I was on the boardwalk at Coney Island this weekend and something in the distance caught my eye. "It's a puppet show!" I said (fine: squealed) to my boyfriend. And then, upon approaching, "...and I think it's religious!!!!" It was:
I think this is a wonderful metaphor (or working example, even) of evangelism's burden in 2011. No one cares and the wind's blowing too hard to pay attention, anyway.
Though it was an obvious highlight, this was not the most surreal thing I experienced on Coney Island. The Coney Island beach is pretty gross (it's more dirt than sand), but a nice thing about it is that people walk by all day selling things. This makeshift dim sum set-up is very convenient if you want ice cold water or a Corona in a paper cup or a $1 blow-up beach ball. As part of this series of nomadic peddlers, an overweight, older man with a gray ponytail that was down to his ass approached our group and held up a seashell with a pot leaf laminated inside of it. "Would anyone like to buy an ashtray?" he asked. His intonation was somewhere between music and a child-beauty pageant announcer (really, he sounded like Mr. Tim in Living Dolls when he announces that Reed Hale's hobbies include "playing in the dirt and watching Unsolved Mysteries"). Of course we were like, "No." "It's made with a realllll leaf," sang-song the man, lingering. We ignored him and he slinked off. I realized that he was probably speaking in code: his Lynchian tone and behavior were either his way of signaling that he was selling marijuana or that he would be back to murder us later. We're all still alive, so I'm going with the former!
And thennnnnn, when we had left the beach and were standing on the boardwalk, waiting for people to finish using the bathroom, two guys approached our group of eight or so and asked, "What's a douchebag?" Someone started to explain exactly what it was, but the pair interrupted and clarified: they wanted to know whether "douchebag" was more frequently used to describe men or women. The more laid-back of the two was gently trying to convince his friend that "douchebag" was typically used for cocky, boorish guys. His more excitable friend (who had what I think was a Dominican accent) was insistent that you call women "douchebags" because "douchebag is the equivalent of scumbag" (literally, that is a quote). I calmly explained that, no, the laid-back guy was right and that men are typically called douchebags. Someone else in our group said that you could call anyone anything but typically the connotation is that men are douchebags. The excitable guy began pointing at each person in our group in an impromptu poll that got him nowhere except more insistent that he was right. Then a giant pitbull with a football in his mouth walked up and distracted them. We slipped away and I got ice cream.
The literary-level irony of this is that both of these guys were total douchebags! (I can only imagine the conversation that led to this debate – it almost certainly stemmed from shit-talking a stranger, probably a woman.) They didn't know it, but they were in the middle of an existential crisis.
Anyway, the larger point is that if you go to Coney Island, you should talk to people because everyone is fucking insane.