Like an annual hurricane-force wind, the West Indian Day Parade blasted through Crown Heights this weekend. It brought with it an array of colorful costumes and flags and an endless repetitive loop of Skinny Banton’s ode to salt fish, “Soak It Good.” In its wake, the blocks near Eastern Parkway were cluttered with a very particular kind of trash, the detritus of one long, ongoing party. Here is a breakdown of what I found on my walk along the street last night.
1. Broken Airhorns
The echoing blat of airhorns punctuated all proceedings in the neighborhood all weekend. I heard one outside my window at 8 am on Saturday. I heard the sound standing in line at the grocery store, sipping a beer, while waiting for a roti at the Trinidadian-Chinese bakery. Teenagers wielded airhorns during their stilts practice at the bodega around the corner. By the middle of the parade on Monday, it was impossible to imagine any communication without them. Vendors offered them from grocery carts, alongside whistles and beaded jewelry and bandanas. On Monday morning, broken airhorns lay like forlorn ducks in the medians.
2. “Nutcracker” Bottles
In coolers along the Parkway, coolers and duffle bags displayes an array of tiny, clear plastic bottles with caps in primary colors. The drinks had names that were sometimes flatly descriptive and sometimes mysterious–Mango flavor, Miami juice. These little nuggets are Nutcrackers, booze sold illegally but cleverly, no identifying labels on the bottles that the nearby NYPD, strenuously turning a blind eye, could use to ticket them. The consistency of the mistures was mysterious but certainly alcoholic. In the aftermath the telltale bottles were crushed underfoot, left on ledges, placed in the braches of sickly-looking saplings.
It’s a simple equation: The hundreds of meticulously handmade costumes covered in patterns of feathers plus the ongoing undulation of the parade walkers meant that parts of the street look like a down pillow had exploded. Feathers are particularly sticky on a humid day. They clung to the glistening asphalt, sticking to the shoe soles of passersby.
4. Empty Baby Powder Bottles
J’Ouvert, the annual dawn pre-parade, begins at 2 am, and involves dancing, throwing of paint, and large amounts of baby powder thrown into the air in triumph. By 1 pm on Sunday, it was clear which onlookers had pulled through from J’Ouvert to continue their revelry. They appeared slightly stunned, paint-spattered, the baby powder giving them a strange matte quality in a crowd marked by sheen and sweat. The bottles from the festivities dotted the tops of garbage piles, cracked and emptied.
5. Sugar Cane Shavings
Men with machetes lopped the tops off green coconuts and handed them to the thirsty crowd. Others filed down the tough exteriors of sugar canes so taht the sweet juice could be extracted, sometimes served in bright plastic cups and festooned with an umbrella.
6. Styrofoam Containers
The sturdiness of styrofoam is required for most of the fare dished out, buffet style, along the Parkway. Jerk chicken, oxtail, rotis laden with stewed goat or beef. The clamshells overflow from trash bags hung optimistically on apartment gates, crowd the ground around trash cans, their open clam-like mouths emitting the odor of Caribbean spices.
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