We stepped off the subway and my animal got one good look at it sprawled out in front of us in all it’s gaudy spread, like a faded movie star, whoring on a backalley matress.
No more than a heartbeat passed as we took it all in, blinking in the sun. We heard the rushing and screaming of the coaster, and the barker calling rubes to see the freakshow. We saw a hundred cheap and tawdry ways to trade our money for bad food, cheap trinkets or nothing at all. Then she said:
“This is so you – decayed granduer.”
We went to Coney Island on my birthday. This, for me, is a pilgramage I do not make near often enough. In true New Yorker fashion, I never think of going there- it was my animal who suggested it, and the idea came as a shock. I think about going to India all the time- but I never get off my ass to take the Long Ride down into Coney Island.
The impact on me is enormous. Really all out of proportion to the actual place; especially considering what the place is now.
I was absorbing that – looking at the video arcades, overpriced hot-dog stands, rigged games, cheap prizes, pastebord and blinking lights- and part of my mind going:
“There’s nothing here.”
And another, more certain voice saying:
“That’s the point.”
And it was the point. It is the point.
I am not moved by grandeur. I am not moved by greatness… I am moved by ruin. I’m not really sure what it’s about, why it calls to me like nothing else- but I suspect it’s about duality yet again. Greatness that still stands barely touches me; squalor that was always squalor is the same. Calcutta was a city of artists, poets, sculptors and angels without equal- and it is now a foul cesspool of poverty and human misery. It is my Mother’s city. I must see it, and pay my respects. But until I can reach Kalikut, city of my Mother…
I have Coney.
And it is Mother’s touch that I see in Coney. Once upon a time, Coney was the center of the world. It was the spectacle which nothing in man’s creation could touch. The birthplace of the electric city, the incubator, the New World of science and wonder, the prodigy child of Edison, Tesla and Barnum.
And now… now all that is gone, and the echoes are so faint that you have to know what you are listening for to hear the faintest whispers. It is Paradise Lost, it is Eden after the fall.
I don’t think I would have cared much for Eden before the fall. Beauty fades. But loss? Ruin?
Ruin is forever.