The legendary Eek the Geek at Coney Island. Photo by Damian Panitz.
My last fortune cookie said: “Action with a brain. Today you should proceed with caution.” So what did I do? On the spur of the moment, I booked a flight to Costa Rica. My friend Damian—a tech head, hard rocker, and filmmaker—sent me an email from an Internet hut somewhere in Central America and invited me to join him. The invitation came at the right time: this is the perfect week for me to get away, before I start doing promotional activities related to the publication of King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.
Any trip with Damian should be interesting. The man likes freaks. So much so that he’s been photographing them for years. His idea of the perfect wedding is one where the waiters and barmaids are midgets, fat ladies, and other denizens of circus sideshows. (While he was telling me this, his girlfriend looked a bit horrified; she said that she wanted a traditional wedding—white dress, white cake, white drapes.)
One day, when Damian couldn’t leave work, he sent me a text message imploring me to go in his place to an all-day reunion of sideshow freaks at Coney Island. I was happy to go because, sadly, the Coney Island amusement park is being torn down this year to make way for nondescript luxury condos and upscale boardwalk concessions. I went with a friend, and we had a great time watching two generations of fire eaters, sword swallowers, snake wranglers, dancing dwarfs and contortionists do their thing. It was all very quaint, even family-friendly, compared to some of the performance art I’ve seen in Manhattan. (The only part that made me squeamish was when the sword swallow instructed a member of the audience pull the sword out of his throat and stomach to prove that it was real.)
I’ll be in Costa Rica for a week, and I hope Damian’s interests extend beyond freaks to the beach and the jungle. From there I won’t be able to watch on-line as my friends Pascal Charbonneau and Irina Krush kick chess butt in Montreal, but I hope to have the sporadic Internet connection so that I can check on their progress and blog intermittently.