Friday, June 24, 2016

2016 MERMAID PARADE

BOOBS AND FINS IN CONEY ISLAND
Saturday was the 34th running of the Mermaid Parade. I'd never been to Coney Island. I'd heard about the parade. I decided this was the time to go see it for myself and boy am I glad I did. I hopped on the "D" train that takes you right out to Stilwell Avenue, the last stop on the line. I rode out next to an older couple all dolled up in their best attempt at a mermaid look and a young woman straddling a beat-up snare drum.
You get off the train and you're right there, right at the corner where Surf and Schweikerts Walk meet, where Nathan's hot dogs has stood for over one hundred years,
where the Hot Dog Eating Contest countdown clock ticks off the time to the next eating frenzy. It couldn't have been a better day for the parade. It was warm, cloudless and the perfect gift from Mother Nature: a great ocean breeze.
The sidewalks along the parade route were packed with onlookers by the time I got there. I tried to squeeze my way into a position where I could get a couple of shots of the parade.
The parade starts out with a police escort and then a line of vintage and comic cars. I hadn't taken into consideration that a parade means motion and unless I wanted to shoot video I'd have to come up with another plan.
I decided to give up my original position but not until the first band came down the street. There in the front row of an all girls marching drum brigade was the woman who sat across from me on the ride to Coney Island and she was rocking it. After I did capture on video their pounding brilliant march I walked down to where the parade was to start.
This was the best vantage point to catch all the mermaids and mermen milling around waiting for their entry into the queue of participants and from there it was hard to take a picture that wasn't perfect.
There were guys who had fashioned hats honoring the amusement rides at Luna Park.
There were protestors with a political message about ocean pollution stressing how plastic bags are destroying the ocean and killing sea life.
One guy took his protest right to the one pollutant deemed by him the biggest offenders, McDonalds.
Then there were the girls with the floating wings dancing their way through the sea of participants
their pleated swordfish fins sparkling in the sun
You weren't fully clothed if you didn't carry a parasol the color changing the light and bathing those that carried them in hues as wide as the rainbow.
Disney characters where everywhere both sweet Ariel and the nasty Ursula.
The valiant crusaders of the sci-fi genre were out there either to frighten us or protect us, I couldn't tell the difference.
Creatures of the sea swam down the street along with the rest. There were seahorses,
a pod of krill
and a huge group of jellyfish all floating away
And then there were those taking us on a costume history lesson in vintage swimwear, makeup and hairdos you would have seen here seventy years ago.
Age seemed no barrier to walking the parade. I have to say this octogenarian's bra hat was one of my favorites.
There was a place for kids.
Gender was bent all over the place.
Even dogs got in the act.
Size had no limit. Whether you were thin as rail, or pleasingly plump you were welcome to come and parade your stuff!
If you were scarily tall or on the short side it didn't matter as long as you had a mermaid's tail or Neptune's scepter.
Nations from around the globe made their ethnicity present from Mexico
to Ireland and everywhere in between
Never having been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans I'm not sure how many women there may have been willing to show their boobs, but at the Mermaid Parade
there were boobs everywhere from eggs to melons.   No one had to shout "show me your tits”, they were out there and proud.
Yet nothing could have made me prouder than this young woman fiercely posing as she walked the parade. She was so empowering it wasn't until I got home and reviewed my photos that I noticed her mastectomy, one perfect boob, one missing and a winning smile of shear in-your-face confidence.
It was just one more big check off of my bucket list.
The parade is publicized as an art parade and it truly is.























THE GALLERY
Weeki Wachee Mermaids, Florida, 1947
Toni Frissell, photographer
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, New York

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