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Neighborhoods New York Hometurf Holiday Special: Clinton Hill

Alien and Astronaut, 2015

So my neighborhood goes kind of big for Halloween.

The weekend before (or after, depending) there is a whole Halloween parade/fun day for kids in Fort Greene Park, complete with hay rides, a pumpkin patch, and a costume parade.  There’s also a dog costume contest at the north end of the park. And then at night, three blocks close to car traffic and three houses all stage competing stage shows – there’s the family-friendly option and the B-movie-lovers’ option, and then there’s the jazz band that jams on the sidewalk in monster costumes.   Combine that with every kid in the neighborhood running around hopped up on sugar, three ice cream trucks and someone selling glow-in-the-dark toys out of a street cart, and it’s quite the spectacle.

This year was the first time I’d tried to catch the dog show – and I foolishly thought I could just wander over a few minutes after they started.  Surely there’d still be a seat, right?

Ha.  There were over 150 contestants, all crowded on the steps leading down to the stage, with a tuxedoe’d MC and a woman in a kitty costume keeping some kind of order while scores of dogs in various states of dress waddled about.  The MC was already introducing contestant number 28 when I turned up, and I had to walk the long way around the crowd, stopping only to take the occasional picture before finally sitting on top of a wall next to a very friendly boxer, and in front of a French Bulldog with a strange little froggy bark.

Lots of people went with some variant of either cars or food; there was a matched set, a taco and a taco truck.

Taco and Taco Truck (Fort Green Pup Costume Parade, 2015)

There were no less than three Robin Hoods, four mermaids and a handful of dinosaurs.

T-Rex (Fort Greene Pup Costume Parade, 2015)

A lot of people also dressed up along with their dogs; like this “Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe”.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (2015 Pup Costume Contest)

The grand prize winners were a trio dressed as “Animal Control,” with the handlers dressed as squirrels being chased by a pug in a civic uniform with a net.  The Player Piano came in second.

Animal Control (First Prize, Fort Greene Pup Costume Parade, 2015)Player Piano (Fort Greene Pup Costume Parade, 2015)

Things ended soon enough for me to try to get a healthy dinner before heading back outside; as I walked home, I passed small knots of kids already trick-or-treating in the various businesses along Myrtle Avenue, watching for shops with signs declaring “We Have Candy!”  The fishmarket had a hastily-scrawled message on a whiteboard – “All Out Of Candy, Sorry!”

I’d come up with a way to dress up as an angel – a hastily-pinned together thing with bedsheets, a sash, and a store-bought set of wings, with a royal blue sari draped around myself.  It was voluminous enough that I could put on layers underneath and not freeze outside.  My roommate – who is from Belgium, and said this was her first Halloween – declined my offer of a couple of my last years’ costumes, and said she would just observe.  We were on our way down the stairs when we ran into four kids – two from our neighbors on the second floor, and two other friends – who all turned when they saw us, and shouted, “Trick or treat!”

“Oh!”  We hadn’t counted on this.  “Oh dear…well, we angels don’t have pockets,” I said, “So… my angel helper can run up and get something.”  My roommate took the cue and ran back upstairs.  I stalled with some angelic-sounding patter, complimenting all the kids on their costumes; one girl was a phoenix, with elaborate makeup and a huge pair of gold wings, which she unfurled for me to show off.  “And you are?” I turned to a little boy, all wrapped up in green swaddling and green facepaint. Just as I was preparing to guess whether he was Leonardo or Michaelangelo Ninja turtle, he announced, “I’m a Green Mummy!

“Oh!  I’ve…never met a green mummy before, I didn’t know you….could be that color.”  Fortunately my Angel Helper came back with four Kind Bars she grabbed from the house stash and dropped them in each of the kids’ bags, and then we swanned out past them, me telling them to have a blessed Halloween.

 Most of the action was on the show blocks, but the whole way there we still passed clusters of kids with parents hurrying there; some of whom seem to have already gotten into the sugar.  One tiny Green Lantern was engaged in a swordfight with an Iron Man, until their cat-eared mother scolded them to “Knock it off and keep up!”  My roommate had offered to carry my things (angels don’t have pockets), but I asked her for my camera when I saw a kid dressed as an entire red British phone booth, complete with a fake take-a-number flyer advertising a used camera or something.  It even lit up inside.  Unfortunately, when I finally got my camera from her he turned his back to me, and I waited a couple fruitless minutes for him to turn back around to face me before giving up.  Meanwhile my roommate was trying to get a shot of the whole family of mom, dad, and three girls who’d all donned roller skates and light-up LED tubes to go as “Starlight Express.”

"Malice in Underland", Halloween 313 show, 2015

We’d showed up midway through one show, which was a strange mix of Alice in Wonderland with Fantastic Voyage – I think the premise was that Alice had been shrunk down to atomic size and she and her rag doll were now in Cheshire Cat’s body, trying to find their way to his brain.  An interesting idea, but maybe too high-concept in execution.  Right about the time that a bunch of kids in white body suits were trying to crowd the stage and Alice was saying “oh, no, Rags!  Cheshire’s leukocytes are trying to attack us!” my roommate turned to me and said “I don’t know if I get this.”

“Me either,” I admitted.  We went over to the next block, where Pam Fleming’s band was just wrapping up with “Monster Mash” before segueing into a slow blues jam about Satan coming for you and your woman.  It was near time for the second show to start, and I studied the set.

Set for Waverly Place Halloween Show, 2015

In years past, this show just used two side-by-side garages, one of which had a remote-control door opener; this year was their last show, so they went all out and made it bi-level, complete with full sound, neon lights in two separate languages and a video screen.

Set, 2015 Waverly Place Costume Parade

This block’s show always would go for the over-the-top gore and the B-movie monsters – lots of fake blood, fart jokes, and jump-scares.  For their final outing, they decided to go all-out, with a subplot about a roving reporter who’d devoted the past ten years to studying the “strange Halloween events of the past decade all fortelling a 2015 apocalypse”.  After a pre-taped review of all nine previous shows, he retreated to his “hotel room” at the top of the set, and the show then hit us with four classic movie monsters – Frankenstein, his Bride, Godzilla, and Wolfman, all rampaging through the set and fighting each other.  As soon as they showed up, about five parents towards the front who’d had kids perched on their shoulders started edging their way back away from the stage, all their kids in full-throated scream-cry mode.  The rest of the kids were a little baffled, and stayed so when Godzilla rampaged through a cardboard set of Brooklyn, squirting something out of a tank through the rear end of his costume.  “He’s pooping!” I heard one father in the crowd explain to his child.

Dracula, 2015 Waverly Place Halloween show

Dracula also showed up, as did a little girl in an Exorcist homage complete with bleeding walls and puked-up pea soup.  The show even sent our hero to hell, where he competed in a parody game show against past shows’ heros for a chance to be restored to life – but then he, and the world at large, was saved by Ultraman.

Ultraman, 2015 Waverly Place costume show

Only as soon as he got back to Earth, the Wolfman ate him, in a fantastic spray of fake blood.  The end.

Pam Fleming was starting up again as the cast took their last bows, but my roommate and I turned for home.

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