Question: Why is life worth living?
Answer: For lots of reasons, but if you need just one, there's the Prospect Park Carousel.
Emboldened by my new pass allowing unlimited rides, I tugged several actual children onto the gloriously restored 1912 masterpiece on a perfect late spring afternoon. Got a jumper, of course. (Who wants a horse that doesn't go up and down?) I was delighted to see that the gentle Lucio is still at the helm; he has been the master of these steeds since the carousel reopened in 1990, and I have never seen anyone so obviously in love with his job. (Lucio modestly declined to be photographed, but for a wonderful shot of him, go here.)
Now, "best carousel in the world" is quite a claim. On what do I base this bold pronouncement? Glad you asked. I happen to be a carousel wonk, with a life list stretching from Santa Cruz to Lake Compounce, Connecticut. (There is plenty of carousel wonkery to go around.) None can touch Prospect Park's gem, carved by the legendary "Coney Island style" carver Charles Carmel. (For the whole history, go here.) Many vintage carousels have some of these features, but ours combines them in a uniquely powerful and endorphin-flooding way:
* The carousel is relatively small, but seems to move very fast.
* There are some excellent non-horsies, like this deer.
* There is a real, honest-to-God calliope pounding out old-fashioned waltzes and Sousa marches. (I have ridden carousels playing Muzak, or worse yet, nothing at all.)
* Outside, the park zooms past in an emerald blur; it is set like a jewel in the park's "Children's Corner," across from a 200-year-old Dutch house, and if you could spin just a little faster, you would start time-traveling like Dr. Who.
And then there is the central structure itself, which has been fantastically adorned with paintings of vanished and still-standing Brooklyn landmarks, like the Botanic Garden, the monument to poet Thomas Moore, and the old reservoir tower.
Oh, and did we mention a bare-breasted Coney Island mermaid?
Unlimited rides, yes!