Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Coney Island Art Walls 2016

Last year was the first year for the Coney Island Art Walls and they're back this year with (mostly) new artwork. My mom and I walked around before the Mermaid Parade, and there were barely any people around, but after the parade the place was packed. In addition to the walls, there are food and drink vendors and a stage, making it a great place to hang out and drink a $13 (!!) plastic cup of sangria, if you're into that (after standing in the sun watching the parade, we sure were).

I'm always amazed at what people can do with spray paint, although some of the walls this year were a bit more dimensional. I love the one that reminded me of a more elaborate Wall of Stuff from the classic Marc Summers Nickelodeon show, "What Would You Do," although I'm sure that's not what they were going for, or if anyone but me would ever get/agree with that reference.

I loved the grotesque Ronald McDonald and all of the classic Coney Island imagery, but as always my favorite was the new one by Marie Roberts, who paints all of the classic sideshow banners for the Coney Island museum and the current-day freakshow. Her paintings are the perfect representation of what I love most about Coney Island—it's a little old, a little scrappy, a little weird and so unlike anything else.

Coney Island Art Walls 2015

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Orleans: Historic Voodoo Museum

One of the first places we wandered into on a recent trip to New Orleans was the Historic Voodoo Museum, located on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. The museum is small, but packed and stacked with artifacts (some of questionable authenticity) relating to Louisiana voodoo, a blend of Afro-American religions brought to New Orleans by the enslaved West Africans, French, Spanish and Creole inhabitants.

I'm not a Voodoo expert by any means, but I'm fascinated by beliefs of any kind. I wasn't raised religious, so almost every type of spiritualism seems equal parts believable and far-fetched to me. There has always been something appealing to me about relics—I think it's the hoarder in me that appreciates the value and sentiment that can be attributed to stuff—so I especially loved all of the altars inside of the museum. You can't have a voodoo museum without paying homage to the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, and in addition to her own altar the museum also claims to have her kneeling bench.

Of course what I loved even more than the haphazard and dusty altars were the bones. There were pelvic bones, entire skeletons, crosses made from bones and numerous human skulls (allegedly collected from medical schools). I also really love the voodoo practice of leaving an offering—believed to expedite the prayer fulfillment process—and I couldn't resist leaving a dime inside one of the skulls (the fact that someone left a $15 Bath & Body Works gift card on one of the altars is still making me laugh). For years I've been finding dimes seemingly everywhere, and it seemed like the right time to start giving them back.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kane's Diner

Before creeping on abandoned buildings in Fort Totten, I knew I wanted to get breakfast at a new (to me) diner. It doesn't really matter what is on my agenda for any given day—diner breakfast is always the preferred starting point. Usually I'll pick an adventure destination and work backward to a diner from there, but sometimes I do the opposite. Since I knew I needed to catch a bus to Fort Totten from Flushing, I concentrated my diner search there.

Kane's had been on my radar for a while, ever since my dude and I walked by it on our first date more than a year-and-a-half ago. It was cold and snowy, but we took a walk through Flushing Meadows Corona Park on our way to eat dumplings in Flushing, and passed by Kane's. I was immediately enamored with their "High Class Steak & Shrimp" sign, and intrigued by their claim on having "Queens' Best 24-hr Breakfast" and "World Famous Steak & 3 Eggs".

When I finally made it inside a few weeks ago, it more than exceeded all of my diner expectations. I was actually bummed that I was dining alone (not a usual feeling for me) simply because the place was so wonderful that I felt the need to share its beauty and my excitement with someone else. I settled for surreptitiously taking tons of photos with my new (and very conspicuous) camera lens, and being extra nice to the waitstaff, all of whom were equally nice back to me.

Kane's opened in 1970 and has been owned by the same family ever since. Their menu is an absolute masterpiece, and I barely got time to take in the glorious scrapbook/tabloid nature of the entire (enormous) thing before they took my order. I had a ham and swiss omelette with an industrial-size English muffin and a Coke, which was all very good. They also have Cholula hot sauce as part of their classic diner-table-condiment grouping, which is definitely the best hot sauce and just GTFO right now if you prefer Tabasco.

The d├ęcor certainly looks as if nothing has changed since they opened in 1970, and by that I mean it's absolutely perfect. The Floridian Diner is stuck in the 80s and the Goodfellas in the 60s, so I'm thrilled to be able to add a bonafide 70s diner to my repertoire. Everything is covered in curving, dark wood paneling and I may never have seen so many shades of brown and tan in one space before. The tiled backsplash, decorative glass lampshades and even the hanging plants all look like they haven't been updated in their 40+ years in business, and I don't think they ever should be. The Presidential placemats, however, were up-to-date but soon won't be—I couldn't help but think how cool it would (will) be to see a woman added to that list when I return.