Happy Halloween. There has never not been a Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, at least not in the last 35 years. The original parade was a lovely, festive neighborhood treat. It came across West 10th St. from the West Village, crossed in front of our houses, and turned south on Fifth Avenue for Washington Square. In the original set up, the main action was between Fifth and Sixth. Puppets and ghouls were strung from one side of the block to the other attached to fire escapes on our narrow street.
Sometime in the 1980s, it all went away. Corporate sponsors came in, the parade was shifted to the much wider, busier thoroughfare of Sixth Avenue. The charm disappeared. The mess left behind by 50,000 kids from the suburbs was overwhelming. Our little town now braces for annual invasion. The fun went out of the Halloween parade a long time ago.
And now: no parade. And no electricity or steam heat. Most everything from 39th St. going south on Fifth Avenue is closed. There is nothing below 23rd St. At Halloween central, even the grotesque pop-up costume store that moved into the old Jefferson Market is shuttered. I’ve lived in the same place for 32 years and not even on September 11th or any Christmas Day has everything, every single business, been closed.
There are supposed to be buses, running for free. The crowd may still be gathering on Sixth between 10th and 11th waiting for a bus. There was no sign of one for more than a half hour at 1:15pm. A few cabs went by–most of them had off duty lights on. A couple had their “ready” lights on but refused to stop.
Finally, a livery cab pulled over and offered to take me to 59th St. for $30. I declined. A second livery cab followed, and took four of us uptown for $10 apiece. The joie de vivre of the great subway strike of 1981, when I was in college, was unseen. Back then, there was a lot of hitchhiking, and joking around, a feeling of camaraderie. Not so much today.
A word to the local newscasters: “downtown” is not just the Wall Street area. Come to the center of Greenwich Village, where there’s a densely populated neighborhood cut off from transportation, power, and food. We’re not just there on the one night a year that kids from New Jersey come across the river dressed as toasters, hookers, and iPods, and pee in our flower beds.