Last night a friend invited my husband and I to a baseball game. It wasn’t the Yankees, the Mets, or even the Boston Red Sox…it was the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Normally, I’d politely refuse tickets to a baseball game, since I know little about this sport and frankly, the biggest attraction would be the popcorn and peanuts, and maybe, a cold beer. Worse, it was in Brooklyn, in Coney Island. Who wants to schlepp to the end of the line on a local train for the pleasure of watching a team that isn’t even one of the majors? But our friend, applied for his seats as the stadium was being built, and he was #17 on the list for the best in the house. I don’t know what happened to numbers 1 through 16 (although the Mayor’s seats were right next to his so obviously he had one of the higher numbers), but our lucky friend has four season subscriptions to the seat in the first row literally right behind home plate.
With tickets like these, you can imagine that he has lots of friends (he does, even without the tickets), and I’m always touched when, once a year, we get invited to the ballpark to sit in fabulous seats for one of these coveted games. It’s even worth the incredibly long, long, hot, sticky, smelling and generally unappealing train ride to Stillwell Avenue, the end of the line in Coney Island, to get there. We said “sure, we’ll come.”
Even the short walk from the Coney Island station to the ballpark is a sensory experience. When you first leave the station it doesn’t take long before the wind shifts, and you realize you’re smelling the brine of the ocean, just to the left of you a few minute’s walk. As you continue to the park, there’s the small of grease, and hot dogs from famous Nathans, with their famously long lines and now, a digital sign that tells visitors just how long it will be until the next Nathan’s hot dog eating contest (always held July 4th weekend). And there’s the noise: clinking, clanking, clacking from the Cyclone roller coaster, banging, bumping and music blaring from the bumper car establishments, that haven’t changed at all since the 1950’s when I first saw them. And, there’s honking, yelling, rustling…the sounds of amusement park rides, happy revelers screaming their guts out, while on the ground there are mother scolding, babies crying, the chatter of girly in groups, men yelling…..
We met our friend and sashayed down to the front to our fabulous seats. I dont’ really remember the game, but I do remember the Cyclones won, the nachos were goey and suitably messed up a perfectly great pair of linen pants (why didn’t I just wear crummy shorts like everyone else?) and the beer, cold and in plastic bottles. The evening was hot and humid, but it was like another world in the ballpark. The lights were hot, but the air was cool. The moon glowed full, shrouded a bit with fog. The air smelled like brine as the wind shifted. I wanted to stay there forever. All that mattered was the moment.
But the game ended, and we had to leave. Blinking a bit, we re-entered the hot, humid world of Coney Island. It seemed almost as if we were in a tropical hothouse in some wierd, botanical garden. The rain that was supposed to soak us during the game was waiting….
We silently walked on the famous boardwalk, which seemed to be in a lot better shape then when I was a kid and went to the beach there with my grandmother, toting salted hard boiled eggs and iced tea in a thermos. It was dark, but lights twinkled here and there, dotted like sequins on a velvet evening gown. Every now and then the breeze shifted and we felt refreshed, just a bit, just for a second. But the night was “young,” so we decided to go on the Wonder Wheel, still a gigantic, wonderful relic of another age. Our swinging car took us gently over the entire scene of noises, smells, and colorful, bright lights. My friend won me a pillow with a fish on it from a gaming booth, and we ate Nathan’s hot dogs and french fries at nearly midnight.
The rain, never came.