I thought it wise, before heading under the coverlet for the evening, to post the aforementioned Hippocampus illustration. This is the last of my drawings that my late father saw - on what I didn't realize was my last visit to him, I happened to slip it into my traveling case to cheer him up... I knew he was sick, but not exactly how sick. His eyes lit up, and he ran his fingers across the curves, spots and angles - "It's so musical, like a fugue." True, I almost invariably listen to music while I work - even recordings of him in his prime as a tenor, singing German lieder. Those can be a little on the tear-jerking side of the coin, but they are invaluable.
This piece was actually done in an attempt to convey what it feels like to swim in the Atlantic during the winter months. As a patch-bearing member of the (World-Famous) Coney Island Polar Bear Club, I spent countless Sunday afternoons from November through April in the frigid surf, thrilling at the endorphin rush that only winter bathing can offer. As a southern Ohioan/northern Kentuckian in a decidedly Yankee environment, I perfected an ersatz rebel yell in the medicinal waters of "Sodom by the Sea". Yes... that would be me among the scaled monsters in the drawing, poised to feel the water, while simultaneously reaching for the sun.
Funny enough, the hippocampus has played a distinct and repetitive role in my life - it was such a figure aboard the treasured Philadelphia Toboggan Company #6 carousel in Colorado that stole my heart away, and seduced me into the world of historic amusement devices and parks. That these mythical creatures were not uncommonly incorporated in turn-of-the-century seaside architecture still astounds me, as they are almost unheard of nowadays. They are about as close to a totemic animal in my life as I've ever known.
Coral manes, seafoam bridles and fins aplenty adorn them, as well as the sharp teeth of sea dragons. And speaking of sea dragons - should you find yourself on Coney Island, make the small pilgrimage to the Child's building on the Boardwalk. The facade features some of the most fantastical terra cotta ornamentation in the City - among which dwell two sea dragons... fangs bared.
Lastly, a closer look at the fins on these beasts - I enjoy the sense of play at work, sifting in and out of the breakers. The Atlantic is alive and effervescent always, but especially in the winter months. For winter bathers, it is Our beach, roaring with energy and vitality. There is truly nothing quite like its embrace.
"Once you get Coney Island's sand in your shoes, you can never get it out", as an oft-repeated saying goes. And so, for the moment, this is how I remember it best - in my heart among the creatures of the deep, bathed in the glorious sensation of truly electrifying waters. A Coney Island of the mind...