Copyright notice

All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coney Island Idyll [excerpt]

(This is a cross-post from small hands where the pics are posted.)

I am watching the ground and stepping carefully across the bleached boardwalk slats. My cute pumps have turned out to be a poor footwear choice, but the way the boards have separated from each other over the years leaving black empty spaces just as wide as a high heel was impossible to pre-visualize. My friend Y has admonished my shoe choice twice now, as I appear to be concentrating too hard on the ground and not enough on the Coney Island sights around me. I think I am taking in more than it would appear: we of the high heel-wearing variety are often stepping carefully with one eye on the terrain and one on the horizon.

He points to a concrete shelter between the boardwalk and beach sand that has a high curved roof on top of four heavy, angled supports. Under the roof are several fixed picnic tables.

"These are the old man huts." He points to the men, huddled at the tables, hunched over chess boards, card games, and backgammon. Down the boardwalk are several more such shelters each filled with men crowded like dark pigeons at bread crumbs. More chess players can be seen at the table-less benches on the other side of the wide wooden walkway. These are the late comers, presumably, who couldn't find space in one of the huts. We stop and lean over a couple of games. I want to take a picture but I sense it would be a trespass. The old women gossip at separate benches behind giant sunglasses, swaddled in bright head scarves and bulky coats.

The walk down the weathered boardwalk is near the end of our afternoon adventure. We had started out at the soon to be extinct, but still carnival-bright entrance to the Coney Island rides and games that Y enjoyed as a kid. I am the inquisitive tourist taking pictures of everything, he is the indulgent guide.

Today, the only rides open for adults are the ferris wheel, bumper cars, and haunted house. We ride each one, and each time are the only passengers. Exclusivity ups the coolness factor of the ferris wheel, as does the view, but ends up being a distinct disadvantage on the bumper cars. The haunted house is full of dusty skeletons and slightly off-tempo ghoulish jack in the boxes. It is impossible not to laugh at the chainsaw-wielding spectre who is a bit loose on his springs or the writhing were-creature that has lost a paw. The scariest part of the haunted house is they way the spinning car whips us around on squeaky-creaky wheels. When we exit we try to feign terror and shock between giggles.

Friday, September 19, 2008

#3: Seeing is Believing (excerpt)

“If you look out the right window, there’s a Western Meadowlark on a fence post. That’s the first one we’ve seen the whole day.”

“Okay.” I know what a Western Meadowlark looks like so I don’t move from my position in the backseat, but if I don’t answer my grandma she’ll tell me to sit up and look at it. Even at six I understand that ‘if’ is not a command and ‘okay’ is not a promise.

I am lying across the backseat of my grandparents’ light blue Honda Civic hatchback. In the days before seatbelt laws, I have loosely constructed a nest from the clutter that fills the car: a blanket across the seat protects me from the protruding seatbelts and the odd pinecone; a camera bag serves as my foot rest; and one of my grandpa’s quilted flannel jackets is balled up under my head. I am concentrating on a word find while the three of us, my grandparents and I, head for the beach.

When we all go on a trip together, my grandfather drives. My grandmother tends to get distracted by the view and as a result can be a bit reactive with the brakes. Grandpa doesn’t talk much when he’s driving except to mumble appropriate responses to her observations.

“Will you look at that barn, it’s practically blown over!”

“It sure is!” His response is both animated and automatic. Like me, he probably knows that my grandmother’s enthusiasm is best returned right away unless one wants to get into a longer conversation about barns and their interesting propensity to fall down along roadsides.

When it is just Grandma and me in the car, we will develop these themes at length. She wonders whose barn it might be and what the poor situation is that has led to this overt state of neglect. Maybe somebody died. Or maybe the land has been sold to someone disinterested in barns. She is interested in a lot of the things she sees. We will stop the car and take the barn’s picture. She will explain how the textures of the washed out wood will be very lovely against the tall yellow grasses growing along its sagging sides. She will carefully crop out the tractor overgrown with berry brambles so that the composition won’t be too busy—but leave in the leaning fence posts that seem to point to the sunken roof. We are almost certain that owls have taken up in the eaves, but the closeness of the road is probably keeping the foxes away. If there are any within reach from the public side of the fence, she will gather dried teasel stems or cattails while I walk along the ditch that is inevitably next to the road, picking at white Queen Anne’s Lace and yellow Buttercups. She will get back in the car only after her curiosity has been fully expounded upon and the scene recorded.

Assignment 2: from my "getting published" class

Assignment: write a paragraph using the following three words: summer, ocean, trees

I have spent much of this Austin summer dreaming of the ocean. The Texas sun has been beating me into the dust non-stop; what I wouldn't give to be jumping into a cold wave of saltwater. A breeze becomes reason to rejoice, and when we were threatened by Hurricane Ike, Austinites were secretly glad for the chance at some rain. All we got was a puff of air making the trees sway for a couple of hours as Ike passed us by and headed North. I would have gladly followed him all the way to the Atlantic City boardwalk.