The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

No Mas Fooling Around

Toomey's parking lot turns into a Mas Camp. What's that, ask the uninitiated? Mas is short for masquerade. The beautiful costumes for Carnival (this coming Monday) are made, traded, bought, tried on. Each group marching has its own place to prepare. Steel bands practice. Community. Food, drink. Good times.

Or at least, that's what I'm told by the folks in this picture. The mural adds a nice touch to the scene:

Toomey's parking lot. Here's a good story about steel pan bands looking for space to rehearse.
Look for mas camps all over the neighborhood. Some have been doing the "pop up" thing for years in unleased storefronts or commercial properties. I remember a couple years ago when Lili's Millenium on Flatbush became a costume showroom. Some of the friendliest people in the world are from Trinidad and Tobago. Stop in and say hi or listen to the music. The history of Carnival and J'Ouvert? Dang interesting. Read on, unless you're annoyed that I'm even writing about such an obvious thing:

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated before the commencement of the Lenten season. From 1783 for half a century, the French developed their Carnival , which was noted to be a season of gay and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. These festivities consisted of dinners, balls, concerts and hunting parties.
The Africans started to participate in the festivities from 1833 after the Emancipation Bill was passed. The Africans brought Canboulay to its festivities. Canboulay was first played on August 1st, Emancipation Day , but subsequently took place after midnight on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival. In early celebration of the festival by the masses activities were held over the three days preceding Ash Wednesday. However in the face of over 60 years of criticism from the upper class about the low standard of Carnival and strong feelings expressed about the desecration of the Sabbath, in 1943 Carnival on the street was restricted to the Monday & Tuesday.
Okay, that's a pretty sterile description. J'ouvert is inseparable from Carnival, and starts late at night on Sunday and goes til dawn. A crowd of revelers marches, and they come down Clarkson outside my window. For the first couple of times I thought I was dreaming. It's craaaaaazzzyyy y'all! You've got to see it and hear it. Smearing paint and oil on the bodies was originally to avoid being recognized. What I didn't get for a long time was that since slaves were forbidden from participating in the celebrations, they started their own WAY more exciting parties.

If you're new the neighborhood, keep your eyes and ears open as the week becomes weekend becomes full on out of control mayhem. Try to be patient with the noise if that's a problem for you. This is the biggest Carnival celebration in America outside of New Orleans Mardis Gras. Why, you might ask, is it done all over again at the end of summer? Dang, if you were into parties like this wouldn't you do them, like, ALL THE TIME? If it's good enough for the young American Electric Daisy Carnival set...

I mean, had you noted that the word Carnival seems perfectly matched in these two cultural phenomena?

More likely to hear deadmau5

More likely to hear Machel Montano


Carmen said...

Some tips for families who want to enjoy the parade (we've gone every year with both kids):

~ Best viewing spot is closer to Eastern Parkway and Grand Army Plaza (past the Museum, which is THE place to be).
~ Best viewing time is after 3pm. You do definitely miss out on the showcase part of the parade at this time, but the party is far from over.
~ Come hungry, leave happy. There's all types of food, and all of it is delicious. Most vendors are cash only.

If you want to enjoy J'ouvert, leave the kids at home and get ready for the best community party ever! Seriously, I highly recommend it. I've enjoyed J'ouvert for many years, even while pregnant with the kiddoes :) Wear a white tee (head scarf is recommended too), pants you don't mind getting dirty, comfy shoes, and your dancing feet! Party starts at around 2am and ends at around 7am. Take a nap, then go pon de parkway!

Curious27 said...

This year will be my first J'Ouvert and my first West Indian Day parade. I live on Empire and Nostrand and honestly have NO idea what to expect, other than LOTS of noise and sweeeeet soca music! I live right down the street from Antoine International HQ and have enjoyed their nightly jam sessions since they set up shop about a month ago. If only I had the money to buy a costume, I could join the band and play mas too...

Any recommendations for enjoying J'Ouvert? Word has it that the party starts at 2 AM at GAP and kicks into high gear around 4, but not sure of any routes.

Carmen said...

Yep, that's the route I usually do, 2am at GAP. Then the steel drum band leads the group up Flatbush to Empire, then it turns on Empire toward Bedford I believe. Its a slooooow crawl, but definitely a good time.

Curious30 said...

Any tips for non-Islanders who wanna still get out and jump and wave with the rest of them? I'm sure I won't be the only whitey in the mix but I do plan on getting down to ground when the music hits me!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Personally I think the parade is too damn loud. As in clinically dangerous loud, not like rock concert loud. The great thing about J'ouvert is that a lot of the music is acoustic instruments - drums and steel pans etc. I say get out there at 2 or 3 am and do what you feel. The actual parade is at 11am and it's a loud yawn by comparison. This is, of course, purely subjective.

Anonymous said...

I wish the parade would incorporate live bands like they do in the West Indies.

Alex said...

Clarkson, j'ouvert used to be MUCH louder but they took away their amplified music permits. I don't mind the noise at the parade because it is what it is, but I do mind when the floats take a detour down my street and don't reduce the volume. Shakes our walls. Rude.

Carmen said...

Live bands in the parade would be amazing! Its the way we do it in the Dominican Republic as well.