Monday, September 8, 2008

Of the Rock Junket Tour and Astroland


If you're going to NY, and have even a passing interest in music, you've gotta do Bobby Pinn's Rock Junket tour.

We took Bobby's East Village Rock, Punk, and Glam tour, which includes the Joe Strummer "The Future is Unwritten" mural, Charlie Parker's home, Joey Ramone's former apartment, Madonna's former apartment, and the former sites of CBGBs and the Filmore East.

As a Canadian from Winnipeg, it was a special delight to see the Dictators Handsome Dick Manitoba's bar in the East Village (called "Manitoba's," of course).

Bobby knows his music and loves to talk; he reminds you of the punk older brother who always has more records and knows more about them than you. His knowledge and taste are impeccable, and he even made me believe that I should give Iggy Pop's Avenue B album another listen. I did, and it still sucks.

At the end of the tour, Bobby gives you a brochure with "things to do" recommendations, including what turned out to be two, huge highlights: having an egg cream from the Gem Spa (on Second Avenue at St. Mark's Place) and riding the Cyclone at Coney Island.

RIP Astroland

What's the funnest way to lose your wallet ever? The Cyclone at Coney Island, of course: (YouTube). The Cyclone is a trip in and of itself; from the creaky ascent on the wooden(!) boards to the neck-snapping shock of the first drop - has there ever been a roller coaster that's scarier?

It makes me all the sadder to find out today that Astroland - the famous roller coaster's home - closed forever yesterday. Apparently, it's a victim of more of that gentrification that New Yorkers (and everyone except landlords and developers) can't stand. Goodbye Astroland, hello condos. Whatta huge drag.

Supposedly, the Cyclone will keep operating, but I can't imagine it being the same without Astroland - one of the few truly magical places in New York that was open to everyone - young, old, rich, and poor. As the NY Times points out in the link above:

"Part of what made Astroland unique was its accessibility, said Charles Denson, a Coney Island historian and author of the book “Coney Island Lost and Found.” Rather than being an expensive, glossy and distant amusement park, Astroland was a place that was reachable by subway, a place where a visitor could shoot a water gun at a clown’s mouth and win a prize, or venture on kitschy rides with names like Dante’s Inferno and Break Dance that, while arguably seedy, were still loads of fun.

“It wasn’t Disneyland , but thank God for that,” said Mr. Denson. “It’s open to people of small means, and it always has been.”

RIP, Astroland. Long live the Cyclone!

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