Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ocean Beach Park

Ocean Beach Park. Oil on stretched canvas, 8x10

When I was a kid, we lived about a mile from Ocean Beach. We'd go there a few times a summer, not for the beach, but for the rides.

One of my earliest memories is riding the horses on the carousel, leaning out, stretching out my long arms and grabbing a ring as I passed. I can still hear the carousel music, and feel the movement of the horses, and see the blur of faces as I concentrated on that ring.

Beside the carousel was the dodge car rink, a dark, cool, place with a screen all around it, and the smell of oil always hanging just above the slippery floor. You'd get in the car, drive like a maniac and make it your business to smash into as many other cars as you could. The cars were small, and spun easily, and were somehow powered by long poles with little metal flags at the top that must have pulled electricity down from a grid in the ceiling. The poles and flags would spark sometimes, and crackle, and, often, the power would flash out for a moment, stranding you mid-crash.

In time, there came a ride that I think was called The Flying Cages. These were closet-sized cages built of heavy open metal work. You'd stand in them, alone or with a partner, and bend your knees, swinging from side to side, using all your body weight and all your strength to make the cage swing higher and higher. When you built up enough momentum, the cage would swing over the top of the fulcrum and plummet down, and then up, maybe swinging over again, maybe making it almost to the top and then swinging down the way it came.

Farther from the merry-go-round was a Ferris wheel, a small but terrifying roller coaster (Mighty Mouse, I think) and a scary ride whose name I can't remember that turned people upside down (we would find change beneath it). There was the Octopus and the Tilt-A-Whirl, and some other baby rides, and they all made noise, and had music and got people to laughing and screaming.

On sunny summer weekends, Beach traffic would be backed up past our house. Sometimes, the parking lot would fill right up, and people would park on Ocean Avenue, as far up as our house and sometimes, beyond.

Sometimes, in the evenings, we could hear the music of the rides on the wind. Sometimes, a band would play. Sometimes there were fireworks.

Ocean Beach has fallen on hard times. The beach is still there, and the arcade. There are still rides, and you can walk on the boardwalk and, in the summer, play miniature golf, and eat cotton candy and popcorn. Traffic never backs up on Ocean Avenue, and my bet is that no one who lives on Ocean these days has seen Beach cars parked past up past Woodlawn.

Ocean Beach just isn't what it used to be. Then again, what is?


MHFiler said...

That makes me sad. Amusement parks arent what they used to be. Remember carnivals and the carnies? side shows? ahhh back in the day. Yah. Today I will remininsce iin ode to you. I actually even looked up the spelling of that sorta big word in my 1967 Thorndike dictionary. Love you girl.

Unknown said...

I think this is my newest favorite Carrie. The expansive sky really highlights the smudge that was once the park. Beautiful editorial piece.

carrie jacobson said...

Thanks for the comments, gals. By the bye, I think you two would like each other. Michelle, meet Sheila. Sheila, meet Michelle. Both of you are tremendously vital painters, exuberant personalities, bright with the spark of life. Someday you'll meet.

Jill said...

This is stunning. Very Fairfield Porter.

carrie jacobson said...

And for those of you who don't know who Fairfield Porter is (that's me, one hour ago), take a moment to look up his paintings. They are delicious. Thank you, Jill!