Bushwick Boat on Newtown Creek. — Photo by Nathan Kensinger.
"I’m nervous," she told us after our urging her to play. "I just started." She then left the tent and proceeded to blast random trumpet notes at the clear night sky above the Newtown Creek while we watched through the open flap.
That a girl who cannot play brought a trumpet to a party wasn’t unusual at all for the night’s setting. It was part of a long night of planned surrealism.
It began among deserted warehouses, an area which during the day bustles with industry, but at night gives birth to a new life of escape. Our portal into this world was a large steel door into the cavernous interior of just one of many anonymous buildings.
Once over the threshold, we are greeted by pop song covers played on a rickety piano. Suspended above us, a burlesque dancer hangs from the high ceiling on a cloth. As she spins around, fixed in unimaginable contortions, a spotlight cast her dark shadow onto the dirty floor. Many of the people are dressed in a fashion popular in the 1930s.
Around the corner, we merge with a line of party goers waiting for their tickets in a dark room lit only by tea candles lining the floor. We’re then ushered into a hallway alongside a loading dock filled with trash, where we wait for a van to pick us up. As it arrives, people coming back from the party stumble out to go on their way back to reality. It’s about 2am.
Our door is opened and we file into the big van. It’s not unlike those which commuters use to travel along major Brooklyn throughways. Except here, there’s a number of Europeans dressed in the evening glamour of "the golden age."
After a short trip, we pull into a dirt covered parking lot lit only by the van’s headlights. In the distance, behind some low slung buildings, the music of a brass band mixed with electronic dance music fills the air. After walking along a dock a bit, the boat emerges, overflowing with people.
It takes multiple trips around the various floors and pathways to become accustomed with where everything is — although the bathroom’s location will remain a mystery never to be discovered. On one end, a live band plays, enrapturing the crowd of people surrounding it. On the other, a drum circle beats rhythms into the night hidden within a thick throng of revelers. In the middle of the boat, on the lower floor, a DJ spins an eclectic set, ranging from silly to broodingly dark, while people lose their inhibitions in dance. Above that is the deck, featuring open fire pits and a cool breeze carrying the stench of the polluted creek we float upon. Private little nooks abound.
The crowd is an interesting mix of internationals, Brooklynites, and hipster types. Although the party was supposed to be a sort of secret, pretty much all of them say with a shrug, "I do this all the time."
By the time the sun starts to break over the horizon, greeted by the off-key trumpeter, there are still a couple hundred people here, although a number are strewn about on various benches and hammocks. Many will stay late into the daylight before retreating to their homes.