Now that we are done with the three posts about my day in Connecticut, we can return to my hometown of Brooklyn, New York. There is one neighborhood that is going through a revitalization to end all revitalizations, Coney Island!
For me it all began when I noticed that the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue/ Q Train stop had some major work done. Just by looking at it from across the street it was like the old was new again and shiny. The lights that surround the building bring a bit of glamour back to a neighborhood that has been long known for anything but that.
When I was a teenager, roughly fifteen years ago, there were only three things to do in Coney Island, and you wanted to do them as fast as physically possible. It was the get in and get out mentally. You ate a hot dog from Nathan’s (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013_05_01_archive.html), rode the Cyclone roller-coaster if you had a death wish, and looked over at the sign for Gargiulo’s (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2015/03/for-brooklyn-eatery-that-is-renowned.html) hoping to get invited to a party there soon. I knew about the Mermaid Parade but that never tempted me to go back rather I stuck with my annual visit at most.
I cannot stress to you how much I hear about Coney Island these days. Just about every day or so there is another spot I want to eat at or activity to add to my to do list (http://bit.ly/29H6zRG). Now Coney Island is the hot spot this summer showing off its much-needed improvements. To start with there are way more places to eat than any time I can remember. Legendary venues like Grimaldi’s (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/08/for-day-spent-under-brooklyn-bridge.html) and Wahlburgers (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2016/03/for-love-of-my-first-husband-donnie.html) have set up a shop there. There are several candy stores and small shops so that visitors can bring a bit of this old fashion fun home.
In a post Hurricane Sandy world this beachy boardwalk needed a lifeline. This transformation took the already trendy borough of Brooklyn to a new level by setting the stage for the focus to fall solely on Coney Island.
With that in mind I arrive at my first interaction in this newer Coney Island. Last week I got the chance to visit one of the brand new places, one so new in fact that there is still construction being completed all around it. However that didn’t matter. The fun would have burst through any barrier.
As luck would have it a venue I have been keeping my eye on finally was a part of my fate. Coney Island Amphitheater is brand spanking new and has a long roster of musicians gearing up for summer concerts. I opened an email from the Alliance for Coney Island and when the link was done loading I saw something that seemed too good to be true. It was, Billy Ocean, an artist SO beloved by a cousin of mine I couldn’t wait to tell him.
You might recall from previous entries that I am from a very large Italian family. It’s the kind of family where you can mention the phrase “my cousin” multiple times in a casual conversation and be talking about literally forty different people.
To keep things simple it helps that I attended this concert with only two cousins, actually my cousin and her husband a.k.a. my cousin-in-law. This isn’t a distinction I would usually make but it is important in this instance.
Oh my dear cousin-in-law. Happy wasn’t the word for how he took the news.
But I am forgetting to tell you the best part; tickets were free if you got in line an hour before the show started! Ah that was the icing on the cake.
Needless to say my cousin and his wife were fifth on line. After getting our tickets we were able to sit back enjoy the gorgeous scenery along with some much needed margaritas and tacos. I was having fun long before the show started.
The amphitheater itself is impressive. In my mind the stage would face the water but it faces the side of the boardwalk. You approach and see the many white cushiony folding chairs facing the right, towards the stage. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and of course my cousin the super fan knew most of them.
While there isn’t air conditioning I have to say that the open-air arena had a steady breeze coming off the water. On a humid night even I was not hot. But if you need some extra cool air all you have to visit the bathroom. It may look like a park bathroom but thankfully it is soooo much better than that. The concession stand was also in that vicinity, a huge score. Side note- I have to commend whoever designed these chairs besides their comfort level the cup holder was in the smartest place I have ever seen!! It was in front of you, attached to the back of the chair. Barclay Center (http://bit.ly/2azaaDp) I beg of you to take notes!!
Our special guest for the night was Yuna who opened for Billy Ocean. I had never heard of her before this but I enjoyed her performance immensely. She had a cool vibe with a soulful sound. She sort of reminded me of Alicia Keys who I love to bits. After a few songs and someone shouting from the crowd “do it to us Yuna” she was gone. Now it was time for the main event.
Truth time- I knew only two Billy Ocean songs and nothing else about the man. I mean nothing, like I didn’t even know he was black. This is going to break my cousin’s heart but I am not a liar.
Despite my limited song anthology I still had a ton of fun. I was moving to the music in my chair and watching this gentleman get his groove back. I loved the little motions he made with his hips as he danced about the stage. Billy was in a three-piece suit and I felt hot enough for the both of us. By the time he was done some hours later, that suit jacket was soaked through in sweat. This man is not a quitter.
The audience consisted of every race, gender, religion, ethnicity, you can think of. Each one of them was singing and dancing at some point if not the entire time. For those needing some encouragement “you know who” was there for inspiration. The toast of the night had to be when Billy answered him and sung a few notes of his song request. The high five they shared was not lost on those watching who soon tried to join in.
It was such a fun show. A show that made me want to pay closer attention to their event calendar to see upcoming shows before their season closes in the fall.
After it was all over we ended the night the only way that seemed right- with a dog or two from Nathan’s at their original stand in the heart of Coney Island. A friend of mine says that this is a meal that officially signifies the beginning of summer. I might have been a little late getting here but that corn dog felt so right.
By the time I got home this Caribbean Queen had a smile on my face, exhaustion through my bones, and a wicked migraine as I climbed into bed. In this case I took that as I sign I had way too much fun laughing, singing, and watching the world be turned on by my cousin’s dancing.
Needless to say after all of the bonding we did that evening I officially dropped the “in law” connection and he proudly states that I am his favorite cousin!! Win, win, win.
We didn’t have cake by the ocean but I had An Ocean singing to me on the beach and that was pretty awesome!
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