Atlantic Antics

by Bryan

Yesterday was the Atlantic Antic street fair along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I know because I live a block away from Atlantic Avenue, and took in the sights and sounds of the event, which stretched for a good mile and a half or so. The temperature was in the upper sixties, and the sky was cloudless. It was a perfect day for a stroll.

Barely had I gotten there when I was yelled at about America’s involvement in Afghanistan. “We need to spend money where it REALLY belongs—on health care!” a guy yelled while failing to hand out fliers. No one was engaging him, despite his best efforts and one presumes the crowd’s general agreement. It’s one thing to read Frank Rich, it’s another to engage the maniacal guy at Atlantic and Boerum. How very un-Rich like that would be.

It was at this point that I noticed I was walking behind supporters of Bill Thompson, the comptroller who is running for mayor. There were two of them holding placards aloft, yelling “Bill Thompson for mayor!” This being a big event in a part of the town that could skew anti-Bloomberg, I wondered whether the candidate was leading the group himself, but he wasn’t—it was just those two, who received almost the same response as Mr. Afghanistan until someone yelled in passing, “Bill Thompson! That’s my man right there!”

By the time I got to Court Street, I was thinking about where exactly I was going to watch the Giants game when I came across a makeshift stage, constructed by the Parks department. There, a group of people were playing Middle Eastern music, and about a hundred people stood watching. “Stay here!” the MC urged. “Our first dancer is coming up right now!” He referred to her by name, which I have forgotten but remember had a real-world double meaning. We’ll call her Joy. Two minutes later, Joy was on stage dancing to the music. She was dressed in a brightly-colored silk-and-mesh outfit and looked exactly like a transexual. The crowd ate it up. I turned to leave.

Along the sidewalk, a man was playing a flute to accompany the music, to and for himself, in a storefront. A woman sitting in front of him shimmied to the music from the Parks Department speakers as Joy continued to swirl onstage.

I realized I was getting hungry. What to eat? There were so many choices. Most of them were standard street fair fare, like Italian sausage, french fries, fried cheese in many different forms and shish kebabs. There were several French restaurants along the route, and they hawked oysters and shrimp. There was even a crepe stand. My stomach was mostly full from the night before with spicy lamb meat, so I wasn’t tempted by the heavier stuff, though I did inquire as to the price of a falafel sandwich. I was told it was eight dollars, and resisted the urge to ask if he meant American currency.

By this point, I was almost back at my house, but I stopped to look at the offerings from the antique stores I’m too embarassed to go in. I learned very quickly that I should be saving old stuff—chairs that would be thrown out at a Queens school were fetching $600. The highlight were some high-ticket 50’s-era tin robot sculptures, which were arranged around a sign adminishing passsers by to “Please Do Not Touch the Robots.” Life lesson, learned.

After all this, I still needed food, so in the middle of this cross-cultural event in the heart of blue-and-Green Card America, I went two American classics: corn on the cob slathered in butter and salt, and lemonade, which I took back to my apartment. It was time for football! I knew the day would be better spent at the street fair, but I was drawn to kickoff like a kid to cotton candy. Sitting in front of the TV on a beautiful Sunday, I felt like I was participating in an American ritual as colorful and important as the street fair. Maybe I was just making excuses, but doesn’t football bring America together—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, generations and generations—just like the Atlantic Antic? The communists and the powerful? The sinner and the saints? The trannies and the… whoever?

Or am I just being corny?