One Halloween night a few years ago I had a gig from 5:30-8:00 PM a block west of Sixth Avenue, two blocks from my apartment, which is on the east side of the Avenue. This put me on the wrong side of the massive Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. This meant…I couldn’t get home.
You must understand that what had started as a small and very local parade here in the Village back in the day…and yes, I lived here back in the day….this local, heavily gay, drag queen and cheering supporters, and fabulous puppets, and such…this yumminess of a let-it-all-hang-out local event was at some horrible point discovered. It morphed, monster-like, into a massive, sound truck laden destination-excuse for tourists from world to let their inner-crazy out. Yes, there are still great costumes to be seen. And some good bands. But if you live here, don’t try to go anywhere. Or, to come home for hours before, during and after the Parade.
I live on the east side of Sixth near Houston Street and the Halloween Parade starts a few block south and proceeds a mile or so up the Avenue. Streets are blocked every which way. Far too any people in various stages of array and disarray fill the sidewalks and those blocked streets. Thousands of cops, uniformed and not, hang out on every corner and the barricades are up. If you are not participating in the dense revelry, it can be a daunting to go anywhere. So….that particular Halloween night, I couldn’t get home from my gig on the wrong side of the parade. Knowing that the staging area for the Parade was a just few blocks south of where I was, I wandered west a couple blocks and then south on 7th Avenue and then east to Spring and Sixth, figuring I could go below the staging area and cross Sixth and thread my way back up my side of the street.
Once I got to the Spring Street staging area, however, I found myself in a huge party. Wow. OK! It was a beautiful, warm night and I was feeling the good vibes, so I hung out watching floats and groups and the wonderfully costumed spirits who were entertaining themselves and each other, keeping their energy up and partying while they waited to join the already in full swing parade. I stayed there watching, dancing, and talking to people for about an hour and then I insinuated myself into the middle of one the samba bands as it moved out of the staging area and on to Sixth Avenue.
I had draped my wildly skull-and-bones patterned shawl over my back, which counted as a costume, so I could legitimately join the parade. I worked my way to a place in the middle of the big samba drums and danced my way home. It was a very, very slow walk home, though a very, very rhythmic one, for sure. Indeed, it must have taken at least half an hour to go the few short blocks to my corner. But I was having such a great time, I didn’t leave the group. I stayed with the band till we got up to Waverly Place, a few blocks north of my apartment. That probably took another half an hour. Lots of stopping. Lots of dancing, (And occasional quizzical glances from the leader of the band trying to figure out who the hell that dancing woman was in the middle of his drummers.)
I left the parade at Waverly, not wanting to go the full route. I’d had enough. And I did want to go home. But, I felt energized and washed clean by the vibrations of the drums and the shakereis. There I was on a balmy night in the middle of a huge street party in the ‘hood. By moving with it, instead of trying to “cross” it, I had danced my way home— past the fire house with its memories of 9/11, past the corner where I’ve lived for more than 40 years, past the Waverly Movie Theatre-now the IFC, past a lot of my past..and present. I got home, feeling filled with gratitude for the music, for the movement, and yes, for the wildly exuberant Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. I hope my future brings me more samba!