Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The rides were rocked by torturous winds and salt water, the antique arcade games left to float down the street, the park covered with mounds of sand and debris, yet the Gehlhaus family vows to rebuild the historic amusement park by Easter
Easter! Of 2013!
I'm barely able to wrap my head around the huge effort that lies ahead of them. We're talking about rebuilding a vintage amusement park, many rides and games which many be very difficult to replace or repair due to the fragile quality of the housing, the rarity of spare parts. Many a park has closed down for less of a blow, yet this park vows to carry on. What drives someone to tackle such an Herculean task? Dogged determination? Pluckiness? Desperation? Out and out lunacy?
No, I believe, from reading the article and from learning what keeps folks like the Gehlhauses in this business, that it's a combination of courage and heart and wisdom (Huh.. In a way, like Dorothy's friends in "The Wizard of Oz", don'tcha know...). It's a courageous thing to take on, against so many odds (according to the article, this isn't covered by insurance). It takes enormous heart: they see that as Keansburg is an amusement park, it provides that elusive, etheric thing: amusement. It creates memories and thrills and laughter; this is one of the main premises of my book, how much this matters in our fast-paced, digital world. And it takes wisdom, something I'm sure has been learned (and earned) over the years: that a place like this matters on so many levels. The owners know that not only they but the locals depend on their park for income, and to bring visitors into the small seaside town of Keansburg.
An enormous Powerball lottery jackpot is in play tomorrow night. I'll be playing it, and when I win, I'll donate a chunk of funds to this precious park, to help it thrive again, to allow it to continue to make the Jersey shore a special place to play at, to create wonderful memories at, for families to keep those traditions of "the first carousel ride", "the first cotton candy consumed" alive.
Monday, November 19, 2012
The museum is doing alright, but the sideshow, the gift shop and the attached bar are in shambles. You might ask, "But why do I want to contribute money for a sideshow? What good will that do the world?" In a word: plenty.
Coney Island USA is enclosed in a building nearby the famed Coney Island amusement parks, the legendary Cyclone rollercoaster, and just down the street from THE Nathan's famous hot dogs. Coney Island USA is comprised of the side show (I believe the only side show, actual side show with "freak" acts and feats of derring do) in the US, a place which hires folk who might be considered to be on the fringes of "normal" society, but who possess amazing skills and display them with pride and reverence for a form of theatre has long been ostracized and disrespected. One visit to the Coney Island USA side show will tip you on your ear. You''ll walk away with a sense of awe and, most importantly, a a fresh reverence for the unique characters who shamelessly give of themselves in order to keep the spirit of side shows alive. To borrow the words from the company's site, "The purpose of Coney Island USA is to defend the honor of American popular culture through innovative exhibitions and performances."
Right now, the materials needed to present performances are soggy from salt water or were thrown away in a dumpster due to the flooding. See photo above.
The gift shop is the only place you'll be able to find earrings shaped like Deno's Wonder Wheel (I own a pair and wear 'em proudly), or a bottle containing an authentic shard of Coney Island boardwalk. Right now, the items that were spared from the deluge are being sold to help support Coney Island USA. Oh, and the bar? A great place to grab a beer after watching the side show or visiting the museum.
So - your donation, or your purchase from the gift shop, helps support Coney Island USA, allowing them to do their work. Oh,yes, the museum. It's upstairs on the second floor, so it was spared from the flooding. But the gift shop helps support the museum, as does the bar, so it's best that all spaces are cleaned up and restored as soon as possible.
And what's up in the museum? Oh, just amazing exhibits about the history of Coney Island, a true American icon, a seaside treasure that's withstood fire and flood, the changes of time and culture, and keeps on kicking and inspiring and entertaining. The museum keeps the true spirit of Coney Island alive.
The holidays are just around the corner. Who doesn't want a necklace with an image of a tattooed mermaid on it? The following link will take you to the store website, where you can order a great gift, or make a donation:
(Photos from the Coney Island USA Facebook page.)
Friday, November 2, 2012
It is with a very heavy heart that I report one of the "Road Trip" parks, Keansburg Amusement Park, received devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy. From what I've been reading, it was essentially ripped apart.
When Ben and I visited back in 2011, I was delighted by its truly vintage kiddie rides, its amazing dark ride (which I got a personal tour of with the lights ON!!) and the incredible collection of vintage arcade games. I had a wonderful interview with Bob Falk, who not only worked there, but helped design some of the games which dated back to the early 1960s.
I can only hope and pray that, as the owners say in the article, the park will be rebuilt. I'm sending out even more good vibes to Mr. Falk and the collection of incredible arcade games that elevated the arcade from your basic "win a stuffed toy" amusement to a veritable arcade history museum.
(if anyone reading this has more information about the park and Mr.Falk, please contact me at your earliest convenience via this blog. Thank you.)