The city of Hoboken had a problem. Each year, a sizeable part of the crowds attending its annual Hoboken St. Patrick's Day parade was getting rowdier and rowdier. And with the holiday falling on a Saturday this year, the city fathers (of whom many are actually female) decided discretion was the better part of valor -- so they cancelled the entire event.
Some suggested the death of the parade was an inevitable curse because an Italian-American TV baker was the grand marshall of last year's event, which skews heavily Irish.
But if the city council thought just cancelling the event would end the celebrations, they might want to read up on this little thing called the internet. Because now, to protest the decision, online organizers have created "Lepri-con," a crowdsourced celebration at the city's bars March 17 destined to bring an even larger crowd than in past years.
Once you start living in New York City, you discover an insidious disease that gradually creeps into your psyche. It's something most aren't proud of, but no one can deny that it becomes a part of their day-to-day life: You become a voyeur.
Sharing a tight space with 8.3 million other people makes it inevitable. You can't help but stare at the 200 people who share your subway care at 5 p.m. each day. Your apartment window backs up not to just one or two other apartment windows, but dozens of them. Most are open, and most have people wandering back and forth in front of them, in various stages of undress and obviousness. The old Friends character of Ugly Naked Guy was no accident. It's amazing what you can see just looking out your back window.
With that in mind, there's a theater experience currently available in New York that allows you to take your voyeurism to the next level -- to celebrate it, hone it, and spend an evening reveling in it.
Set in a warehouse that has been built up to represent an old Victorian hotel in the 1930s, attendees first wend their way through dark corridors to a lounge, where a smoky atmosphere and haunting singers channeling a mix of "Putting On The Ritz" and David Lynch entertain until you're called to the elevators. I had the unnerving pleasure of attending Sleep No More last fall. While the performance is almost impossible to adequately describe, I'll make an effort.
You're directed to put on bizarre white masks and told you may not speak as you wander the "McKittrick Hotel." Please don't touch the actors, they say. Other than that, there are no rules. You're welcome to wander the multiple floors of the hotel at will. You can touch props, pick up books and read them, look over actors' shoulders at things they write or leave behind.
The performance is loosely based on MacBeth, but it's not linear. You can follow individual actors as they wander the halls, confront other characters and either make love to them, fight with them, or even bathe with them. Yes, fans, many of the actors perform nude for short parts of the show.
Lewis Grizzard famously noted that "nude" means you have no clothes on, and "nekked" means you have no clothes on and you're up to something. These actors are definitely up to something.
But it's not the performance that's unsettling. It's the fact that you're an anonymous witness to it. Safely hidden behind a plastic mask, you live an Eyes Wide Shut experience, safe to do what you wish within the boundaries, with no consequences. You can rifle through people's papers. You can stare at two naked people in a bathtub washing blood off each other. You get to watch a bar brawl without having to get involved. You're present, but not culpable or accountable. And since you can't talk to those you came with, there's no one to help you process it or dismiss it.
The hillbilly in me wanted to dismiss the idea before attending as "Cousin Clem's Haunted House on Steroids." Having spent two hours roaming through the McKittrick Hotel, it's far more than that.
I have a lot of respect for MTA employees. They put up with an awful lot, be it surly passengers, cleaning filthy subway stations, bus drivers fighting New York traffic. They do it all, and for not as much money as you'd think.
The Daily News today has a riveting article about motormen (subway train drivers) haunted by the memories of people they've watched commit suicide by jumping in front of their trains as they've pulled into stations. Each year an average of 90 people either jump, fall or on rare occasions are pushed in front of a moving train.
[Motorman Jermaine] Dennis, 39, was driving a northbound A train that day. He approached the Aqueduct station at about 6:30 a.m. The sun was shining. Another summer day was unfolding.
The platform wasn’t crowded. One of the few commuters was a woman in her late 50s. She wore a long, flowing dress. Dennis didn’t know it at the time, but she had taken off her shoes and placed her pocketbook on the platform.
“I was going about 30 [mph],” Dennis said. “As soon as I came into the station, she just tipped over. She was moving and then she fell onto the tracks.”
The woman died a few hours later. In a haze, Dennis secured the train by manually setting brakes on each car. He was taken to an MTA clinic where he was tested for drugs and booze and sent home.
“That night, I couldn’t sleep,” Dennis said. “I took it hard. I kept blaming myself, asking myself what could I have done to prevent it.
“I felt for this lady. This was someone’s mother or grandmother, and now they are alone. It took a toll on me.”
That first night, Dennis paced the house as a lightning storm rolled over the Bronx. With each flash of light, the ghostly image of the woman appeared.
“She was in a white gown,” he said. “Emotionless. She just stared at me.”
It's a really powerful article, although it left me wanting to know more. I encourage you to read it all.