I think I saw my first Mermaid Parade in 1994, with my then-roommate Eric. Back then it was still largely undiscovered--a neglected half-sister of the Halloween Parade, only nuder and sweatier. Handfuls of people lined the streets to watch ardent exhibitionists strut just about all of their stuff (no matter how flabby, hairy, or tat-covered), and then get started on their summer base-burns on the beach.
[* We used to call the parade "Tits-a-palooza," since everyone and her sister showed up to sun their nubbins. But this was the parade's 25th year, and in its early adulthood it's become a bit more demure. I mean, you still have the occasional bronze knob and such, but most of that has been overtaken by dudes with fish on their heads.
And given all the crazies who brought strollers into the scrum, you could also have called it "Tots-a-palooza."
And even "Tut's-a-palooza!"
I'll stop now.]
Ever since that first parade, Eric has evolved into my Coney Island buddy, because it seems I'm rarely there without him. We often go to Cyclones games (so we can yell "Let's Go 'Clones!" in their beautiful, seaside stadium) and take the boardwalk to their namesake, which is still rickety-rockin' after 80 years. I'll always remember the time we daytripped there and, buoyed by the impossibly clear sky, made a point to take in the beautiful views from atop the Wonder Wheel. I remember feeling awed by the Twin Towers, which were so crisply visible from such a long distance. That was on Sunday, September 9, 2001.
Anyway, perceptive readers may have noticed that I have a new Flickr badge in my left-hand column, and I've posted some pictures from last Sunday's day at the beach. If that was the last Mermaid Parade for a while (as developers have big plans to remake Coney Island into a more corporate playpen for tourists), then at least I can be one of the million or so people who helped save it forever, in our hearts and memory cards.