Sunday, June 13, 2004

A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND. I took Editor Martin out to Coney. He's leaving town soon, and he had to see it before he left. It was a cool, clear day, sky pale blue and the boardwalk crowded with the usual Coney folk, which these days is about two-thirds deep-Brooklyn locals of every race taking their raucous ease, and one-third young hipsters and tourists out to catch one of the least gentrified scenes in the City. It's a good mix and everyone was having fun. Well, one hulking Italian fellow, drunk off his ass, took issue with Martin and myself when he thought we'd nicked his plastic chair, but that was easily defused. Anyway, what's a day at Coney without a little street hassle? Like the bumper cars and the kids wrestling good-naturedly on the sand, Brooklyn pleasure must always involve a few rude shocks.

How I wish the doubters of multiculturalism could have seen it. Puerto Rican flags got a pre-parade workout, and after the boardwalk salsa band closed down, a couple of rogue percussionists worked their cowbells and shakers into a merengue beat, moving a fat couple to dance ballroom-style in their t-shirts and shorts. At sunset a few hundred folks in kinte cloth, skull caps, and billowing white robes marched to African drums toward the shore to throw flowers into the water in memory of the Middle Passage. At the boardwalk bars would-be wiseguys pounded Coronas and their own chests. This was no grad-school wishful thinking, no professorial pipe-dream, but the way we live.

Take the Republican Conventioneers on a field trip to Coney. We could all profit by it.

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