Guest columnist Jonathan Kahane:  House of Horrors is full of surprises

  • JACOBLUND

Published: 3/9/2021 5:02:29 PM

Having spent my formative years in The Bronx, and often taking a cool dip in the then heavily polluted Hudson River on hot summer days, I was a mere stone’s throw away from Palisades Amusement Park over on the Jersey cliffs.

It was a short trip across the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge — $1 toll round trip. (It’s now $15, but I would happily pay the piper to be able to spend another weekend evening there.) The park closed in 1971 along with its famous wood Cyclone roller coaster and Tunnel of Love. The name of the latter concession was changed to The House of Horrors, but when you stop to think about it, the two are often synonymous aren’t they?

These rides were the ultimate hangouts where boy meets girl; they hop on the cart, share some giggles, and get to “know” each other. We guys had to fork over $1 for the ride — so much for equality of the sexes back in the ‘50s! The only better date in New York City in those halcyon days was going back and forth on the Staten Island Ferry for a nickel cruise. The lights of Manhattan, Miss Liberty, and the folksingers on the ferry put on a dazzling show. (You know how Staten Island got its name? When Henry Hudson sailed up the river, he pointed to it and asked: “Iz dat an Island?” Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Despite the Big E shutting its doors this year, I have still been able to travel through the House of Horrors every week, and I would like to share just a few of these highlights with you. I must warn you, however, that it’s nowhere nearly as much fun as it used to be. In fact it’s downright horrifying. I’m talking about my weekly trip to the grocery store.

Similar to its namesake at Palisades, this House of Horrors provides chills and surprises at every turn. The sliding glass doors part to allow you entrance and silently close behind you.

Alea lacta est! (The die has been cast!)

Being a senior citizen, I choose to wake up before the sun in order to take advantage of the 7-8 a.m. timeframe the store courteously reserves for our cohort.

The first encounter is a pair of discarded latex gloves and a used face mask discretely placed in the carriage I was going to use on my way through the aisles.

After deftly dodging that hazard by choosing another cart, I arrived at the shampoo section. There, a 30-something dad wearing his mask under his chin was with his 5-year-old son who was wearing his Halloween mask from last year. The youngster was systematically unscrewing the tops of shampoo bottles to smell the aromas and then replacing the caps and returning them to the shelf. I thought I had better try the shower gel.

You can hardly blame the younger generations for shopping at this hour as the store thoughtfully pipes in ‘50s Doo-Wop tunes for us Golden Agers’ pleasure. Despite this fright on the joyride, I found myself jitterbugging toward the next encounter in time to Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop.”

I was passing the fish counter but didn’t have to concentrate since it wasn’t open at that time of day so I kept doing the Lindy Hop. And here I thought fishermen were early risers.

My cart then careened into the lane where the arrow on the floor pointed one way to the paper products. There I was confronted with empty shelves and a good possibility of a head-on collision with two carts going the wrong way. I had to smile recalling Yogi Berra’s reply to a cop who stopped him from going the wrong way on a one-way street: “But I was only going one way.”

Thankfully my cart finally led me to the “express” checkout line. Before I leave home for the market, I always review my college calculus notes. These functions are necessary to make an intelligent choice of checkout line in order to be able to exit the House of Horrors in a timely fashion. One must consider the length of the line, the number of items in each carriage, the speed of the cashier, the presence or absence of a bagger, and other critical variables. But the House of Horrors is full of surprises to scare you beyond recovery. The woman ahead of me in the express lane (10 items or less) had 30 articles and claimed she was shopping for two other friends. Brilliant! This was not covered in my calculus class.

Next week is another week, and I’ll have to work on a new strategy as I would like to eat some fish, I need toilet paper, and I could really use some shampoo.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.

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