NOTE: I thought I posted this on Monday morning, but I guess I was too passoutified to realize that I only saved the draft. So, a couple of days late, I give you my post-party post...
One Night of Fire was a resounding success, and an awesome night.
There are already some great photos and videos from the event out there. If you have a MySpace account, check out my dear friend Melissa's pictures from the event.
I was signed onto the text-message list from The Danger, so we got occasional updates with instructions on where to go next. I'll reproduce all those here, like so:
It all begins with a spark. Brooklyn Bridge now. Keep this safe. Watch out for yourself and others.
My friends Cableflame and Melissa went with me to the Brooklyn Bridge, where it all started. We met up with some of my NYC2600 pals, and hung around enjoying the sunset while the group grew, eventually filling the pedestrian walkway as far as the eye could see.
The theme of the event was "angels," and white was a preferred color for costumes. Since the only white article of clothing I really own is a labcoat (everyone should have a labcoat!) I wore that with some random mad-scientist gear, some Space Mutiny badges, and my favorite fluorescent chartreuse t-shirt. I also had a clip-on light that looked equally neat clipped onto my sunglasses Borg-style, or clipped onto my lapel in order to further illuminate the glowing t-shirt. While flipping through flickr I found this shot of me on the bridge I really like. If anyone out there has a Flickr account, please pass on my thanks to the photographer in the picture's comments!
The cavalry leads the charge. Follow them to Manhattan! When you hear it, say OOOOOOO...
After 9PM (some time after the originally planned 7:57 departure time) we marched into Manhattan, and made our way to City Hall Park. Once there we hung out by the fountain, and many people hopped in for a swim, and to splash the crowd with the fountain's jets. This turn of events worked out interestingly for some of the white-dressed crowd.
Take the spirit with you underground. We're taking the R to Dekalb.
After that events moved down into City Hall Station. Here's a neat shot of the crowd on the subway platform at City Hall. We were hot, sweaty, and thrilled.
This is where we started seeing much more of a police presence, but they seemed mostly bemused by the whole thing, and even helpful. While we were all piling in through the turnstiles, officers even opened up the emergency exit gate and let partygoers through without paying!
So we hung around until the R train showed up, and immediately piled into the train. It was only sparsely populated by commuters, some of whom were thrilled, some of whom weren't. We (and I refer here proudly to the entire population of the party) were really great about letting people get where they needed to go even though we were packed into the train like sardines. Paths were cleared and doors were held open for all who needed, no matter how much more squashed it made everyone.
Some commuters were so fascinated they joined the party. Some were indifferent to all the surrounding chaos in that fabulous way only New Yorkers can be. One lady near me was outright pissed.
"You're on a public train!" she spat at me, as if it were an insult. "We're the public!" I replied with a smile. She left in a huff at the next stop.
So, the first of the night's party trains was underway. There was singing. There was dancing. There was improvised percussion on the ceilings, seats, and poles. There were even a couple of crowd-surfers, and people giving out candy.
At every stop, a few people nearest the doors would run out onto the platform, quickly racing into a different car before the doors closed again, and people from another car would zip into our car taking their place.
This continued to Dekalb Avenue station, where we all got out of the train, filled the platform to bursting, and enjoyed a smile, a triple-blast of the horn, and a wave goodbye out the window from the thoroughly amused R trainman.
We played on the platform for a short while. There were drum circles, more singalongs, stiltwalkers, and more. Near me a couple of capoeira dancers cleared out a circle and did a short close-quarters performance.
Storm the beach! To Coney Island! Take Q to Stillwell.
The Q showed up, and we were once again on our way. More people were confused and/or amused. More joined the party. At one point, a man standing right behind me announced "Give someone near you a massage!" I figured he was joking until he gave me one. It was a good one, too. Thanks, strange masseur!
This time my train car was mostly full of bubbles. I also had the rare opportunity, upon seeing a lovely young lady in a bright pink wig, to hear someone tell her it resembled the one from LazyTown and quote the Cake Song, which I quickly joined, and then continued trading YTMND refs with for a bit. Hooray for leaving the house, being social, and still getting to revel in silly Internet memes!
Welcome home. Pause at Stillwell and enjoy the homecoming.
We made it back to Coney in one piece. The walk to the beach from Stillwell was more of a lazy strut as people stopped for food, drinks, restrooms, and just plain people-watching. We were back out in the open after the crowded subways, and it was graeat to finally be able to take in the full magnitude of the crowd we had gathered.
The police presence was felt yet again, as there was a large police bus parked right outside Stillwell Avenue station, and a couple of large armored "hostage crisis" vans drove slowly and conspicuously past, just to remind everyone not to do anything stupid. On the other hand, the police were nice enough to block traffic off a road or two for us to fill up on our way to the boardwalk.
This was the time to really appreciate the dancers, musicians, performers, and especially the costumes. There was a little girl on stilts who was a big hit.. she was doing better on stilts than I did on my feet at that age!
Local merchants were thrilled by the crowds, and some even cheapened their sodas and things for us, which was neat.
Spectacle awaits. To the beach!
So we made our way to the beach. This is where we split off from the rest of the NYC2600 folks for a bit, as everyone wanted to do something different. There were fire jugglers and poi spinners to watch. There were flares being set off. There were musicians and performers to appreciate. And most wonderfully, there was one of the greatest beaches in the world, on a hot Summer night.
There was an impromptu "clothes check" that popped up for the folks who wanted to swim au naturale, but after a moment's consideration I decided not to do anything I wouldn't want ending up on Flickr, and just carried my shoes during a brief stroll into the water.
Brooklyn is ours! Head to ChaCha's for the celebration.
While we didn't head to ChaCha's (a largish restaurant/club on the boardwalk where the official after-party took place) we did go to Ruby's, my favorite place on Coney for quick greasy munchies. I had my annual corn dog, and probably drank more soda than I do the entire rest of the year. It was also the first time all night we really got to sit down.
Tetesuro and Matt, two friends of mine from NYC2600 we had lost track of earlier, caught up with us at Ruby's, and we chilled out for a good long while.
Thank you every one for coming and being so beautiful. You are the fire in this city's soul.
It was at this point that Cableflame and I chatted about the nature of the party itself. We touched upon the fact that while it may seem like a roundabout way to just go to a beach party, in fact the whole journey was really the main idea for the evening. Sure, Coney and the dancing and the beach are great, but the night was about so much more than that. It was being able to join with a common goal with a couple thousand strangers, many of whom are pretty much neighbors I'd never know existed otherwise.
If I may be hideously pretentious and drop in a literary quote:
"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land."
G. K. Chesterton
We must now leave the beach. Please join us at ChaCha's for the afterparty.
Afterward, we danced for a bit on the boardwalk outside ChaCha's, under a video screen that was showing highlights from last year's One Night of Fire. We chatted with some strangers and each other for a while. Eventually, though, we had to head back home, sweaty, tired, and happy.
We went back to Stillwell and caught a train back into Manhattan, commisserating with a couple of other partygoers. This was now mostly a normal subway train, with all of us scattered in seats like good little commuters. One woman on the train who had just been out for a normal night at Coney saw us all - still in party gear, and one of us with a guitar he was still strumming lazily on - and was thoroughly amused. She giggled as we threw lights around, played with Silly String, and sang along to the guitarist. When we reached her stop, she declared that it had been the most fun she had ever had on a subway. "You should have seen the last one," I told her, and gave her my clip-on flashlight as a memento.
So what was the goal? We were often asked what we were marching for, or what we were protesting, and so on by passersby. People were mostly stunned when we would tell them we were marching just for the sake of marching, just for the sheer hell of it. It was a celebration of freedom without being political. It amuses me to no end that had we said we were there because of the President or the War or Tibet or Banana Quik or something they would have probably nodded and gone on with their lives, but the concept that we just wanted a party and therefore made one together was so alien.