There was some kind of weird beach fair thing in Staten Island this past weekend. I’m never one to turn down weird beach fair things.
The event exceeded expectations. It was like a tiny-sized, bootleg version of Wildwood out there. There weren’t any roller coasters, but they did have a giant, inflatable gorilla! There weren’t any arcades, but you could pay a dollar to fish plastic ducks out of a filthy pool, and trade them in for stuffed animals!
It was an endless sidewalk of street vendors, peddling everything from movies to food to toys, set against the backdrop of what Staten Island considers a beach.
Here are the highlights, but they come with a warning. I’m writing this with a terrible headache. I can’t be funny with a terrible headache, and can only set my sights as high as “coherent.”
The biggest draw was a series of enormous inflatable rides, set up on a grass field near the concrete pseudo-boardwalk. The one above was clearly the star attraction. A giant gorilla battling a giant dinosaur, in a scene that had to be inspired by King Kong. If it wasn’t, please clue me in about the other movies featuring giant apes fighting dinosaurs. I’d love to see them!
I was impressed with the food vendors. They had the right stuff, the right smells, and the right cheesy lights to make me feel a lot less bad about skipping the Jersey shore all summer.
I’m assuming you know what a zeppole is, but on the off chance that there’s an uninitiated soul out there, zeppoles are deliciously horrible blobs of hot, fried dough, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Zeppoles are also at the heart of the biggest lie I was ever told. As a kid, one of my aunts insisted that zeppoles were made from chicken meat. She was a teacher, a smart lady and not one to joke. She honestly believed that zeppoles were made out of chicken. Keep in mind, she didn’t draw this conclusion because zeppoles were foreign to her. She said this as she was eating one. An Italian from Brooklyn, who thought zeppoles came from chickens. I should kill her!
I kinda wished I’d paid the $5 or whatever it was to make bottled sand art. It’s been well over fifteen years since my last attempt, and boy, did I blow it. I was in my rebellious teens, full of mock depression and Undertaker worship. To illustrate my mood, I filled my bottle with nothing but black sand, never once noting the irony of trying to convey angst through sand art. I think the message of my various nostalgic explorations is that I’ve spent too much of my life being a complete asshole.
The vendors had some unexpected treasures. One lady had a table full of rocks and gems, and her prices were real nice. I know this because she told me so. I walked up and began inspecting some quartz crystals. “You like quartz? My prices are real nice.”
I didn’t buy anything, but I loved seeing those rocks. Remember when every shopping mall had a Nature Store, or something like it? Well, they don’t anymore. In 2012, anyone who needs a big chunk of amethyst has to work a lot harder for it. I miss the old days. I miss my old hamster, too. His name was Magnus, and he could fit entire grapes in his cheek pockets. Magnus was a cool little dude.
The random toy sellers were out in full force, with the usual assortment of generic/bootleg junk. The strange thing? There had to be at least 20 toy vendors, and they all had the same exact bunches of generic/bootleg junk. I’m sorry, but the odds just don’t favor 20 distinct toy sellers having the exact same phony Power Rangers and inflatable My Little Pony knockoffs. There has to be more to the story.
Other sellers pushed actual name brand toys. The best of ’em had several plastic bins stuffed with loose figures, which were used, missing parts and often quite filthy. I expected to find the same 3-5 year old junk typical of yard sales, but nope, his stuff went all the way back to the ‘80s. Tons of Ninja Turtles, tons of Bucky O’Hare. There was even a Stinkor in there!
That’s Stinkor, up above. I regret leaving him behind, but $3 seemed excessive, especially considering that Stinkor no longer had his chest piece, and was sticky enough to make me wonder exactly what his previous owner did with him.
Loved this. Remembering that this event was hosted on what amounted to an extra-wide sidewalk, there wasn’t much room for the games and attractions normally associated with boardwalks, carnivals and street fairs. But these guys knew how to make do. Or is it make due? To be honest, I always Google that one to be safe, and my head hurts too much to care right now.
It’s a miniature golf course, but it’s such a miniature golf course that I must refer to it as a miniature miniature extra miniature golf course. Fortunately for us all, I will only refer to it that way one more time.
The miniature miniature extra miniature golf course had everything the big ones do. Same weird obstacles and props, same multicolored Astroturf. The holes were only around four feet long, each in its own portable “box.” I adored this. It made the beach fair feel like so much more than an excuse for weirdos to sell used DVDs.
Even if that monkey/dinosaur deal was the inflatable showstopper, this one was just as interesting in its own strange way. They called it “Water Tag.” It was just an inflatable maze, but each kid was given a Super Soaker prior to entering. So I guess you just ran around, squirting strangers for a couple of minutes?
Awesome, and almost certainly not up to code.
There were only a few “classic” carnival games at the event, and this was probably the best example.
It’s tough to make out in the photo, but they had a kiddy pool filled with rubber ducks. Pay a dollar, grab a duck. The underside of each duck was marked with an “S” for a small prize, or “M” or “L” for medium and large prizes. At least, that was the ruse. I spoke to the lady running it, and she admitted that every duck had an “S” mark.
It was pretty trashy. The kiddy pool was filthy, filled with what may have once been clean water, but was now more akin to scummy pond juice. Between this, the dirty toys and the amount of nearby coughing fits, I had so many reasons to keep washing my hands.
More important than the duck pond was what those ducks could win you:
Oh, come on. Those are great. Look close, and you’ll spot three fantastic inflatable monsters on the back net. One looked like a cross between Satan and the Noid. Another was a confused blue ogre. Rounding out the trio was a three-eyed octopus.
I didn’t want to touch those dirty ducks, so the lady said I could just buy the monsters for three dollars a pop. I wasn’t about to spend $9 for the full collection, but damn it, I had to go home with a new friend. It was a hard decision, and even as I sit here now, I don’t know if I made the right one.
But, I’m pretty sure I did. I’m also pretty sure that I need a shave. Nose job too, maybe. And definitely Advil. Good God, my head hurts.
But it hurts less knowing that Count Redtooth II is three feet away.