Thursday, May 22, 2008
Dumbo Books Celebrates the 125th Anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park
Dumbo Books spent most of today, now that our attorneys have given us the go-ahead, sending out PDF files of Who Will Kiss the Pig?: Sex Stories for Teens by Richard Grayson, to the kindly cool young hipsters who answered our Craigslist ad and agreed to take an advance peek at the book. (Not so nice was the person who broke our confidential pre-publication press blackout and leaked it to The Gothamist. And a big boo to the mean commenters on that site.)
Anyway, we were tired, but after a short nap during “All Things Considered” (Darn! We missed the last show with those great pledge breaks), we were up for some fun. The famous writer Tao Lin had a blog post mentioning a big party in honor of Brooklyn’s indie presses, but when we looked down the list of publishers – Akashic, Melville House, Soft Skull, etc. – we didn’t see our name. Dumbo Books wasn’t invited! Sniff. Maybe we are not “Brooklyn” enough for them. We have not been so bummed out since we were in Mrs. Eisenstein’s first grade class at P.S. 244 in East Flatbush and a certain Walter O’Malley did something really mean to us.
(After all, in our new book of teen sex stories, a lot of the teen sex takes place in Brooklyn, a borough famous for teenage sex. For example, on page 77 of the book, after a lot of sex involving a whole bunch of friends, Kevin has to take Libby to the free city gynecological clinic in Coney Island and while he is anxiously waiting to hear if she has an STD, another boy asks him: “You done knock up yo’ fox?” By page 83 Libby and Kevin are staring at a baby in the maternity ward of Methodist Hospital in Park Slope although by then Kevin is more interested in looking at Ted... but we digress.)
Downcast at not being invited to the shindig for Brooklyn small presses, Dumbo Books glumly walked the streets of our eponymous neighborhood until we heard about an even better party that, yes, we were invited to. Wow!
It was the kickoff of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the famous Brooklyn Bridge just a few blocks away at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.
Entering the park, we admired the dark blue Brooklyn Bridge anniversary T-shirts worn by the event volunteers, who were probably freezing – we had a hoodie over a sweater over a long-sleeved shirt over a Medgar Evers College T-shirt and were still cold.
The T-shirts reminded us of the powder blue T-shirt honoring the bridge’s centennial that we got in May 1983 for ten dollars at the Brooklyn Museum gift shop. We wore the shirt proudly but either it shrunk or we expanded and eventually it ended up usefully but rather ignominiously as a dustrag in Grandma Ethel’s Rockaway apartment.
Back in 1983, we watched the Brooklyn Bridge centennial fireworks with our BFF (and current Dumbo Books landlady) Nina, who was rewarded with her work in the Cuomo campaign the year before with a great job in the state department of transportation. So we got to see the spectacular fireworks from the huge windows of her office on the 89th floor of a building that doesn’t exist anymore.
Thinking about that made us a little sad, but then right in front of us, we saw our old friend Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, decked out in a top hat and 1890s-style suit, looking slightly steampunk but just as handsome as we remembered him from the first time we saw him on the second floor of LaGuardia Hall back in the day when he was the Graduate Student Organization president at Brooklyn College and we were a lowly reporter for the student government newspaper The Ol’ Spigot.
Mayor Bloomberg was there with him, drinking one of the free Snapple antioxidant waters in five colors and flavors that they were giving out along with blue tote bags and other tchtotchkes. And also Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whom we recall as a little pisher standing on the corner of 86th Street and Broadway hocking Nina and us to sign his petition to get on the ballot as district leader. How time flies!
Well, the night was fantastic. We found some friends from Crown Heights by way of Trinidad who shared some goodies and a blanket, and listened as Mayor Bloomberg came over and told a little kid with a sippy cup sitting on a blanket with his mom, “It’s all downhill from here…You have to go to school and get a job” before he trailed off and went to the podium, where his image, and everyone else’s was enlarged on two big Jumbotron screens.
After a military officer from Fort Hamilton (we patriotically failed our January 1970 draft physical there) sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”, there was a great chorus from an intermediate school who sang and moved to “Give Me That Old Time Rock and Roll” and other songs; and the Brooklyn IMPACT Project; and the Brooklyn Philharmonic looking very classy in white dinner clothes playing favorites like Brooklyn-born Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Dvorak’s New World Symphony and the rousing John Philip Sousa march that goes, you know, “because a duck may be somebody’s mother.”
Also, Marvin Hamlisch and his many chins sat at a piano and after calling the bridge “one singular sensation,” played some of his finest songs and even an original one for the occasion. Mr. Hamlisch is a talented lyricist – you try rhyming something with “Emily Roebling”!
Marty said they had spent a lot of money on this celebration – they really went all out for last night’s kickoff – but at least they did not have to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to fund it. Ha ha.
At 8:30 p.m. a bunch of people with white T-shirts that said CAKE TEAM on the back started handing out the bridge’s birthday cake from Cake Man Raven. We were hoping for a slice of his famous red velvet cake, but we got something that was bright green instead. Whatever it was, it was good!
It was a beautiful, if chilly, night and as the sky darkened, Mayor Bloomberg counted down and then the colorful lights for the bridge went on. They change colors every few seconds and will be on for the remainder of the celebration. Also, a tugboat or something was spraying water really high from near the Manhattan side, and one of the big cruise ships from Red Hook passed by just before it took off (do ships take off?) for the Caribbean or someplace exotic like Europe. And some military-type jets zoomed overhead, at one point drowning out whatever pearls of wisdom were coming out of Mayor Bloomberg's mouth -- though we did hear him say something about John Roebling's going to Poly Tech being why kids needed an education.
Then the fireworks began. The Gruccis outdid themselves with a spectacular display on both sides of the bridge, and even a little near the Manhattan Bridge so it wouldn’t feel left out, we guess. (We could see the people on the D train from our little spot on the grass).
There were some fancy VIPs in a roped-off area by a structure, and they were drinking wine (one of the state park rangers made a young hipster girl sitting next to us on the grass leave because she had a sixpack of PBR, which wasn’t allowed) and eating ravioli or lasagna or something. A lot of them wore suits and stylish dresses and some of them had press badges.
Waiting for the port-o-potty, we were kind of shocked when not one but two teens came out of the little locked space. Well, we guess they were making their own fireworks! We considered hyping our book of sex stories for teens but frankly we hate hype – except when it’s justified as it is for the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge (although we had a terrible panic attack the first time we drove over it as well as one the first and last time we tried to walk across it).
Despite our being disappointed at Dumbo Books being left off the invitation list for the Brooklyn indie presses party, we had a glorious evening celebrating the 125th anniversary of the spectacular achievement of the Roeblings and the brave sandhogs who built the bridge. (We think we heard Marty misspeak and pay tribute to the “sweathogs,” but that was another group of Brooklynites headed by the cute teen Vinnie Barbarino).
At Hoyt/Schermerhorn the fabulous G train conductor actually waited in the station for those of us on the A train to get aboard. What a perfect night! Isn’t life wonderful!