Monday, March 24, 2008

The Easter Parade

Perhaps 'parade' isn't the proper word for it any more, it's more like four solid blocks, sidewalk to sidewalk of people just milling about, bumping into one and other and tripping over strollers; I'm sure that like me, most of them were half blinded by the glaring sun in the Fifth Avenue canyons.

I must say I was a little disappointed with the decided lack of a sideshow atmosphere to the whole affair.
I was truly hoping to see the final degradation of the original tradition where rich society women would stroll the Avenue, modeling their finest millinery after Easter Sunday services. I wanted to find it had descended into a fashion humiliation along the lines of the original Halloween Parade. However, other than a dog wearing underpants (above, left) I was disappointed.

No, it was not to be; to my dismay, the route was only populated with normal people, citizens and natives, the kind of inhabitants you'd expect to run into anywhere, at the J. C. Penny or the local Duane Reade. And they were for the most part, dressed as they normally would be, perhaps a bit spiffier than usual, it being a Sunday and all, and the street was closed to traffic.

These are some of the people we met. Please remember that their stories, like their hats and costumes, are spun out of whole cloth.

Sarabeth Ettingher (above), has lived on east Fifty-Seventh Street since 1967, and remembers coming to the Easter Parade as a little girl and actually seeing Irving Berlin strolling the Avenue, once while wearing an elaborate hat consisting of a papier-mache baby grand piano, sheet music, a double-decker bus, and a tuna-fish sandwich. "Or he may have been eating the tuna-fish sandwich," she says. "And I may have been wearing the hat, while riding on a bus. I can't be sure. It was raining."

Sara's purple chapeau, sporting colorful artificial flowers and a comically large butterfly, is secured to her head with a live sea
anemone, artfully tied in a bow and kept alive via a salt-water replenishment system with a built-in reservoir in the brim of the hat itself.

Sarabeth works in Central Park, testing the strength of the ice at Wollman Rink.


Elizabeth Donnerfeld has stood on this spot every year since 1999, when she wore a simple, yellow knitted cap with a green fabric flower. Every year since then she's collected every cap and flower that's been discarded in a twenty-foot radius from her spot and added them to her headgear the following year. While she welcomes the risks and challenges that her bonnet entails, she doesn't appreciate the difficult encounters she has with public transportation and standing upright.

Elizabeth and her bonnet are also visible on Google Earth at the coordinates 40.759074,-73.976741

Sephoradyne Austinsplatch is a 33-year-old former token booth clerk who has taken out her anger at both the MetroCard and the injustice she feels she underwent at her former job, feeling that the introduction of the impersonal plastic fare card hastened the public perception that she and her colleagues were merely 'token' employees. "In fact, what we were soon didn't exist, which makes for a tough metaphor."

It should be noted that for comparisons sake, a similarly-sized hat, constructed entirely of metal subway tokens with an identical fare value as the MetroCards in the hat pictured above, would weigh in the neighborhood of 315 pounds and cost a straphanger $6,826. That price includes free bus transfers in two-fare zones.


Audrey Sanchez-Wellingford is the daughter of the famous parking-space magnate whose family fortune is generated in the shadowy world of private on-street parking operations. With the future onset of congestion pricing in midtown, canny operators are hedging their bets in a series little-known and mostly out-of-the way side street parking spots in choice and select neighborhoods.

Audrey's hat is made with red and yellow roses, cumin and salad greens. Her ratdog, Mimi, camouflages her thinning fur with an accessory nylon wig and straw hat. Mimi has a bit of a cross-eyed look due to Audrey's having put the poor dog's contacts in upside down.


Sharon said...

Just brilliant.

gberg said...

I think Sharon's comment says it all.