the way. Now there’s something you definitely can’t do on a date with anyone other than yourself.

Not 30 minutes into my solo adventure I ran into Elly and Emily, two wonderful (single!) women who were freshmen at Connecticut College when I was a senior. I always think about this when I am in New York, how many people you know and love surround you at any moment, in the next subway car or the next street over. For every person you run into in a coffee shop you know there had to be another who had entered just 20 minutes before and chatting with long lost friends? Not something you can do on a date. Speaking of dates, as I was posing for a picture by myself for this very blog I reached my arm around fake shoulders and laughed, “take one of my hot date.” I kid you not my friends that my outreached hand actually hit a confused, but very cute, guy who, when he later returned after Elly and Emily had left, told me he was named Dennis, worked for the city, and he wanted for my phone number. The project was definitely on to me.

Later I strolled on the boardwalk, had the hotdog (ok Corndog) that had eluded me (and which my stomach very feverishly protested) ever since I saw Joey Chestnut take home the championship for the U.S. of A. and danced the salsa on Coney Island’s wooden planks. I walked through fairgrounds, watched couples win each other cheap stuffed animals by filling balloons with water, and tried not to get dizzy at the idea of the new contraptions in Luna Park. I sidled up the 20’s makeup styled woman running the Cyclone booth and when she said “just one” when handing me my ticket I said “yup, and it’s my first time!” Her expression softened and she winked, take a seat near the front and soon my roller coaster, spacious the seat as I had it to myself, was plummeting down towards Coney Islands beaches of proud “freaks” and the children of NY. 

On my way out, smiling with glee, and rattling in the head (the Cyclone is from 1927  after all!) I passed the small display of treasures which make up the Coney Island History Project, The most wonderful treasure there, a man named Jim, became my tour guide and pointed out the delights, sights, and unbelievable crowds that made up the tourists of Coney Island’s past. Young couples rode wooden horses and posed kissing on paper moons while the beaches teemed with the most modest of bathing suits covering, literally, every possible square inch. I loved everything about Jim, his voice, his stories, his papery hands and the laughter in his voice. I was interviewed by the delightful Natalie who compiles the oral histories of Coney Island (hear my interview here!) and when I came out I took pictures with my new love: Jim.  I teasingly asked if he had a grandson, alas, they were all married. Jim explained to me that everyone just wants to get Coney back to where it used to be and my friends, I think we shall all be able to help with that!

The day ended with Anna Karenina and myself, headed on a subway back to NY. As I opened the pages a recipe fell into my lap from the previous owner, who had sold me this copy on her stoop. “A recipe for Lemon Asparagus” read the top, and at the bottom, “Enjoy” with a heart around the letter u. Small acts people, small acts. 

Later, at home, over a dish of Lemon Asparagus and a glass of chilled white wine, I received a phone call from along awaited man I had been flirting with and another old flame pulled up on my facebook feed.  Tomorrow, I would make dates with each but tonight, my cute-if-overly-excitable date who made me slightly overcooked asparagus, was enough.

Opening again soon, ever brighter than before,


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