just go with it

this past sunday and monday was the notting hill carnival. it was raunchy, loud, a tiny bit filthy and absolutely amazing. the carnival is a celebration of caribbean culture, food, and music.


standard.co.uk

i spent the first three-ish hours totally alone. well, not totally alone. i was one of over a million attendees. yes, notting hill carnival is the largest festival in europe. i wasn’t convinced of this until i arrived – until it took over thirty minutes to walk two blocks because the crowds could not physically fit onto the sidewalk space.
anyway, i was herded about like cattle for quite some time and spent a lot of the day on my own. for the first hour or so, i just did my best to make sense of everything. where exactly was the food? what did the entertainment consist of? were accepting patrons? was an open chair for sitting just my own wishful thinking?? why are there so few trash cans? can i [will i] get secondhand high from the residing haze of marijuana smoke?
the answers:
– scattered, here and there, easy enough to locate by smell
– a constant parade of music-blaring semi-trucks, each with it’s own flavor of tunes and hoard of colorfully costumed booty-shakers / dancing / drinking / conversing with friends / feathers / public urination [no defecation as far as i could tell] / grinding / singing / climbing up and jumping on bus stop overhangs / making out / shouting / general merry-making
– pubs were serving drinks directly out of their doors but were not allowing anyone to come in {smart idea, lest the party-goers trash every pub in notting hill.} the open bars i found charged a pretty penny as cover so that wasn’t an option . . .
– and yes. the hope of locating anything resembling a chair was less reality-based, and more farfetched, a distant speck of yearning, unobtainable by it’s very nature.
– for sitting, there were sidewalks.
for garbage or rubbish, there were sidewalks. also, landscapes and gutters. trash cans could not have kept up with so many people and so much trash.

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{i have no idea why i took so many pictures of filth. perhaps i am just slightly conditioned to disney’s desperate desire for perfect cleanliness. the piles of litter enchanted me into believing that i had abandoned the real world for a wild one, a world devoid of basic human decency.
it was nice.}

– as for the smoke, i am pretty sure i wasn’t affected.
it was a beautiful thing – to see everyone enjoying themselves in all types of enjoyable manners, in public. a google image search of this carnival results in more than one photo of london police officials happily posing with “common folk” and dancing alongside feathered beauties. the entire spectacle was one giant breath of lovely air, coming from a place where the police force is constantly abusing it’s power and it’s people and is behaving more like the military and less like peacekeepers. a bored cop is a dangerous thing.

reading back on what i’ve typed, it all sounds like a good time. honestly, there were moments in that first hour when i briefly contemplated returning home. going to these types of events by yourself is tricky. i was taking in so much around me but had no one to share it with. i wanted to dance but i had no designated dancing companion. my phone was struggling to find service and there was no one in constant, close proximity, with a reliable backup. in the heat of my confusion and equal mesmerization, i made a conscious decision to just go with it. simple, really. it started with the location of an off license. it took twenty minutes to snake through the cramped place, but i emerged with warm vodka, a smirnoff cooler for relief from my warm vodka, and a snickers bar.
{the snickers bar is amazingly still in my purse and has beckoned to me, every minute of every day since.}

what followed could only be described as giving in. i took a few swigs from my precious fifth, and jumped headfirst into the pulsing river. along with the hoards of costumed ladies and gentlemen, there were crowds of people also following the giant music vessels, dancing on their own or with others. i moved right along with them, dancing and sipping and having a great time, only stopping to gorge on some delicious fire-grilled corn on the cob, and roasted chicken.

three hours later, i finally ran into some friends. i had another wonderful evening with them, chatting and people-watching from the outside of a pub on portobello road. i was glad that i did not return home in those first few moments of being alone and unsure. i was glad that i had been able to let go of any insecurities i may have had. the notting hill carnival had worked some type of caribbean magic on me, and i surrendered to it all.

dancing girl at notting hill carnival

{elleuk.com}

notting hill carnival

{kentishtowner.co.uk}

notting hill carnival, crowds

{dailymail.co.uk}

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