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Picture of the Day
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May 7, 2000

michael molly john carlos
Peculiar ethics of littering: a woman balances a paper cup on top of garbage pyramid overflowing wire basket causing a trashslide onto sidewalk but her cup remains precariously perched atop so she walks away satisfied she's done her civic duty. At the freak show an illustrated man with fewer tattoos than I see some days on the streets of Seattle calls himself a freak then contradicts himself saying he's just like us, has suffered hurt feelings and has bills to pay, making everyone nervous that he's going to hit us up for something above the five dollars we've already paid to sit on wooden bleachers which years ago creaked under the squirming weight of genuinely distressed audiences in the days before animal rights when geeks were geeks and bit the heads off live chickens. But now it's come to this: KoKo the Killer Clown, a dwarf in whiteface claiming to have murdered his wife in a jealous rage, thereby ending his lucrative travelling circus days, reduced to twisting balloon hearts nobody wants (again fearing extortion), eliciting a reaction only when they pop in his hands and he jumps up and down in genuine frustration. Maybe they are just like us--but that doesn't mean they're not freaks. The real show begins on the boardwalk (and it's free!) which looks like a casting call for a film about the criminally insane, each glorious lump of humanity with his or her own schtick, the only thing in common their pride and we enjoy the parade. They are the Lords of Ruin, one with the Cyclone overgrown with weeds, the Parachute Ride like an empty wire hanger you find in the street, and the faded signs and other traces of former glories when sailors raped their dime-a-dance dates under the boardwalk and calliopes played. Poor service, pay toilets, and lamb testicles drive us away from a boardwalk restaurant in Brighton Beach where the Russian immigrants hold all outsiders in contempt and relish showing it. On the beach itself, a couple lapfucks discreetly, a monkeyboy pees ankledeep in waves, and sunburned boys dive off the pier, careful not to snag themselves in the crabpot lines sagging into the water for a meal of bottomfeeders plucked from a sea which was closed to the public during the Heatwave of '88 after Mafia-dumped medical waste washed up on the beach. And though the calendar says it's spring, it feels like August. But amid the confusion of oiled flesh, the fried food smell salted by ocean air, and the cacophony of barkers, radios, and loud talk, a cooling breeze lets us forget the subway sweat and heat-soft asphalt of the city, somewhere over there, lost in the haze.