Sunday, November 6, 2016

Halloween In New York, aka Nightmare on 6th Avenue

There comes a time in every romantic relationship, if it lasts long enough, that as you get to know your partner better,and get comfortable with each other, you're not on your best behaviour anymore. You no longer find everything they say to be delightfully witty and insightful.  They find one (or more) of your habits to be annoying.  You see what each other looks like first thing in the morning, and it may not be pretty.  Illusions are shattered, reality sets in, and you realize if you really want the relationship to last, compromise and acceptance will be required.

During this year's visit to New York (which I refer to as my boyfriend) over the past few days, I experienced a reality check in our relationship.  It was the first time that New York had showed me anything but love and affection, so it was an upsetting end to an otherwise wonderful visit.

I usually schedule my trip to coincide with the Autumn edition of the Manhattan Vintage Show, but this year, I decided to go a week later so that I could be in New York for Halloween to experience one of the traditions that has always fascinated me - The Village Halloween Parade.  After all, Lou Reed wrote a song about the parade (which appeared on his "New York" album).  The parade was started in 1974 by a Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer,  Ralph Lee.  From its humble origins as a walk from house to house in Lee's neighbourhood, the parade has grown to become the largest celebration of its kind, and has received many awards and grants from the city.  It is estimated that about 2 million people turn out to watch the parade, and just once,  I wanted to be one of those 2 million.  I had no idea what I was in for.  

I met a friend at 6 pm so we could stake out a good viewing spot on 6th Avenue for the parade, which started at 7 pm.  We were right on the corner of 6th Avenue and 15th Street, and the block wasn't as busy as those further south on the parade route.  There were so many police officers around that the atmosphere felt kind of tense, and an officer approached us and declared the parade did not come up this far on 6th, and we had to move further south.  I knew that the parade did, in fact, go at least a couple of blocks past where we were, which had been confirmed by another officer we had spoken to earlier, but how does one argue with a member of the NYPD in full body armour?  We were forced to head south only find ourselves engulfed by crowds of people.  We finally found a tiny space to squeeze into, and waited for the parade to start. 

 The view we almost had...until the police removed the blue tape you see in the photo

Close to 8:00 pm we could see giant skeleton puppets approaching, and at that moment, the police opened a barricade on the side street in front of us, allowing a crowd of people to surge forward, and and completely block our view of the parade route.  We stood there speechless for a few minutes, and sadly, decided I was not meant to see the parade after all.  

 The view we had.  I was able to get this photo by holding my camera up above my head

At that point all we wanted to do was go home, so as my friend headed off towards 5th Avenue, I started to squeeze my way back up 6th Avenue towards 15th Street.  The first block was challenging, but then in the next I hit a wall of people on a corner, and there was no space to pass, go around, or go back.  A crowd of people had built up behind me and were pushing to get through, and at that moment I thought "this is how people get knocked down and trampled".  A woman with two small children were squished against me, and she and I were both starting to get frightened.  When it finally became clear no one was going to move in front of us, and people were not going to stop pushing from behind, I started to get angry, and use my elbows to push people aside.  When we were finally made it around the corner and were on a clear patch of sidewalk, the women with the children thanked me for getting them through.  I stopped a police officer to let them know there was clearly a dangerous situation at that corner.  Her response?  "That does sound scary."  Did she do anything? No.

 This was the only costume I managed to photograph.  I have no idea what he was, but I loved the suit

I headed east a block and then went to double back to my corner when I was halted by a wooden barricade across 5th and 15 Street, and another police officer who informed me that unless I had ID with my address on it proving I lived on that street, I wasn't going anywhere.  It was bad enough I hadn't even been able to see the parade, and was almost knocked over by a crowd, and now, I was  told I couldn't go home.  I could feel tears of frustration starting to well in the corners of my eyes as I patiently tried to explain my situation,  and I think the officer must have sensed a full blown breakdown was coming, as he pushed the barricade aside and let me pass.  As I reached the apartment, I couldn't help but notice that there were people lined up watching the parade in the exact spot on 6th Avenue and 15th Street where we had originally been standing, when the officer had told us "the parade doesn't come this far". 

New York, I still love you, but at that moment, I didn't like you very much at all.  It was unfortunate this all happened on the last night of my trip, as it affected my feelings about the trip as a whole, even though the rest of it was great fun.  And my next post will be about the fun, I promise.


  1. Gads, this gives me flashbacks to the Commonwealth Games in Victoria years ago - I had a horrid crowd experience similar to this, and I lost it and had to push my way out too. So sorry you had to see/experience this, Shelley, but glad to hear that the rest of your trip isn't sullied by it.

  2. Oh Shelley, I felt for you as I read BUT I'm so pleased you had fun for the rest of your time with your boyfriend. Elizabeth xx

  3. Oh Shelley, I am sorry. That was a brilliant piece of writing despite the disappointment. The pushing, the shoving, the ineptitude of the police and having my view blocked of something I've been looking forward to seeing for years would probably have had me in tears, too.
    I've had times like that in India, too - days when I feel like I'm never going to go back but India is like a compelling lover, one who slaps you around the face and then takes you out for dinner. Hopefully New York will treat you the same way and shower you in fine wine and gourmet nibbles next time you meet. xx

  4. How sad and disappointing! Personally I can no longer tolerate being in huge crowds even if they're peaceful ones. Too crazy! The police were obviously part of the problem too and not doing their job correctly. I hope your next visit will wipe this memory from your mind. Hugs!

  5. Saw Lou and The Velvet Underground early 70's, I think at The Retinal Circus in Vancouver. They played all night.The crowd was a bit like this parade and it wasn't even Halloween.

  6. What a scary and totally disappointing plus frightening experience. Poor thing. You analogy with a relationship is very good.

  7. I hate crowds so I sympathize with you. Bit of a bummer. I'm glad to hear the whole trip wasn't like this.


  8. What a bummer! I know how much you were looking forward to this. Sounds like a frightening experience. I don't like crowds and know I would have been freaking out being trapped by a wall of people. I hope the rest of your trip was fun, though!

  9. I'm so sorry to hear that you had such a frightening and disappointing last night in NYC. Good that you made it to your apartment safely! Looking forward to hearing about the fun part of your trip. You really know how to write, Shelley. I felt like I was there with you!

  10. A bad experience written so well. What a huge disappointment. I'm glad your first days there were positive and I hope you two will make up on your next trip. There's no denying the attraction. This was a one-off. I look forward to your next post!