I don't know why I'm crying, but I am. I don't know why there's a lump in my throat, but there is. Astroland is closing. They're shutting down Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. They're tearing down my Coney Island, the one seen in fading Polaroid and Kodachrome snapshots blurring into history, and watched on YouTube snapcasts pidgeonholed into two-minute slices for quick viewing.
My tawdry, unattractive Coney Island will be replaced by the upscale, condo-dwelling, MP3-swilling crowd, which quantifies, properly socializes, and neatly categorizes everything into discrete gigabytes of wholesome 0s and 1s on their thumbdrives.
Press start. Hit play. In our digitized and homogenized world is analog entertainment inconvenient? Entertainment which hasn't been iPodded, or frontal corporatomized, or discretely measured into binary drips repeatedly delivered through popular media and fat business — who still wants it? Entertainment with tattoos flaring, piercings gleaming, and inner voices speaking first, inner ears listening last — why not open a mall instead? The not so pretty entertainment best enjoyed in ill-fitting clothes and loose bodies summed into fractions instead of rounded numbers — what, no Starbucks? Coney Island's skewed amusements have sidestepped the ubiquitous, commercialized, lockstep entertainment formulas medicating us through every day until now. But its time has run out.
Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm out of touch and all's right with the world. Or maybe, just maybe, the closing of this historic amusement park, this last bastion of hucksterism and questionable rides, of piss-smelling walkways, seedy denizens, and plastic trinkets — maybe this is the death knell for the gritty, indiscreet, and impertinent analog amusements unfit for our digital consumption.
When the real Coney Island closes forever, where will Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and its over fifty Spook-A-Rama, "the world's longest spook ride," go? Okay, well, sort of; it was the longest ride if you counted in the interminable twisting and turning of the Pretzel rotating car as you traversed a narrow outside courtyard, between the darkness of the two buildings once used to contain the myriad terrors popping up at you. In an almost forgotten summer, in a long ago year, the kid I was got the joke. Before I could inhale my first gasp of disgust at the yucky "spiderwebs" touching my head in the brief, utter blackness of building one (how long had those strings hung in the dank, musty air?), I was flung into the bright sunlit courtyard to make my lengthy — and very uneventful — journey toward building two where the real horrors waited. Most of the ten-minute ride was spent in that courtyard, whirring around the track, looking at fake plants with signs that read "poisonous." In between the hissing sounds of compressed air escaping, unoiled machinery screeching, and quivering soundtracks, I swear I could hear William Castle chuckling in the dark of the second building when I finally got to it.