When I got out of Franklin Avenue subway station tonight Eastern Parkway looked like a huge garbage dump. Where in the early afternoon the colorful West Indian Parade had moved along now the relicts were waiting for the city cleaners. The smoke of all the barbecue fires where corn on the cob and jerk chicken had been prepared was still hanging in the air. People had gone home or were celebrating on the streets or in the surrounding bars and cafés. Police presence was still enormous but so far there are no reports about violence – thankfully.
I had gone to see the parade at 11:30 am and did not want to stay for more than an hour. When I arrived at Eastern Parkway it was still quiet down there. A lot of people, mostly Caribbeans, were waiting along both sides, vendors tried to sell flags and whistles.
Stews, patties and rotis were still covered with aluminum foil at the food stalls. Corn on the cob was ready with butter in several flavors.
I was lucky to find a spot right at the barrier, next to a woman from Trinidad who was talking on the phone to someone at the starting point of the parade. So she provided the information what was going on. I used the time to try to find out what flag belonges to which country.
The parade finally started around 12 with a police band greeting the West Indian community. Then nothing happened. After a while the politicians came. Most of the democrats’ candidates running for Mayor or another position had at least one supporting team in the parade and were present, shaking people’s hands.
Local organizations and companies followed.
Then the actual parade started with colorful, fancy costumes and feather headdresses. They came on wagons and on foot, they were singing and rhythmically dancing. Bands were playing on the wagons and music was booming out of gigantic speakers. The were celebrating, they were happy, they were proud of their heritage.
Chicken was ready behind me. I left at 2 pm, carrying the heavy smell of barbecued meat in my hair and clothes and the bang in my ears. It was not over yet, but I had seen enough and had to get ready to meet my German friends in Manhattan.
I got rid of my smoky clothes, sprayed some perfume in my hair, had a yogurt lunch and took a train to Manhattan. It was raining when I left and I felt really sorry for the people and the parade. All trains were running local then and there was open access to the platforms at Franklin Avenue station, which was full of police.
I arrived in Greenwich Village early and still had time to pick up an iced coffee and a banana and walnut muffin at Think. I sat down in Washington Square Park on a bench near the arch and waited for Claus and Sabine – who did not come. Claus had sent me a text in the morning when and where we should meet. I had texted back my suggestion to meet at 4:30 at the arch in Washington Square Park, had given them a detailed description how to get there and suggested to go for a little walk through the village, have a drink on Happy Hour and finally go for dinner. When I received another text after I had been waiting for 40 minutes and just started to get nervous, telling me that they were now back in their hotel in Queens, waiting to hear from me, I knew that my suggestion had not reached them. I texted back and now got a message form my provider that I would have to update my plan to send this message. My plan is limited to national use only. I tried to call them but of course this was not possible either. What could I do? I sent an email, not knowing if Claus got his emails on the phone or was checking them. He did. And finally called me back. So at 6:15 we finally met.
It was nice to meet friends from home. They told me what they had done so far – sightseeing and shopping, what first time visitors do. We did a short version of my prepared walk and had a nice dinner at Lupa, a roman Osteria on Thompson Street. We were lucky to get a table there without having a reservation. Finally we agreed on meeting again for a rooftop cocktail on Wednesday or Thursday night. They returned to Queens, I returned to Brooklyn – into the leftovers of the big party.
What I learned today:
A lot about Carribean Lifestyle – and not to rely on technology.