The Annual End of Coney Island


I stepped out onto the street, carefully missing the rainbow pool of oil that had gathered on rainy Surf Ave.   Hurriedly navigating the skinny heel of my pink party shoes on the uneven pavement with dexterity, I raced down the street.  The film was to begin in three minutes and the rain was cold and ruining my curls.  Rushing across the pavement – I heard it and suddenly stopped.  It was the sound.  That mysterious sound.  I stood still and listened.  It was the first time I had heard the sound since last winter.  I breathed it in like the first crisp breath of winter.  Like greeting an old friend.  I was shocked that it had arrived so soon.  Was it already winter?    I was shocked that summer had passed so silently.  Like remembering that you missed a friends birthday once it had already passed.  Summer had ended without the dramatic emotional fanfare which has become  customary in Coney Island over the last few years.  The mourning, lamenting, cherishing and saying goodbye to Coney Island…. breathing it in…. one last time.  But this summer had ended as discreetly as it began.

Forgetting that I was rushing to the film, I stood in the dark rainy street and absorbed the sound.  No adjectives accurately describe its aural qualities.  ‘Mysterious howl’ comes the closest to describing it.  It is known to a only a handful of Coney Island lovers.  Everyone speaks about it in a very private and guarded tone.  As if they are the only ones who know the sound and those who do share a bond, a secret.  A secret known only to those adventurous souls who venture to this beach after the amusement parks close for the winter.

There are many myths and hypotheses about what causes it.  Some believe it is the echoing screams of amusement rides from summers past.  Some believe it is the ghost of Coney Island. The truth is that this enigmatic sound is created by winds whipping through the gears and steel of the abandoned amusement park rides.  Rides hibernating for the winter, shrouded in tarps and duct tape.  The sound can only be created by this special breed of winds.  Seaside winter winds that have just arrived, fresh from their long journey across the sea.  Like millions of thrill seekers, these winds cross miles and miles of sea just to witness the legendary spectacle of our Coney Island. These special winds  whip and howl through the abandoned rides creating a specially crafted sound.  A sound indigenous to Coney Island.  Nowhere else in the world can you hear this particular sound.  The sound of this extemporaneous abandoned amusement park orchestra. This howling masterpiece culminates in acrescendo as the wind whips through the Astrotower.

It is true, once again, this might be the last summer of Coney Island.   A developer has Coney Island’s throat grasped firmly in his slimy fist.  The stillness of the winter hovers just above the fear of what might happen to Coney Island next summer.  I hurried down dark, rainy Surf Ave past the boarded up lots and businesses.  The window of the Sideshow by the Seashore glowed in the vacant streetscape.  It was fogged with breath from its full house of guests packed to see the opening of the Coney Island Film Festival.   The crowds of people, music, burlesque dancing and boisterous partying inside are a dramatic contrast to the dark, rainy, vacant street.  Coney Island lives.  Marching on to the metal amusement park gears and howling sound of the Spirit of Coney Island.  The resilience of the People’s Playground.   History has proved that flames cannot consume the Spirit of Coney Island and corruption cannot crush it!   Coney Island continues to live despite formidable attempts to extinguish its spirit.  The annual end of Coney Island continues but Coney Island lives on.  The dark and mysterious rides closed for the winter amplified by this ominous and mysterious sound.  An unmistakable, undeniable sound.  Coney Island has persisted and the crowds marvel at the mystery of the amusement park that refuses to die.   Embracing it’s own combustion as an ephemeral miracle which, according to the laws of the universe, should never have existed at all.

Long Live Coney Island!  May it return, again and again, after each and every last summer….forever.