Astroland's Last DaySOn Friday, lease negotiations broke down between the owner of Astroland, Coney Island's honky-tonk, 46-year-old amusement park, and its landlord, Thor Equities. It was abruptly announced that the scruffy Brooklyn park would shut down forever on Sunday—a month ahead of schedule. Damn, gentrification! Would it really be the last day? Who knows—the future of Coney Island in recent years has been as topsy-turvey as the Tilt-a-Whirl. There was nothing to do but board the F train and visit Astroland one last time. Step right up—into the wild and weird world where you, too, can purchase panties off the boardwalk.The subway ride was a level of hell I have not recently experienced on the MTA. An exhausted-looking man with three kids sat across from me the entire ride, alternately changing his shabbily-clad childrens' diapers and barking at them to "Shut the fuck up!" I kept hoping he would get off at the next stop, but he didn't: of course, he was going to Coney Island. When the train pulled into the Surf Avenue station, bloodcurdling screams went up from the 9 to 12-year-olds on board. "Last day!" they cried, running towards the door. Mami already needed a beer. The Astroland environment immediately transformed every child into a whirling, shrieking wraith. Everything was as it should be: a woman on the boardwalk sold jewelry and a pile of worn-looking panties off a table, four for $10. The the games, rides—which may be sold to the Middle East when all this is over—and shooting ranges were popping. There were assorted camera crews there to document the park's probable death, as well as many lone white dudes with cameras. Maybe they all had photoblogs. So, WTF was going on? I asked the man who manned the "Shoot Em Win" booth on Surf Avenue, near Astroland's gaping maw. "It's going to hurt a lot of people. It's going to hurt a lot of working people," said Mike, who has worked this booth for "a lotta years." The Daily News reported Astroland as employing 75 year-round workers and 275 seasonal ones. "Two shots, five bucks, win a stuffed animal," he told a young boy who approached the stand. The kid was dragged off by his older brother, who told him, "Don't spend that ten, boo." Mike isn't sure if Shoot Em Win will return next year—it's all up in the air. So was it really closing? I asked the Black Scorpion, a Texas gentleman who had just performed as part of the Circus Sideshow—which will not close, as Coney Island USA own the building. His act involved tying his shoelaces with his so-called "lobster hands"—he was born with only three fingers on each one. "Looks that way," he sighed. People were lining up for a "Future of Coney Island" peep show in which we peered into dioramas that depicted what Coney Island might look like post-rezoning. It was not pretty. So was Astroland gone for good? Probably. Maybe. Nobody quite knew, not even the park's employees. Your answer depends on how much of a cynic you are. Like the game where you squirt water into a ceramic clown's mouth, it's all just a crapshoot anyway. I tried to win a dirty stuffed clownfish from the Claw machine, and lost two quarters. [Photo: ElissaSCA's Flickr]