Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gettin Wet at the Pool Party!


Pool party washout set on Flickr!

As frustrating as it had to be for JellyNYC, having booked another great lineup - to have their funtastic show blown out by Mama Nature before the headliner could take the stage...still, today's crazy thunderstorm was kinda,!

Arriving around 2:30, we were swept into a long but quick-moving line and soon regurgitated into what's normally the very uptight, NY State Parks-run East River State Park.

Against all odds, the funnest show in New York - whose demise was widely predicted when it's namesake (McCarren Park Pool) was shuttered last fall for (!) a totally paid-for multi-million-dollar renovation (!!) - was in force and holding it down. With the East River and midtown Manhattan as its backdrop, the show that's (in three short years) become a mini Burning Man for Brooklyn's funnest neighborhood - seemed alive and well.

But overhead, the Summer Fun Gods were conspiring. Huge thunderclouds formed, then drifted away, then reformed.

On stage, the Black Lips set resonated with the storm building overhead: lead singer Cole Alexander swung his axe against show security guards sent to protect the band from an overzealous crowd. At times in their set, the green-shirted rentacops outnumbered the band two to one.

Meanwhile, the beer flowed, the sky darkened, and by the end of the Lips' set, lightning bolts began to strike the midtown skyline behind the stage.

The State Park management told the promoters to pull the plug - before headliners Trail of Dead could plug in and play a single power chord. Lightning is kryptonite to outdoor shows (remember the girl that was struck by lightning at the Free Tibet show at RFK Stadium in '98?).

As security guards tried to clear the park, the sky grew dark and the wind began to whip. A hipster couple in the VIP area stood on a picnic table for a wind-whipped photo op. The jib camera op hurried to disassemble his rig, and the crew from Music First set about packing up a quarter-million dollars worth of audio gear as a driving drizzle set in.

With most of the audience clear...shift focus to the grid of pop-up tents that formed the beer and wine bar (and storytelling tense to 'present'!). By now a the breeze has grown to a stiff wind, and has begun to lift the lightweight shelters. We see the bar and security staff hooked to tent corners, adding their body weight to the existing ballast buckets and fighting the gusts that want desperately to pick up the lashed-together tents and turn them into a giant box kite. And we join them in their futile but noble fight!

The park rangers - having been given orders to clear the park (no exceptions!), approach the human ballast insisting that the folks holding the tents abandon ship and leave the park. We protest briefly: We've seen what happens when the wind gets its way with Ez-Up tents. But the state park rangers are insistent, and several of the holders concede. And at that moment, the tent-city's fate is sealed. We bail with the rest of the tent-hangars, and take shelter with a couple of smart Salvadorans who are low and dry, under the nose of the refrigerated beer trailer.

Almost immediately, the tent city blows by our little bunker, tumbling and tangling as the metal frames somersault along, dragged by wind-filled nylon canopies. The sky suddenly opens and an unbelievably hard-driving rain sends anyone still in the open scurrying for cover...except the three girls outside the park fence on North 8th, who - in their inebriated bliss - have decided to embrace and celebrate the furious summer storm. They dance and spread their arms into the gale, accepting nature's fury head-on, and mugging for my camera.

And then - as suddenly as it set in, the sky brightened - the sun cutting through sheets of rain, a rainbow emerging, rain stopping, dripping-wet hipsters emerging from unseen crevices. The Music First guys have somehow saved all their gear and are now plucking up damp-but-intact flight cases into their truck.

The beer vendors are not so fortunate; their pop-up shelters are a tangle of aluminum and nylon - but no-one's been injured. The Converse-branded basketball hoop stands triumphant in the sunset. The music fans have scattered up North 8th Street, absorbed into spontaneous parties that have popped up in garages and backyards, and into Bedford Avenue bars and restaurants, whose managers are thankful. And another successful pool party fades into a hazy, shiny, wet Williamsburg summer evening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Brooklyn Bridge Bike Striping:
Sure to Have Everybody Griping

advantage: pedestrians?

During our morning run across the Brooklyn Bridge today, we got a quick ankle wash from a DOT crew power-washing the old center stripe off the wood planks of the shared pedestrian/bicycle promenade. Passing the bridge's Manhattan tower, we discovered that the workmen were busy replacing the fading center-stripe that's long been the Maginot line between angry, rapacious cyclists and clueless, meandering pedestrians crossing the famous span.

On any given day - especially summer weekends - a crowd of tourists and local commuters clog the south side of the pathway; mostly staying within their 50% of the 13 ft width. But invariably, as the pedestrian side gets maxed out with folks of varying gaits - many stopping for posed photos, or just generally meandering - walkers begin spilling into the bike lane. Some folks - apparently unfazed by the fact that thousands of others have dutifully crammed into the opposite lane - walk defiantly three and four abreast in the bikeway. And cyclists angrily swerve around them, muttering or shouting derisive comments as they pass.

For a second this morning, we though the DOT was acceding to the tangible pressure one feels when faced with a lane heaving with humanity sharing equal real estate with a bike lane mostly devoid of matter (pedestrians on the bridge probably outnumber cyclists by 100 to 1 on any given day). At first glance, the new striping gives the walking lane 15 or 20% more width than the bike lane(!)

But we paced it off, and cable-to-cable, both lanes are still around six and a half feet each - identical! We think there's a bit of social engineering going on here by the DOT: by painting an outside lane stripe on the north side, it appears that cyclists have much less room than the non-edged walking lane. Which - perhaps - will make pedestrians feel slightly superior. And having been awarded additional real estate in acknowledgment of their superiority, presumably they will acquiesce to the cyclists, allowing them to grovel within their skinny, inferior boundaries.

The DOT can play ignorant, maintaining that the outside lane stripe is only necessary on the bike side, where cyclists riding too close to the bridge cables are likely to get their handlebars hung up and have a wreck. And everyone (or more likely no one) will go home happy.