Block Party Below & Above
by DURGA CHEW-BOSE
Four girls strut down the street. All the single ladies, All the single ladies, All the single ladies... Further up, their anthem echoes, and their bodies move and dance as if smitten not with the boys watching them from a stoop, but with the song itself. As I carry chairs from my apartment outside to the sidewalk, these girls and their unbound manner and command of the street seem to declare the day: Neighbors! Today the street is closed for a block party.
It’s hot as hell outside, dripping and humid. If you haven’t been dancing, it looks like you have: mouths open, brows wet, pass the drink? But then that one song plays and you can’t help yourself—the irrefutable tugging nature of nostalgia. No matter how long you’ve lived on the street, no matter your memory bank, the block party is a nostalgic event; the gathering of neighbors is inherently nostalgic. Double-dutch is nostalgic. Brass monkeys are nostalgic. Give It 2 Me is nostalgic. DJ’s with PAs, (once powered illegally from street lights,) are nostalgic: "Power from a street light made the place dark. But yo, they didn’t care, they turned it out.” — KRS-One, Boogie Down Productions, “South Bronx.”
It was the kids that offered the most charm. They seemed to take over the block; sovereign on their moon bounces, and too cool as they doubled up and down the street on each other’s bikes. On this day, the kids were kings. A litter of pit-bulls, discovering, confused, and excited, were hurrying around in circles and were led by a few boys who kept each pup in check, who stood with airs and postures of responsibility and duty, distinctly young; a nine-year old with his chin raised, a six-year old with a cast on each arm and chest puffed out. Not far, another neighbor with his pet chicken, Rise, held the bird as others came to pet. Strangely soft, trust me.
That sentimental ideal of a Brooklyn block party, (of a Fugees reunion,) its romantic spirit, is tough to turn down. Now, neighbors are far more transient, and gathering for a celebration suffers from lack of time: the rush to get where? the urgency to finish? I’d invite you to dinner, but I don’t cook… And yet yesteryear’s pace is still sought after, and that wish to restore the everyday in Kodachrome colors is ever more popular.
With merely trees to line the road — no parking all day Saturday — the space restored to my street left room for idle sitting and sipping, but also for my roommate’s friend, a dancehall dancer, to move fluently with the music he could not deny. The uncomplicated character of a block party, of giving a street scope, of lending room for a Green councilmen to meet his neighbors, and for those regulars who sit outside morning, noon, and night, to be joined, offers the sort of inclusiveness one hopes for on moving day while carrying boxes and balancing a box spring up the stairs: Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor.
"Pretty Not Bad" — The Takeovers (mp3)
"Little Green Onion Man" — The Takeovers (mp3)
"The Jester of Helpmeat" — The Takeovers (mp3)