Every few years we get lucky and the 4th of July falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, giving us a nice, long four-day weekend. In an ideal world, we'd probably all get the hell out of town, maybe head to our summer houses in Fire Island, or spend a few days with friends at their place in the Berkshires where they decamped a few years ago. But it's not an ideal world, is it? And so you're stuck here, in the sweltering city with scorched sidewalks and air that always smells faintly of garbage and electrical fires. But don't worry, because we're all in this together. And even though you might not be heading out to Montauk, there's no need to limit yourself to Brooklyn-based activities this weekend. Explore a little, and venture out of your borough-wide comfort zone by heading to a floating pool in the South Bronx or to one of the most beautiful, and least crowded beaches in New York, which just happens to be in Staten Island. Yes, Staten Island. And just think, if you actually do make it out to the red-headed stepchild of New York City boroughs, you'll get to tell all your friends that you went somewhere really exotic for the holiday. Let them go to Martha's Vineyard, you've got all of New York City to yourself.
Fireworks in Coney Island
For the fifth year in a row, the Macy's Firework Spectacular will be taking place in the Hudson River instead of the East River, thus benefitting people who live on the west side of Manhattan and New Jersey of all places, and giving a nice holiday flip-off to residents of Brooklyn and Queens. But you know what? Who cares? Not me. And not you. Because you can go watch fireworks down at Coney Island, in a free event brought to you by the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Alliance for Coney Island. Starting at 4:30, you can arrive at the Cyclones stadium (admission is free, but a donation will help Brooklyn Public Libraries and #ConeyRecovers) and enjoy everything from a pig roast to a huge beer selection to performances by the Brooklyn String Orchestra. The fireworks start at 9:00 and are bound to be just as magnificent as the ones in the Hudson. Probably even better, because in Coney Island, the backdrop is the Atlantic Ocean, whereas on the Hudson, the backdrop is the condos on the Jersey City shoreline.
MCU Park; 1904 Surf Avenue, Coney Island
Rosemary's Baby and Twelve Angry Men at Film Forum
There's nothing quite like going to see a movie or two on a holiday weekend, and while most people in America will be heading to see White House Down, you should head over to Film Forum to see two movies that couldn't be more different from one another, but kind of make sense to see on consecutive days. Rosemary's Baby is playing now through the 4th, so maybe head over there before going out to Coney Island to take in the firework display. This iconic horror movie (which, thanks to Mad Men has been much talked about lately) is both viscerally terrifying and mentally unsettling, and is a reminder, during the era of Wendy Davis and the ongoing conversation about abortion rights, that NO ONE—not even Satan or John Cassavetes—has permission to take away a woman's right to choose. And on the topic of justice, starting July 5th, Film Forum will be showing Twelve Angry Men, which has the ability to perhaps give you some level of faith in our justice system, or, if not faith, some interest in perhaps one day serving on a jury, if you should get called to do so. Plus, it stars Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman and is the directorial debut of Sidney Lumet, and so is all-around just the perfect way to spend a couple of hours on Friday the 5th. Make sure to get a slice of the banana bread at Film Forum. The popcorn's fine, but that banana bread is heaven.
Film Forum; 209 West Houston Street
Bronx Barge Floating Pool
So last week, I did a round-up of the best public pools in Brooklyn. And, by all means, you should go to each and every one of those! But also, go to this floating pool in the South Bronx, which has all the amenities of a regular pool (seven lanes to swim in, locker rooms, pool deck) but also has a gangplank to lead you from land to pool—because it's on a barge. You'll also get a view of the New York skyline that you might not be familiar with if you don't make it up to the Bronx that often, so you'll feel kind of like you're in bizarro world as compared to the typical Brooklyn view. And while you're in the South Bronx, maybe go take in a Yankees game, because they're at home playing the Orioles. Oh, you hate the Yankees? And tickets are insanely expensive? Cool. Don't go to a game. I don't blame you. Just enjoy the pool. The free, free pool.
Stage Your Own Clambake
There are all sorts of package deals that you can get for 4th of July BBQ feasts at places like Briskettown, Pork Slope, and Dinosaur BBQ. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't cater your own feast with foods from one of those spots—you probably should! They all make some damn fine food. I mean, I'm drooling just thinking about Pork Slope's nachos right now. But another really good—and traditional—way to feast this holiday weekend is to have an old-fashioned clambake. You don't have to be literal about the clams (although you should be, clams are a delicious and usually more affordable alternative to oysters) but you do need to be literal about getting
some a lot of seafood. There are different ways to approach this, of course. You could head over to Fairway and pay a visit to the lobster tank and the seafood counter and cook it all up yourself, but, well, that sounds like an awful lot of work. So, bypass all that prep time and just head over to a really good seafood restaurant and gorge yourself there. Now the lobster rolls at the Red Hook Lobster Pound are terrific, and the oysters Rockefeller at Marco Polo Ristorante are a fine example of old-school decadence, but you really ought to head over to Littleneck and get a clam roll with fries and a whole lot of beer. Don't forget to save room for pie. It's a holiday weekend after all.
Rain Room at MOMA (and Alternatives for When You Don't Want to Wait On Line for Four and a Half Hours)
So I'm a member at MOMA, and you should be too. Actually, you should, if possible, spring for memberships at whatever museums you can. If you have any inclination at all toward going to museums, a membership will almost immediately start saving you money and let you benefit from all sorts of perks, like early admission. Which, the Rain Room! I have been pretty excited to go to the Rain Room because I love the rain, but don't always love to get wet. Sometimes I do, but not always. Anyway, the Rain Room is kind of the perfect summer museum activity, or so it would seem, because it combines water with being in the dark with feelings of god-like powers because, even though rain is coming down, you are not getting wet. How exactly is that different from just walking through a storm with an umbrella? I don't know! It just is. Unfortunately, as I have found out twice now, even if you're a member at MOMA and can take advantage of early admission, the line for the Rain Room is still FOUR AND A HALF HOURS LONG when you arrive at EIGHT THIRTY ON A SUNDAY MORNING. Sorry for all the caps, but it is really hard for me to get out of bed that early on a weekend, and I felt really defeated after confronting that line. But I recovered by walking up to the Museum of Natural History and going to my all-time favorite place there, the Hall of Gems and Minerals. The entire area is lined in deep brown, velvety material, so you feel like you're in a jewelry box. It's also never as crowded with grubby kids as my other favorite area—the Hall of Ocean Life—always is, although that's obviously still worth a visit, because standing under the blue whale and contemplating your own insignificance is a very powerful and important thing to do. Plus, look at the polar bear diorama below. Amazing, right? And any museum with suggested donation is alright with me.
Canoeing the Bronx River
In what is truly an amazing way to explore New York's waterways, the Bronx River Alliance offers canoeing trips for just $25 at various times throughout the summer, including over Fourth of July weekend. You'll get to paddle through some truly beautiful areas (including the New York Botanic Gardens and the Bronx Zoo) and get a better understanding of how important keeping our local waterways clean and viable really is. Although most New Yorkers associate this part of the Bronx with industrialization or as something to speed through on the Metro-North to New Haven, it is really a little ecological haven that was once called Aquehung, or "The River of High Bluffs" by the native Mohegan Indians. Go explore it. There's a very good chance your canoe won't tip over. But even if it does? It's summer. It's hot. Go with it.
Bronx River Alliance; Estuary Canoe Trip on Saturday July 6, bronxriver.org
Brooklyn Museum; 200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights
South Beach on Staten Island
When was the last time you were in Staten Island? Oh, you've never been to Staten Island? You're not alone! What's been stopping you? The fact that it's so difficult to get to from Brooklyn if you don't have a car? Probably, right? It's endlessly frustrating that there's no bike or pedestrian lane on the Verrazzano Bridge (although there is currently a petition for one to be installed) but this is a holiday weekend, so don't spend any time being frustrated. Instead, make the commitment one day this weekend to ride your bike to downtown Manhattan and take the Staten Island Ferry (bikes are allowed on board for no fee) and then ride from the St. George Terminal to Staten Island's beautiful South Beach. South Beach was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy, but a lot of recovery work has been done, and other than a few sections of the boardwalk being closed, South Beach is back in action. It also has the benefit of being one of the cleanest beaches in New York City, and is also a stopping off point for Harbor Seals in colder months. And what I always say is, if a place is good enough for a slew of seals, it's good enough for me. So venture out from the beaches that you know, and check out South Beach. I promise you'll like it. Promise!
Lincoln Center Festival
Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) and his collaborator Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz) have brought their show Monkey: Journey to the West to Lincoln Center (previews July 6-7; running July 9-28) and it looks to be an oracular and visual marvel. Described as "equal parts epic music theater and stunning animation," the show seems destined to achieve the status of must-see theatre, which, isn't it nice to live in a city where there's such a thing as "must-see theatre"? Yes, it is. So take advantage of that and head up to Lincoln Center this weekend.
Lincoln Center; David H. Koch Theater, 105 W 62nd Street
PS1 Party Wall and Warm Up
This Saturday dance party Warm Up has been taking place at MOMA's PS 1 space in Queens for sixteen years now. Which, sixteen years!!! That's a lifetime. Despite being so ancient, it's still a great place to go and just physically let out everything that has been building up in you all week long. And, if you're like me, nothing lets out the stress like dancing your fucking ass off. Plus, there's the added bonus of getting to enjoy brand-new installation "Party Wall" by Ithaca-based artist Caroline O'Donnell. "Party Wall" is "a pavilion and flexible experimental space that uses its large-scale, linear form to provide shade for the Warm Up crowds, in addition to other functions...[its] steel-angle structure is ballasted by water-filled “pillows” made of polyester base fabric that will be lit at night to produce a luminous effect. Party Wall acts as an aqueduct by carrying a stream of water along the top of the structure. The water is projected from the structure, via a pressure-tank, into a fountain that feeds a misting station and a series of pools." Sounds good to me, and definitely worth a weekend visit.
DIA Art Foundation presents Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument
So, first, no. Gramsci is not just someone that Marie Calloway wants to have you tell her about while you're having sex. Antonio Gramsci was one of the greatest thinkers and revolutionaries in the 20th Century, who is most famous for his Prison Notebooks and for coining terms like "cultural hegemony," terms without which I personally wouldn't be able to feel superior to others when talking out of my ass. Anyway, Thomas Hirschhorn has selected both Gramsci and New York City for his fourth and final installation in his Monuments project (prior to this, he honored Spinoza in Amsterdam, Deleuze in Avignon, and Bataille in Kassel, Germany) which aims "'to establish a definition of monument,' to provoke encounters, to create an event, and to think Gramsci today." This installation is located in the Forest Houses, a public housing development in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. The monument will be an evolving project and will be built by residents of Forest Houses and will "be open daily, offering a daily program of lectures by philosopher Marcus Steinweg, a children's workshop run by Lex Brown, a play titled the Gramsci Theater, a radio station, and a daily newspaper." Though grand in scale and ambition, this work also is fascinating on a micro level, as it closely involves people who live near the project and who otherwise might not have been exposed to either the work of Hirschhorn or Gramsci. It is definitely worth a trip up to the Bronx to see what exactly is going on.
Nothing says summer like outdoor concerts, right? And there are a couple of big ones going on this weekend in both Prospect and Central Parks. Over at Celebrate Brooklyn, Theophilus London, Les Nubians, and Aabaraki will be bringing their musical stylings to the Prospect Park Bandshell for a free concert (well, it's $3 suggested donation, and you should really cough that up if possible) on Saturday the 6th. And over in Olmsted and Vaux's other arboreal masterpiece, Central Park, She & Him and Camera Obscura will be playing a show the same night. Where to go? How to decide? Maybe it'll make it easier if I inform you that the Central Park show is already sold out? I mean, there's for sure a way to get tickets if you really, really want to, but it'll be harder. So maybe your best bet is to pack a picnic dinner and go to Prospect Park, where you can sit in the grass, listen to the music carrying on the sticky summer night air, and feel happy that you didn't go anywhere this weekend. No, you stayed right where you belong—in New York City.
SummerStage; Rumsey Playfield, enter Central Park on 69th and 5th Avenue
Celebrate Brooklyn!; Prospect Park Bandshell, 9th Street & Prospect Park West, Park Slope
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