Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another Homework Assignment

Here's me being lazy again: this is today's homework, a not very journalistic account of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, as assigned last Wednesday in my reporting class. Written in twenty minutes, and it reads like fifteen. First prize to anyone who can identify the "nut graf"!

[a headline would go here, if I could think of one]

Not everyone loves a parade, it turns out.

“I’ve never really been into them,” an Australian woman said to her companion. “This kind of reminds me why not.”

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade starts at 7pm. It was only 5:30, but that was OK. All the good stuff happened before the floats set sail.

Sixth Avenue was fittingly gray and windswept. Atmospheric, if not quite spooky. People started to line up behind sidewalk barriers, but by 6pm the cops still outnumbered spectators two to one. A group of six adults convincingly dressed as senior citizens on a bus tour walked by in matching purple Columbia Sportswear jackets, all clutching maps.

“I’m keeping my eyes open," said a flannel-clad girl sitting on the curb, "because I know my sister’s in New York and it would be so cool to bump into her here.” Her boyfriend, who was using sticks of stage makeup to draw on her face, looked around at the gathering crowds and was silent.

An elegant gray-haired lady walked up to them: “What’s going on?”

“It’s a parade,” the boyfriend said.

“Is there some organization that’s putting it on?” asked the lady.

“No, it’s just…the Halloween parade.”

“Well,” the lady asked, “is it a gay parade?”

The boyfriend paused to think about that.

“Sort of,” he said.

The lady nodded and said she’d be back after some shopping. When she left, the couple giggled and re-enacted the exchange.

More people crammed in against the barriers. Defying the odds, Facepaint Girl's sister appeared, reeking of booze. Familial screeching drew the attention of bystanders who had nothing else to look at and were bored. The drunk girl seized the makeup kit and applied crooked gray lipstick. She showed her sister and her sister’s boyfriend the lighter she’d just scored at a bar, no cover charge, they were just giving them out, free.

“Do you ever picture yourselves as skeletons?” she asked the audience at large. “Picture yourselves as skeletons! It’s the weirdest thing! We’re all just skeletons!”

A guy on a motorcycle roared down 6th Avenue, nearly flattening a small dog. It looked intentional. From the other end of the leash, the dog's owner glared. A scraggly band of five Celtic pirates marched down the street, in the wrong direction. Still no sign of the big parade.

A crew of twentysomething cyclist dudes in knit hats appeared, carrying buckets of beercans. Girls surrounded them instantly. The dudes consolidated their buckets and upended the empty one to make a pedestal, onto which they allowed a girl in a pink tutu and army jacket. A pair of toe shoes hung around her neck. “Are those functional?” one dude asked, looking up at her. She disclosed that she was a dancer in real life. The dude asked if her toes were "all jammed." She said yes, adding that his interest in the subject was odd. “I’m attracted to people with injuries,” he explained.

Watching this, the Australian woman cheered up. “Fascinating,” she said. “Young American mating rituals.”

A flurry of activity to her left caught the crowd’s interest: several cops were moving the sidewalk barrier further into the street. Sweet! Better view. No, wait. Now they were moving it back to where it was. A minute later they moved it again. More cops appeared, along with some guys dressed up as Department of Transportation workers. The problem: a pothole, about five inches across, right there where people would be standing.

Walkie-talkies summoned a couple of DOT trucks. Cops adjusted the barrier yet again. One DOT guy got out of a truck and bashed in the edges of the pothole to stabilize it. Another DOT guy shoveled loose black asphalt into the pothole from a truck. A cop in a white uniform walked up and asked the ponytailed officer guarding the pothole what was going on.

“The captain came over, and he wants us to fill this hole,” she said.

“He decided to do this last-minute, huh?” the other cop said, shaking his head.

With the pothole-management procedure complete, the barrier resumed its proper position. The crowd cheered. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” said one DOT guy.

Everyone went back to waiting patiently. Still no parade, but folks were calm.

“Next year I’m going to walk around selling little plastic bags for people to pee in,” said Facepaint Girl's boyfriend. “And grilled-cheese sandwiches.”

Finally the parade started. Boredom crept in along with the cold. A few acts earned applause, including a group of zombies who performed the dance from the video of Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller.” Another highlight was a guy wearing Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream. “Oh, see, I should’ve worn that,” said one of the bucket dudes, whose only costume was a new beard his friends declared hideous. “Last year I went as ‘Whistler’s Mother.’”

It's OK not to love the parade; on Halloween, the society is the spectacle.

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