>Yesterday, Husband and I wiled away the afternoon in Coney Island and Brighton Beach with our friends visiting from Chicago. It was pretty much the perfect way to spend a warm, but not suffocatingly hot, Sunday.

First, we dropped in on the Coney Island Museum. Museum admission is a mere 99¢ and worth every penny, but not one more. The museum is basically an unorganized, un-air conditioned second floor warehouse with various items of interest scattered about, but not cluttered. There is little description of what you are looking at. From sepia pictures of Coney in its glory days to old bumper cars and carousel horses to swim caps and reels of unexpended towel and locker rental tickets (only 35- 40¢!) from the 1920s, you get a bit of a taste for Coney through the ages. Oddly enough, there are no reminders on display abut the Really Bad Days of the 1970s and 1980s, when Coney Island was a large crack den. I think it would illustrate very well how truly amazing its resurgence is today.

The penny given as change when you had over a buck for the museum admission should be used on the little Mutoscope “peep show” machine. The “movie” (really a flip books of sorts; you turn the crank and it rapidly flips pages, animating the story) is of a particularly gruesome event in Coney Island History. In 1903, Topsie the elephant finally killed her cruel caretaker by stepping on him after he fed her yet another lit cigarette. Instead of giving her a medal for ridding society of a menace, Thomas Alva Edison used Topsie as a pawn in his war against Nikola Tessla’s alternating current, which threatened to replace his DC. He filmed the electrocution of the poor elephant, which is what those who use the Mutoscope will witness.

After watching the pachycide, Husband, Friends, and I went to the superb Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Five performers alternately: hammered a nail and spoon handle up his nose; twisted around a box with metal sheets inserted; charmed a python and put its head in her mouth; walked up a staircase of swords; stuck his hand in a bear trap, stuck his tongue in a mouse trap, and inflated a latex glove on his head and whacked various audience members with it before it popped; sat in an electric chair; swallowed swords (more on this in a sec); and ate fire. They were all talented acts, and we were quite impressed. I decided that the woman who ate fire and walked on the sword staircase, Insectivora, is the same woman I wrote about on May 5, when I saw a woman sitting around on the Lower East Side after I had a haircut and visited the Hasidic-and-Jamaican run undergarment shop.

Anyway, during the sword swallowing act, Miss Holiday called for a volunteer. Being a cheesy eager beaver, my hand shot up immediately. Miss Holiday called me onto the stage, and I inspected the approximately 2.5 foot long sword with a three inch wide blade. It was solid. Miss Holiday then said she would swallow the sword, bend over toward me, and then I was to slowly but steadily extract the sword from her throat. That is, I was pulling it out. That is, if I fucked up, I’d slice her throat open like a fillet fish. Oy vey. This was more responsibility than I bargained for, but it was too late. I was on stage and there was no going back.

Miss Holiday swallowed the sword. She bent over toward me and gave me the sign (a wink), and I grasped the handle. With a slightly shaky hand, I began pulling the sword out. Gobs of saliva fell on the floor as I pulled. Soon, it was free of Miss Holiday’s throat, she dabbed her face femininely with a big red handkerchief, and I was relieved I did not kill her by accident. Whew! The whole experience was great. I am so lucky!

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