Around this time of year in 2003 I went to Coney island with my new digital camera. I really was not very handy with it, but I enjoyed running around and taking pictures of absolutely anything.
On this day, astronomers from Columbia University were setting up telescopes on the beach. Mars was very close to the earth at this time.
It was visible as a little red dot in the Eastern sky. The beach was the best location in the city for observing Mars. The physicists let anybody look through the telescopes and happily answered questions.
I thought this event would be good for some pictures. I spent the afternoon at CI, taking pictures, and waiting for the sun to go down. That's when I could look at Mars.
I first stopped at Nathans for a hot dog and fries. 2 hot dogs actually. Nathans serves the fries in a paper bag. What you do is pour some salt into the bag and then shake it up to get that salt all over the fries. I learned this from the older kids when I was young. It's the best. No ketchup.
Barkers were still extolling people to come into the bars and freaks shows.
There are handball courts at West 5th Street and Surf Avenue, right up against the boardwalk. The men play with a little, black, hard rubber ball and wear gloves to protect their hands. They slap that little ball as hard as they can. I always thought it must hurt real bad.
Here's the cyclone which is still there even after the razing of Astroland. The cars are just getting to the top of the tall hill in this picture. The screaming and yelling is just about to start.
The Wonder Wheel, also still there. Some of the cars swing and they can induce vomiting. You must try it.
You might recognize the parachute jump. It hasn't functioned in years; not in my lifetime. It's a landmark and a symbol of the neighborhood. It's surreal to stand near it and look up at the girders and imagine gliding down a cable in a seat with a parachute attached.
My mother said that sometimes the cables broke and the people would end up in the water, but you can't always believe your mother.
The people who staff the concessions and rides were very patient and careful around young kids.
Here is a shot of Astroland. The Enterprise is tilting center and you can see part of Luna Park in the background. Luna Park is one the the Mitchell Lama housing projects in the area; the others are Warbasse, Bright Water, and Trump Village.
This is a picture of the Enterprise which was one of more elaborate rides at Astroland. The whole thing was portable and eventually was packed up and rolled away.
This is a pretty shot of the sun glaring thru the Enterprise.
Remember skee ball? They still had it at CI in '03. You can go to the official skee ball site to learn more. Perhaps you can get into the business.
Here is the Wonder Wheel again. I don't know the name of the ride on the right. This post would be better if it mentioned it's name. Anybody remember it?
This is a picture of the entrance to the can. I had to take a break. You know how it is. It is very near the entrance to the Wonder Wheel. There is a separate line for the swinging cars.
The games are run by all sorts of people. This girl was barking and running a water pistol game. I asked if I could take her picture.
'Why do you want to take my picture?'
'I think it would be a nice picture.'
Picture of the beach and sun. Law enforcement on the right.
This is a rotated picture of the parachute jump again. Did I mention that it's been given landmark status? Even though it hasn't been used in decades, it will not be torn down.
These are fine fisher folk fishing off the pier on the boardwalk. This is a popular place for catching crab. The people bait traps with chicken and lower them into the water. They like the fun and surprise of hoisting the trap later on and maybe finding some crabs.
They wanted to know if I was writing a book. Funny!
The sun goes down on a day in early autumn at the boardwalk.
After an active day, Astroland lights up for the evening. Coney Island begins to fill with teens and adults at night. Families are still enjoying the place as well.
Sunset over the boardwalk. I don't know if the light would have been the same in August.
One more time.
Game concession at night.
The Enterprise all lit up. I think the glare is nice.
Here are the Columbia astronomers and their telescopes on the beach. They were way out on the sand. This event was mentioned in one of the newspapers, probably not the Times. That's how I found out about it.
I like this picture of the people observing Mars.
Why don't I have a picture of the planet? Damn!
That's all folks. Astroland is gone now, replaced by the new prefab Luna Park. Visit the Coney Island wiki page for history and facts. The Coney Island History Project is also a great resource.
It was a really good day, Not a perfect day, but a good one.