- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"My father built the wheel in 1920," he told me. "It's 150 feet high, weighs 200 tons and has carried over 20 million people. My best day was July 4, 1947. I rode 12,500 people in one day. What do you think of Coney Island?" He didn't wait for an answer, but rushed on. "My mother, who lives in an apartment right here under the wheel, helped paint it when it was built. She's 77 years old. On her day off she likes to go to the racetrack, but mostly she wants to stay near the wheel. My father was 82 when he died." When I managed to get a word in, I commented on his own youthful appearance.
"It's the salt air at Coney, the long hours and hard work. The wheel has kept me young. We have a saying out here that once you get the Coney Island sand in your shoes you never get it out. How do you like Coney Island?"
"Fine," I said.
"I'm not surprised," said Mr. Garms. "We have the best of everything at Coney Island—the best fishing, the best swimming, the best sand, the best and safest rides. They're putting up a Convention Hall and an indoor skating rink. Before long, if things go right, we'll have the year-round swimming pools, restaurants that look out over the ocean like in the old days, community and puppet theaters, maybe even a new marina, so that boats can tie up the way they used to. How does it sound?"
"Fine," I said.
"We've had the highest class and the lowest class of people at Coney Island. The important thing is that people can live together, all mixed up, and it makes no never mind. We have the longest and the widest boardwalk, and we have the best beach, because there's no undertow. Did you know that?" I shook my head. "We have the Atlantic Ocean, but no undertow, which means no drownings. We have the best police protection. We have more fish than most places in the world. July and August we're so busy it's murder! Weekends in June are fabulous. We have the best sanitation department. This place is spotless by 11 a.m. every morning. Our beach is cleaner than it ever was. They used to say our water was polluted. No more. New York City is to be congratulated. People need Coney Island. It's an outlet. People come by the busloads from as far away as Boston. On a hot Saturday night you'll find about 3,000 people sleeping on the beach. It beats an air-conditioned hotel. Sometimes the gypsies get out there and hold their rites—guitars, dancing. It's a pretty good show. At Coney everyone lets himself go, has a ball. Would you like another ride on the wheel? How about Spook-A-Rama? We've added Batman."
In Spook-A-Rama, which was pitch-dark, there was hideous laughter, skeletons rose up from coffins, something spidery crossed my face.
"Were you scared?" demanded Mr. Garms, when I got out of the cart.
"Shivering in my boots," I said. I complimented him on the lifelike appearance of Batman.
"We like to keep up with the times," said Mr. Garms modestly.