Sunday, May 15, 2005

A few people in the crowd were setting off firecrackers from time to time, a little too close to us for comfort. They were pretty and exciting, I have to admit! Soon the organizers announced that if any more firecrackers were set off, the police were going to be very, very upset... (I'm paraphrasing). Everyone seemed to understand... and then one of the funniest moments of the night happened: the crowd started chanting, "No more firecrackers! No more firecrackers!"

So you see, all along we were in a happy and cooperative frame of mind.

It was a long walk to our destination, a park on a pier overlooking the East River, with the most gorgeous view of the Statue of Liberty. It really was the first warm night of the year - at least, the first night that I can remember being perfectly comfortable in a t-shirt (and, much later, a jacket). The sky over the river was incredibly clear.

We arrived just as giant speakers inside a bus were turned on, playing dance music. Movies were projected on teh wall of a large building near the pier. S. and I danced for a while, and then decided to explore what was going on out on the pier. Meantime, we were texting a couple other friends to come out & join us.

It was cooler on the pier, which was strung with banners spoofing advertisements a la Adbusters. At the end, we discovered a mesmerizing capoeira performance, and stayed to watch. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art/dance form which is incredibly graceful and obviously requires great strength. Musicians were playing and chanting the music for the dancers.

The last time - the only other time - I'd been on that pier was with P., so I have to admit I was having a melancholy moment standing there watching the dancers, night air, etc. Also because he would have loved this party, and I missed him a lot.

I was awakened out of my reflections as the police broke up the performance and said, "We think there's someone in the water!" Everyone turned around to help them look, and we all spotted him: a man swimming off the end of the pier. Now, swimming in NY Harbor is actually fairly unsafe; the water is very cold and the currents are strong (my friend who sails tall ships in the harbor says that a Navy SEAL once drowned out there). The police cleared the pier. As we slowly left, the man stopped swimming and walked out onto the shore. Guess who he was?!?!

By the time we were completly off the pier, we were greeted by several (five?) ambulances and fire trucks, police carrying stretchers, and at least one helicopter! You know you've thrown a real event in NY when you get a helicopter... Confusion reigned, but it was friendly confusion. Everyone was going on about how the police were over-reacting, as it was clear that the man was neither drowning nor injured, rumors spread about their being a second person in the water who might not be safe, and no one knew what was going to happen next.

Finally, after a few minutes, the organizers got back on the mic and said the party would continue at a local bar called The Hook. And so we started off for the Hook. It was a bit comical, because although everyone there knew roughly where we were, no one seemed very familiar with the neighborhood, so there was a lot of, "Do you know where we're going? Is this the right street?" on the long walk to the bar. Nevertheless, we all made it, including our rather tired friend J. and her friend, also J. The Hook was perfect: a large bar & club inside with loud bands playing, and a smaller yet not too small outdoor space with tables, chairs, and flowers. My little group of four sat outside, drank Guinness, chatted, did a little people-watching, and admired the artistry of several quite-accomplished hula hoopers and a whole bunch of others giving it a try for the first time (or the first time in years).

We took off around midnight, as we all had long rides home. I'm sure the party went on long after we left... the vibe was great, really mellow, a little magical. As we left, we saw the hula hoopers again, this time spinning hoops around their bodies with several burning torches attached to the outside of the hoop. Wow.


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