4:50- I had a harder time than you might think dressing all in one color. I have a purplish lace dress with a black lining. The directions said: wear all one color, not black or white. I have a lot of black, and wearing all grey seemed so lame. But I have bought my balloons, as assigned, and I have a grocery bag. Onward.
5:40- Where I tranfer trains, I walk past a little person dressed as Michael Jackson. An adult little person. Waiting for the second train, I feel like my body is made out of rock, either because I am coming down with my co-teacher’s cold, or because I am teacher-exhausted.
5:50- I smiled a lot, walking from the train toward the park. I saw people, one by one, who were dressed in all one color. All in navy, could be unrelated, but all in orange, yes, all in bright blue, hello, we smile at each other knowingly.
5:55- My assigned spot (because of my birth month) is Myrtle Street. Myrtle was my grandmother. Across the street is the Walt Whitman Residence, six stories of brick. There are two groups of twentysomethings, two Asian guys to my left, a few black kids to my right. They are all dressed in one color and discussing grocery bags. Behind me, Fort Green park, basketball courts hopping, a birthday party of lavender balloons on picnic tables, the London plain trees of grey-green bones under their brown clothes that fall off their shoulders. I set an alarm for 5:58.
6:01- For some reason, my alarm has not gone off, and I notice people on my left and right have their headphones in and are standing up. Shit. I start my podcast up and fast forward to try to get my 1:00 to match 6:00, or, okay, 6:02. Here we go. Happy music. This is the 11th one of these. I wish I had done all of them.
6:02- We start walking on the sidewalks around the park. ‘Try to act natural…. I can’t wait to see you all together at the Festival of Colors.” I am following a girl with a green feather boat, and a girl with a blue tutu. ‘Tug on your ear now.” People do. Ear by ear by ear we pass each other on the sidewalk, walking the perimeter of the park.
6:06- We begin playing red light/green light. Because we’re not completely synced, you have to choose to go with people around you more than with your audio. That’s okay. There’s a guy in green with a giant green sparkly bow tie.
6:09- ‘Face someone not participating, and give them a curtsy in their direction.” It’s hard to find someone not participating, actually, as I have already passed the park benches where a few people were looking very amused. Across the street, the blue tutu girl and I cursty to a guy who smiles.
6:12- ‘Pretend to play an instrument.” I take the cymbals. I see a lot of pretend slide trombone and pretend drums, also a pretend majorette with a baton. “If you pass someone wearing your color, give them a high five.” I pass a few people in purple, but I wish I had worn blue, as there are a lot of blue people.
6:14- We form “the world’s longest kick line,” to “New York, New York.” This is perhaps my favorite part. The guy next to me, in grey, has no ability to coordinate this type of kicking, and very little height to his kick, but that is okay. The founder of Improv Everywhere happens to walk past us at this point. (I recognize him from a documentary about the group.)
6:17- We form rainbow lines. My green and blue friends are there for me, and we find a red guy quickly, but we can’t find a yellow or an orange.
6:21- “Movie simulator portion.” You are to “behave as if you are in the corresponding genre of film.” Spy, in which many of us pretend to hold guns and hide behind big trees, eyeing each other suspiciously. “You’ve just discovered the love of your life feels the same way about you.” We skip, people throw their arms open, some exclaiming something about love, throwing their arms open.
6:26- Freeze tag portion. Different colors are it. I wish I didn’t have my bag with my laptop, but I run around good and hard anyway, I tag and am tagged.
6:30- We gather in a large field, sorting ourselves by color. I join the pink group, although I woudl call myself purple, I am toward the front, and I didn’t see any purple yet. We all crouch down. People over 65, people with a kid under one year of age, and people whose birthday it is stand up, group by group. I miss standing up with the Brooklyn residents somehow.
6:34- We are told the upcoming events were begun by Walt Whitman in 1882. By color (me with pink), we wave our arms, dance. A drone (a good drone) is flying over us, filming us, and we wave to it. When it goes over, everyone screams. I have never seen so many sober people happy, outside of Disney World.
6:37- We do the wave, back and forth, back and forth, across what must be hundreds of people.
6:41- We blow up the balloons were were assigned to bring. We toss them up. I love the idea of balloon ball this big, but the balloons quickly drift up the hill, and our section is left without any. Against the rules of not documenting but participating, we pull out phones and take photos, to console ourselves.
6:46- We pop the balloons. This isn’t that loud because people pop them at different times. Then everyone picks up the balloons, and any other trash around them. This should satisfy kid to my right, who had earlier piped up, “We’re littering!”
6:48- Everyone takes out headphones and lets the music play out loud on their phones. We stand around and listen to strings, then beeps, all playing at once. It’s really hard to tell if yours is playing. People are putting their phones up to their ears to confirm theirs is going. It is surround sound, sort of, also people are all looking around and just listening, which is nice.
6:52- We all wave and shout goodbye. The good drone goes over again, and everyone cheers. The various colors again do some chanting, blue and green most enthusiastically, before they go. “Green, green green!” “Blue, blue, blue!”
7:02- Walking back to the train feels as lonely as the end of Christmas. Waiting for the train on the platform, I wanted to cry. Isn’t it nice that so many people will do a silly thing? Nice thing can happen out of nowhere. But isn’t it strange that so quickly all those people went from being my playmates to strangers, and then I was back in the city with so many strangers? I did this instead of church today, but wasn’t this church? A larger connection, a quiet connection, with lots of people, through art? I think so. I eat two chocolate chip cookies I baked while I ride the train home.
Going back through the same subway station, midget Michael Jackson is still there, posing for photos. His workday is not yet done.
3 thoughts on “Festival of Colors”
This was a great read. Thanks for writing and thanks for participating. Regarding the performer known as “Little Michael Jackson” you might enjoy this video of him (possibly drunk) in an Ewok costume on the Today Show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ0S0BUE0zg
Thanks for setting it up! My sister and I ran a group that played tag in the park every week for a long time, and the spirit of this was similar. Very inspiring.
I want to participate next time–or start one where I live! Sounds transcendent! So well written I felt I was there in purple, too.