The hating on the Bourgeois Brooklyn State Fair (a/k/a Great Googa Mooga) has reached a fever pitch on the interwebs, but the Q isn't about to join the griping about the event itself. Having attended countless state and county fairs in my youth, the event seemed about right to me. Overpriced food; long lines, overwhelmingly pasty-white attendees, mediocre music (though with an "ironic" bourgie twist - for instance Van Halen tributes and the actual Hall & Oates could have co-headlined the State Fair in Nebraska this year, and probably did). As with other State Fairs across the nation, this one perfectly mirrored its constituency. Where the Iowa fairs of my youth included butter sculptures, 4-H contests and world-class heifers, hep Brooklyn had myriad "artisanal" $6 sliders (read: very very small sandwiches) and wine-tasting tents. The Main Street USA vibe may have blown some relocated hipster fuses, and the many dissatisfied customers probably need to remember that "festival" experiences are usually a mixed-bag and that the keys to a good time are shady grassy knolls, blankets, bringing in your own water, and sunscreen. And zen-like patience. The people watching is really the star attraction. But wow, for Brooklyn this is mighty white people watching:
Thanks are due to my Secret Jewish Santa (thanks man!) for the free-but-hard-to-come-by googie-moogie tickies, my family got a gander from the inside. Many weeks ago, when they were dropping the free tix on the masses, I had no idea what a Google-Moogle was, nor did most of the 80,000 lucky squat-on-the-website ticket holders. Brilliant gotta-be-there-or-be-square marketing left Brooklynites drooling for tickets...right up to the day of the gig it seemed to be working perfectly. Then the reality of logistics kicked in, and the rest is whiner history. Snafus and lack of food in the VIP Extra-Mookie part left many huffing and demanding refunds. Blah-blah-blah, ho-hum better-luck-next-time or don't-bother-going-next time. End of story.
No. Not end of story. For there was some intense urban soul-searching and perverse poetry to be gleaned from the event. Really.
Ever since the brilliant "Concert in Central Park" by the reunited NYC favorite sons Simon and Garfunkel drew 500,000 people to a free surprise concert back in 1981, our City parks have been host to big ol' shows from time to time. Wary of potential for violence or even terrorism, the move has been to try to contain the events through fences and security checkpoints. So just to do a concert in a public park you now need to go through One Police Plaza's checklist, gain their approval, and agree to their monster budgets. (Without elaborating, let's just say that Black Eyed Peas are more of a shoo-in than, say, Lil' Wayne. Simon and Garfunkel was probably a pretty easy sell even back in the bad-old-days of Central Park. Their hardest rockin' tune was Mrs. Robinson for gosh sakes.) Estimates for police coverage at events like this range from $300,000 to a million bucks. A negotiation typically takes place. Sanitation needs to get paid, and the Parks Department and Prospect Park Alliance have huge costs that need to be covered. While many have wondered if the Park is making big dough off events like this, it is in fact making SOMETHING, but nowhere near the numbers one would hope for closing down huge important areas to the public. Maybe they'll clear a couple hundred grand if there aren't a lot of unforeseen expenditures. I'm guessing, but it's an educated guess.
Some critics have been particularly vocal about how wrong it is to close a park at all, even for free events. I've enjoyed A.O. Scott, film guy at the Times, and his Twitter rants. It's a compelling argument - that parks are "sacred ground" and deserve to be left unsullied by ads and commercialism (Celebrate Brooklyn and the bandshell aside, of course, being built for that purpose, sort of). For those of us on this side of the park, the combination of the Lakeside Project construction and the Extra Cookie entrance to the Grape Koogle Woogle meant that the Park was essentially closed for business, save the sliver between Ocean Ave and the roadway. But hey, once a year or so, what's the biggie? So the Nethermead dogrun was shut down. So the Audubon Boathouse was off limits. This was a BIG DEAL, this Kooky Wooky, and in the end, it was probably an experiment worth trying at least once.
But when you actually got there, and realized that nearly 1/3 of the Grated Googoo Mama was completely off-limits even to the free ticket holders...that you needed $250 smackers to even hear James "LCD" Murphy and Anthony Bourdain and Dirty Dozen Brass Band (thankfully they wandered around the plebe section later, probably just as dazed by the VIP thang as anyone)...NOW you're talking big collective cultural bummer. It's one thing to ticket an event, albeit free, for security reasons. It's another to make whole sections of the park off-limits to anyone who can't afford to drop a quarter of a thousand dollars on some haughty fried chicken and celebrity chef mischief.By the by, it's the VIP folk who are most miffed by what they say was shoddy planning and lack of food. (Yes, hunger hurts).
I suppose the whole thing was a marketers dream. Even the free folks were EXACTLY the demographic for countless luxury foods, wines, beers and lifestyle brands. On the VIP side, where Lexus golf carts were available when you became weak from the hunger, folks of the demographic AND the means were corralled in a nifty little pen. I can only hope that at least one lifelong Lexus owner was procured.
Oh that's enough from me. I'm not out to blame anything on anyone. After all, it's ultimately City Hall's call, and we voted 'em in. The City's current administration is eager to please big business and court bourgeois culture. There was probably little reason to suspect anything but a win-win-win-win-win-lose-win-win-win scenario. If the Crate Cooky Wooky were to ask me, I'd say by all means come again. But have it somewhere else not quite so public parky. I'm with our neighbor A.O. on this one (I think he still lives around here, doesn't he?) Let's keep the park the park and leave the festivals to the fairgrounds. Or the desert. Or Tennessee. Or wherever they're having them these days.
The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.