This Saturday I reconnected with a friend from high school and went to Coney Island with him and a friend of his to see the 2010 Mermaid Parade. It originally started as a way for the residents to bring back an old tradition of celebrating mardi gras, that had ended in the 50’s. Since its revival in the 1980’s, the Mermaid Parade has grown into the nation’s largest art parade. And what an experience it was to see it!

We arrived around 1pm, about an hour before the parade was slated to begin. We stood in line for a long while at Nathan’s, but I’m glad to say that I ate a Nathan’s hot dog on Coney Island–check another to-do off my food list. Very tasty. Jorge, my friend from high school, is a generous spirit and befriends everyone. That includes a very drunk but completely harmless construction worker who was there also to watch the parade.

After waiting for probably an hour or so, the parade finally reached our spot on the boardwalk. What a sight! There were all types of people in all kinds of sea-related–and not-so-related–garb. Costumes of every variety paraded past us: families, people making political statements about the BP spill, a couple bands, belly dancers, lindy hoppers (!) and even a pole dancer float. (Seriously.) A lot of body paint, and a lot of naked bodies painted. A couple of naked bodies NOT painted. Stilt-walkers. Popeye. Lots of cute literal sea creatures, like fish with halos and wings. Get it? Angel fish!

We were enjoying the parade, and it had almost finished going by, until our section of the boardwalk somehow got very crowded. It was a very popular event, for sure, but for some reason the crowd just behind us was starting to get a little raucous. Granted, it was a parade, people had been drinking. But when a fight breaks out right behind you, and there is literally no room to move, we went the only way out: jumped the barricades and joined the parade. The three of us were quite shaken; someone behind us reportedly broke an elbow, we saw another man try to jump the barrier and face plant instead, smacking his head quite hard on the ground. A man in the throng behind us was threatening to beat up some girl who had harassed him, and when that moment of panic set in, we made like trees and got the heck out of there. Our drunk friend was actually the most visibly anxious out of all of us, muttering “We gotta get outta here, somethin’ bad is gonna happen,” in a very thick accent.

So, we did. After wandering around for awhile, we ended up in Brighton Beach, a Russian community. Dinner at a Russian restaurant included some tasty Russian crepes, meat dumplings, a cheese thing with filo dough (I think), etc.

Overall, it was quite an event. I really enjoyed being able to watch how much creativity went into a lot of those costumes. The girls standing next to me weren’t so impressed for some reason, and remarked on it as they were leaving. Something about how some of the costumes were cool, but most were just tacky. Give me a break. If you regularly see someone make a spine fish out of dyed, blown-up rubber gloves, let me know, but otherwise, just take a minute, soak up the sun, eat a hot dog, and get inspired to create some sweet sea creature costume art.