Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rocket Astroland #atozchallenge

I came from the most amazing place in the world.  Some called it The 51st. State or The Only Place. To me, no matter where I go or live, it will always be Home.  Brooklyn was something unique as compared to anywhere else (ok, maybe it wasn't but this is my dream sequence so lemme have it just this once). 

I could write entire books about it but for today's post I'd like to zoom in on Astroland in Coney Island.  It was built as a space-age boardwalk amusement park in 1962 and lasted until the Gentrification Wave struck it in 2008.  Like most of my Brooklyn, it closed and reopened as something just as shiny and flashy and devoid of its soul.  


In the 70's and 80s Coney Island was a dangerous place of drugs, prostitution, crime and rides for the whole family. 

  My father would take my sister and I there most summer weekends where we'd ride the carousel (where you'd get a chance to grab the fabled brass ring for a free ride), the bumper cars(where they thought it was funny to approximate NASCAR speeds), the astrotower (a 70 foot revolving vertically moving observation tower in which I needed a Dramamine), the log flume (a water ride that soaked you to your underoos) , Dante's Inferno (a haunted house ride that was neither haunted nor a house) and the Cyclone*(which was so violent I choked on my own testicles).   Astroland was my Disneyland.

*Note:  The Cyclone taught me one thing; Yours Truly does not roller coaster.  Ever.  Unless you'd like to wear my lunch as abstract art. 

My favorite thing about Astroland wasn't a ride, well it used to be, before my time.  It was a 71 foot rocket perched atop Gregory & Paul's, a row of food stands on the boardwalk.  It was originally a space simulator added to the park in 1962.  They pulled it o  I never knew it was a ride or even had an interior.  To my child sci-fi heart, it was a beacon.  On the boardwalk with the beach behind me, I'd sit and look at her pointing heavenward.  I wanted to board that rocket and blast out of the city like the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley spaceport (Star Wars, by the way.  58 times if you recall from an earlier post).
ut of service and roofed it in the 70's.

Astroland is gone now along with all the rides.  It was purchased in 2008 and razed. A new park stands in its place, Luna Park, named after the original park in the 1920's.  Like most of my childhood, nothing but ghosts remain among the shiny flashy new stuff.  The Astrotower was sold for scrap, Dante's Inferno, the log flume and the bumper cars are in Costa Rica.  The carousel was moved onto the boardwalk.  The rocket was removed and later returned to a different part of a different park where they want to restore it to functionality.  Another ghost lost among the relics of yesterday's dreams.  

As an adult, I visited Astroland and the first thing I looked for was the rocket.  It connected me to my childhood, to my father and to a time in my life where everything held so much promise.  As long as I saw her there, I'd remember there were always possibilities.

I keep a picture of the rocket at my desk so even though I can't go home again, the child's heart beating in my chest always knows there's something wondrous out there to explore.  

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  1. Loved the poignant memories and pictures. May your inner-child always find his rocket.

    The AtoZ of EOS

    1. Thank yo for the warm sentiment, Samantha. Ooo, you're a challenger, too. I'm gonna take a ride to your blog now!

  2. I always wish to go back for just a moment and see in person again some of those landmarks of life. But you can and should never go back. They are either gone or way smaller than they used to be!
    Mainely Write

  3. I remember going to Coney Island uncle took and a couple of my cousins. The cyclone...nothing like an old, rickety, wooden roller coaster to make you feel like you are going to die! Good times :)

    1. IR ode it once. And only once. Never. Again.