I have been talked into attending the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade by a few friends. Each year people dress in their strangest to be part of the festivities along Sixth Avenue. It’s simultaneously fun and ridiculous. One of those once-in-a-lifetime events that seems to be a great idea, like driving across country and skydiving, but then as soon as you set off, you immediately can’t help wondering why in God’s name you agreed to do it.
The parade is nothing more than an excuse for people to dress and behave in ways they wouldn’t normally dress and behave. This is despite the fact that only five people actually have a view of the parade itself. Most everyone else mills about the sidelines bumping into one another, craning to get a glimpse. When my friends and I realize that we wouldn’t even get close enough to the parade to crane, we go for a drink and head home. I do not find this upsetting in the least.
As this is the thirty-fourth year of the parade, the police and MTA have the proceedings down to a science, sort of. Some subway station stairs are changed to entrance only and some are exit only. There are miles of blue police barricades to shuttle people more efficiently and officers position themselves every few feet, above and below ground. One crucial bit of information they’ve left out is to put up signs to tell passengers which station entrances to use. My friend, who takes the same train, and I try to get underground at one of the Christopher Street station entrances. After we are halfway down the stairs, a policeman tells us in an exasperated voice that this is exit only. We must go back up and cross over Christopher Street to enter via a different set of stairs. My reasoning that we are almost to the turnstiles is met with a motion of his hand to leave.
We follow along the barricades, at a pace equivalent to the movement of tectonic plates, to cross the street. In this 50 yard walk, I see Superman, two pirates, a pregnant nun and the Tasmanian devil. When we reach the station entrance we feel certain we were told to use, another policeman asks, “Where do you think you’re going?” I wish I had dressed as Dorothy and could click my ruby slippers to magically transport me home. He points to yet another set of stairs, this time on the same side of the street. With considerable effort we get back into the crowd and shuffle along. This is the height of the parade and throngs of people who think they are going to see something are still pouring into the Village. Finally we get to the one place at which the police will allow us to enter the station. I swipe my metrocard and the train comes within a few minutes packed with passengers. But this is no normal train. The doors slide open and the first one off is a man wearing a coconut bra over his green turtleneck. Then a menagerie of animals, long-dead historical figures and superheroes follow. Just before the doors close a monkey hops out drinking an iced latte. They don’t call this the urban jungle for nothing.