Monday, September 18, 2006

A Harlem Day Parade Fit for Warhol

Sunday night, Harlem was on fire thanks to the 37th Annual African-American Day Parade, also known as the Harlem Day Parade. I seem to never be ready for it. This is the second year in row that I've just stumbled on it. Easy enough considering two things: it's huge and I live in Harlem.

This time, I stumbled upon it before it started. At noon, I went to the corner to get something to cook for breakfast. That's when I saw all the police fences along Adam Clayton Powell. As I walked through the crowd later that afternoon, a young mother and another woman her age pushed a baby ahead of them in a stroller. Just then, pushing through on the glutted sidewalk were three men, each with an incredibly fierce looking pit bull on the end of a leash. The ladies started freaking out for their baby. The three dudes seemed indifferent.

"Miss," one of the dudes said, trying to calm them. "He got a muzzle on."

In unison, the women said, "So whaaaat?"

The parade is an excuse. No one really watches it unless some famous singer or rapper is performing on one of the floats. In that case, you'll be trampled by 1 trillion 15-year-old girls and their cell phone cameras, as I almost was last year when teen idol Chris Brown and Juelz Santana of the Dipset rolled past 125th Street.

It's about people - young people - coming out of the buildings and tenemants and looking good and hollering at each other and being young and carefree. Of course there are the older dudes who, you get the sense, have waited all year for the day. As a groups of high school aged girls pass, they say, "Five more years!" And make the girls blush and turn and bite their lips.

No one pays attention to the marching bands, the elderly, or the brigade of firemen. In the madness of it, a couple things stuck in my mind from this year's parade. My utter indifference to it is the first thing. I just didn't care for some reason, and that feeling made me realize my age. The thunderous bass creeping up the avenue: it did nothing for me. I took my eggs from C-Town, went home, and made an omelet, which was fairly exciting for me.

Another thing that stuck in my mind is the scene of the aftermath. The streets, cloaked in darkness, thronged with young people, clad in loud colors, shouting in even louder voices to passing groups of girls. There was a desperation in their attempts now. Some grew exasperated, impatient, urged their other friends to give up on the girls.

And of course what stuck in my mind in an evil, adhesive way is that new inane, vaguely vaudvillean song and dance craze–Harlem has one every few minutes–called the Chicken Noodle Soup.

Black folks, can we rethink this one?

There's something about the Chicken Noodle that rubs me the wrong way. Let's just put it this way: I can't watch it without hearing echoes...echoes.

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