Tags: coney island


Land of the Free, Home of the Hungry

I'm watching the wind up to the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN.
  • A field reporter standing beside a platter bearing 68 hot dogs held up an inflated balloon representing the average human stomach.
  • "Gustatory athletes!"
  • Vintage Coney footage! Every one of those rides looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I would give an eyetooth for the chance to go on them.
  • In reference to defending champion Joey Chestnut, over a list of his consumption records (which includes chicken and asparagus): "This is a cross-discipline athlete if there ever was one."
  • Wow, is that really 30,000 people? It is an impressive, closely packed crowd.
  • On whether the 68-dog record will be broken: "You can't argue with science, John. The New Jersey caucus has spoken."
  • They just put up a line graph titled a history of gluttony.
  • The commentators just pointed out that competitive eating is one of the few sports in which women compete directly against men.
  • This competitor has been living on yogurt and protein shakes for the past four days.
  • Dude, a Kirstie Alley joke? Really?
  • "The Gauntlet of Doom"? Who writes this? It's an eating contest.
  • I am actually getting pretty hungry myself. *sheepish* Maybe I'll whip up some guacamole.
  • Introductions! "He has the sharpest teeth in the game!" "The Big Sexy!" "He ate 8.5 pounds of poutine to win the respect of every man, woman and child in Canada!" "Six pounds of French fries! That is the exact weight in French fries as David Hasselhoff's head!" "The one who eats to the beat!" "They say she is a living sign of the Apocalypse." "His intestine is an anaconda..." "He is the notorious B! O! B!" "Perhaps he obscures his face to hide from crimes committed in another nation." "Ladies and gentlemen, the Eater of the Free World, JOEY CHESTNUT!"
  • Ooh, Kobayashi is in the crowd!
  • Vuvuzelas!
  • They have a Chew-View Cam.
  • And one of the studio guys says, next year? 3-D.
  • On training regimens: "These guys watch tapes, and that's what proves to me it's really a sport."
  • There's Crazy Legs Conti! Nice hat.
  • "This is not a beauty pageant. This is about esophageal zeal..."
  • "Phelps is nothing compared to this man in calories!"
  • Clock has run out! Chestnut's final count, 54. He's saluting the crowd with a bottle of Pepto Bismol.
  • I love how homemade the Mustard Belt ("the most coveted belt in all of sports!") looks.
  • Huh. ESPN is repeating the broadcast. Like, immediately.

ETA: Kobayashi was arrested!

“The color of white paper...”

Toward the end of True Stories, David Byrne, acting as the narrator, has a monologue about how one way to appreciate a place is to leave and come back, so you can rediscover the details that familiarity have made invisible. Doing this vicariously is almost as effective, which is why I enjoyed playing hostess to my little brother, B, who’d come up from Athens, GA, this past week.

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Mermaid Parade 2009, pt. 1

The ticket-taker gave me my stub and asked, “What’s wrong with your foot?”

“Oh, my foot’s fine. My shoe, however—”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Nine hours earlier...

...the waves rose high, great clouds gathered...Ah, they were in for a terrible storm...

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is held on the Saturday nearest the solstice to celebrate the beginning of summer. Before I got dressed that morning (a bikini under a mermaid T-shirt, denim mini, flip flops, a cocktail ring and bracelet of big fake pearls, and strands of small fake pearls tucked into a false-braid headband) I optimistically slathered myself in sunscreen, but I really needn’t have bothered. When I arrived around a quarter to three, the costumed marchers were strutting for the judges and waving to spectators under a steady drizzle. The procession and the watching crowd were smaller than past years’ — in particular, there were fewer push pull floats and group puppets — but the folks willing to brave the weather made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. Standouts this year included the Splashdancers (a troupe of Jennifer Beale imitators in neon spandex), a Star Wars stormtooper in a lime green Borat swimsuit, Zoltar (complete with booth), a parachute-panted M.C. Hammerhead, a guy inexplicably costumed as Bumblebee from Transformers, the bike-riding Warriors (“Come out to play-iii-aaay!”) and the Mermanator (half mermaid, half Terminator). Fortunately, the rain tapered off by the time “King Neptune,” Harvey Keitel, and his queen (and real-life spouse), Daphna, were wheeled down Surf Avenue in an antique rolling chair, and the rest of the parade only had to contend with the clammy sea breeze.

Most of the audience dispersed when they spotted the police cars at the end of the parade, but I stuck around to hear the various “Best of” awards and a speech by Coney Island’s unelected mayor-for-life, Dick Zigun, since I knew that eventually King Neptune would lead a procession down the beach for the ceremonial opening of the Atlantic Ocean for business. Unsurprisingly for an event organized by artists and freaks, things did not run like clockwork — among other problems, it turned out that Mr. Keitel had sneaked away from the judges’ stand and into a Portosan, then found himself trapped by a circle of admirers — but they finally managed to corral all the necessary cast and props and set off towards the ocean. I shimmied through a gap in the crowd barriers and joined the mob.

She saw the fruits in the garden ripen till they were gathered, the snow on the tops of the mountains melt away...

Led by a flying wedge of red-shirted volunteer security guards and a Vodou practitioner blowing a conch shell, we trooped up to the boardwalk and then down into the sand, stumbling and treading on each other’s feet as we tried to find a consistent pace. Stretched between us and the waves were four ribbons, symbolizing autumn, winter, spring, and summer, which had to be cut with giant scissors. Once we reached the shore proper, the man with the conch shell called on the loa and sprayed alcohol onto the surf, and Mr. Zigun waded in with a big prop thermometer to signify that the water was now warm enough for swimming. Finally, the crowd threw two baskets’ worth of sliced watermelon, pineapples, and cantaloupe into the ocean, shrieking whenever an especially big wave crashed into us.

If there were any loa in attendance, all we did was piss them off, because as I was scarfing down some fried clams from the Gyro and Clam Bar the rain returned with a vengeance. I’d scored a chair at one of the Clam Bar’s umbrella-shaded tables, but I had to open my own brolly to fend off a drip down the back of my neck. When the shower showed no sign of letting up, I decided I’d be better off someplace with a roof, so I scurried off to the sideshow and claimed a spot on the front bench.

“Come nearer, that I may speak with thee, for I have seen marvellous things.”

The acts at the ten-in-one have changed a bit since last year — Donny Vomit the Human Blockhead performs his straitjacket escape hanging upside-down from a cable hoist, and has added bullwhip tricks to his repertoire (which includes juggling, pushing nails and drillbits in his nose, and sticking his tongue into a mousetrap), while the Black Scorpion has dropped his hands-free shoelace trick in favor of displaying his lobster-claw feet by walking on broken glass. Heather Holliday’s fire-eating and sword-swallowing routines were as I remembered them, and I got a much closer look at the latter when I answered her call for a volunteer. I thought she just wanted me to verify that the kris was not a trick sword, having forgotten that she actually needed someone to remove it from her gullet after she made a deep bow to the audience and then, still bent over, turned so they saw her in profile. (“Just pull it straight out. No waggling, no twisting.”) I managed to withdraw the blade in one motion, her spittle pattering to the stage like the rain outside, and took my bow.