The Mermaid Parade.
Anyone who says New York is dead is just not paying attention. The Lower East Side may now be a lost cause, but that doesn't mean its former denizens have gone anywhere -- they're (we're) all still here, maybe spread out a little more, maybe driven east into the vast expanse of Brooklyn, but still here, in full force.
I went to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island on Saturday (amazingly, my very first) and had one of the most perfect and quintessentially Brooklyn days of my life. The assemblage of gorgeous creative freaks there was massive and wonderful.
Even the subway ride out to Coney was awesome: the F train was standing-room-only, packed to the gills with kooky revelers in various shades of mermaid drag and odd homemade costumes. Everyone was smiling, even though the heaving crush of bodies rivaled any rush hour at Grand Central.
I'm thinking, if people dressed in costume more often, they'd probably get along alot better.
The weather was perfect and Surf Avenue was a riot of glorious humanity. The parade itself was a hilariously bawdy string of mongrel floats whose only common thread was, of course, the mermaid theme. Girls in faux-fishtail dresses and green glitter makeup, dudes dressed as mermen and Zeus facimiles, people with fish heads. Out-of-time marching bands, drag queens, little kids, aquatic strippers flaunting their surgically-enhanced goodness to the people of Brooklyn. Part Mardi Gras, part Pride parade, part Halloween, part Burning Man.
How cool was it to soak up sun on the beach with such a motley lot of tattooed, fishnetted, wig-wearing bizarros? The Dazzle Dancers were splayed out near us (mysteriously lacking my ex-roomie, the iconic Machine Dazzle, however....where were you, Machine??). What an eyesore they were. I'll bet their glitter will be mixed into the sand for years to come. Beers were quaffed openly. Getting a buzz in the daytime.
At 6pm we got sucked into a full-scale dance party on the boardwalk that didn't spit us back out until the music stopped at 10:30pm. I can't describe how cool it was to see such a radical variety of people hanging out together. The term "melting pot" is a cliche but it's hard to sum it up any other way. Gays, straight people, ravers, Russians, punks, old school Brooklyn mooks, cool Puerto Rican fellas, daytime goths, burners. The dj played a mix of stuff that doesn't even make sense on paper: Michael Jackson, hip hop, Steely Dan, cheesy Long Island techno, WAR ("spill the wine, dig that girl!"), Aretha Franklin gospel tunes, salsa/meringue. Yet it all made sense in that utterly jubilant, anything-goes context -- the crowd cheered at each and every new song, like it was a gift.
People in their 60s ballroom dancing, little kids bouncing around. White, black, Asian, Latin, European. Geeky hipsters, chicks with huge afros. A bunch of black kids had a breakdancing circle going and anyone and everyone was allowed in. Some nerdy white indie rock guy jumped in and did some weird Russian boardwalk dance and at the end, the black kids roared with applause and smothered him in hugs.
I'm thinking, if people danced more, they would fight a hell of a lot less.
Dancing at dusk, running back and forth to the hot dog place for beers. Clear ocean breeze and a half moon that sailed into place and shone down like a spotlight. At one point a big orange stuffed fish was getting tossed around like a beach ball, everyone screaming with laughter. Running into random old friends, meeting new ones.
After four hours of nonstop dancing, our legs could barely stop moving. Back on the F train around midnight, it was pretty great to be able to sit down. Lots of talk floating around that this may be the last Mermaid Parade, what with all the rumblings of the proposed corporate revamping of Coney Island itself next year. It's one of the last remnants of Old New York, certainly frayed around the edges but full of seedy character. I sure hope that the developers don't fuck it all up. Sure, the place could use a little spit polish, but we sure don't need another Disney Times Square.
I sure hope Coney
Island -- and the Mermaid Parade -- continue well after I'm gone. New York needs it.
Labels: Mermaid Parade, New York City