CONEY ISLAND (BROOKLYN), NY – I seriously haven’t a clue as to where to begin this tale, so I’m just going to jump right in and take my chances. I’ll try to keep below a 1,000 word limit, but I could easily go 5,000 and more. I make no promises.
For starters, the reason I put Brooklyn in parentheses is that Coney Island should truly be a nation, make that a planet, unto itself. You want to secede, Staten Island? Get to the back of the line! Anyway, a while back my brother Chris scored eight tickets to a minor league baseball game and everyone wanted in. Seems the Mets Single A team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, were hosting something called “Seinfeld Night“ in recognition of that storied sitcom’s 25th Anniversary. We quickly threw together a roster of miscreants, including a bunch of guys from the Staten Island Ferry, a current Circle Line Tour Guide, a hard-partying-and-still-hungover Korean-American-by-way-of-Houston, and me. Basically, it was a Murderer’s Row of Rejects.
Chris and I decided to take the subway out in the likely event we were over-served. Coming down from the Bronx, it was the mass transit equivalent of a trip to Australia. We boarded the #1 Local at 225th and Broadway where we were quickly flash-mobbed by a family of vociferous evangelists. Things only got better from there. Boarding the N train at 42nd, some yokel with a sideways Yankee cap pulling a luggage carrier containing a giant speaker hooked up to a car battery and his iPhone, treated every lucky passenger in our car to a cavalcade of obnoxiously loud and horrifically horrendous hip hop to the end of the line.
Speaking of “the end of the line,” each subway stop we passed as we approached Coney was more dilapidated than the one before. It was like something out of Beneath the Planet of the Apes and the remaining passengers looked like extras from The Omega Man. As I remarked to my brother, “This trip would even scare the Sweathogs sh*tless.”
Disembarking at Stillwell and Surf, we had successfully bopped our way back to Coney, the way The Warriors once had. We poured out of the station and into a sea of sweaty humanity that absolutely defied description. I’ll take a shot, though.
It was like someone took Fordham Road in the Bronx, threw it into a nuclear reactor, sprinkled in the patrons from the alien bar scene in Star Wars and spilled the whole disoriented mess out by the Atlantic.
We made a beeline for Nathan’s, grabbed a couple of dogs, two Mermaid Pilsners (not bad), found my pal Gus and headed towards what for this night was being called Vandelay Industries Park.
Upon entering the Park, we encountered immediate disappointment. They were all out of the “Keith Hernandez ‘Magic Loogie’ Bobbleheads” they were giving away. Turned out to be no big deal. My brother and his friend (the two guys who wanted them most) managed to each get one anyway. And I received a sweet Bobby Parnell Bobblehead that my daughter immediately turned into a Christlike, heavens-gazing religious icon when she tried to pull its head off. It was a win all the way around. Anyway, once inside, there was no escaping the rampant Seinfeld mania.
On the field there was an Elaine Benes dance contest, ceremonial first pitches by everyone from letter carriers to latex salesmen, and puffy shirts aplenty. And in the stands there was just about every Seinfeld character you can imagine, including at least one genuine article.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…
Like Seinfeld, the game itself was a laugher. In the 5th the Cyclones were down 15-0, had one hit, and four errors. Never before had I been concerned about beer sales staying open too late. At this rate, the bottom of the seventh would happen sometime around sun up. Nevertheless, everything else in and around the game was pitch perfect: well-behaved fans, courteous vendors, helpful stadium employees, reasonable prices, and great views everywhere you turned. In short, everything the parent company in Queens gets wrong, the Brooklyn Cyclones get right. There wasn’t a person in our group, or just about anywhere in sight, that didn’t have a great time.
I don’t recall what time it was when we loaded back onto the electric sewer for the long ride home, but we were pretty much worn out from sun and suds and Seinfeld and, generally, some of the best people-watching around. Was there actually a baseball game? It all seemed a bit hazy now, but in the best possible way. So if your kids turn to you this summer and tell you they’re bored, as they all inevitably do, take them out to Coney Island for a Cyclones game and enough stimuli to fill their tanks until Labor Day.