Saturday morning—and by morning I mean two am– My apartment shuddered from what sounded like the roar of a fleet of helicopters landing. My bed idled and vibrated. A full line of cars trafficked up the street, loud guttural ululations from Mustang after Mustang, some with volcanic radios, some from passenger voices rapping in chorus. After several minutes peeking through the windows awaiting a lull of peace, I jumped back in bed, but got back up because the parade wasn’t over. A second shift of cars continued, some with boys seated on passenger side doors, some getting hyphy in backseats while car after car all roughly identical one to the other followed in procession. Each car draped with young people drunk and happy and barking with noise.
I’ve long wondered how sideshows are organized. Incestual group chats, private messengers and alerts between drivers. But this was a holiday weekend and one would think events like this just happen and snowball. Homies text homies and superhighways of rowdy gossip and promises get paved until there is car after car of licensed children, roaming wild through the long night. This generations’ wave of rebellion is to parade the streets in fleets of cars with no specific destination. Or a secret destination collectively known or discovered, only to end up at an intersection large enough to unfurl a cloak of burned rubber smoke.
Read: I’m jealous. Envious. Wishing for one night to be a scrub in any of these rides if for being present for the experience. Instead I’m old enough to be every driver’s uncle, peeping through the curtains generationally annoyed.
I love this memory: sitting in a car with my friend, us talking and drinking E&J from Coke bottles, then going into the club which turned out to be mildly boring and uneventful. Until it became closing time and as we exited, in the parking lot a few feet from the door were up to four groups of dudes fighting. A multi-ethnic slam dance of fists, assholes and elbows, all bouncing and bounding and percolating in every direction. Part wrestling, part dance with T-shirts flagging, fists falling. The police hadn’t yet appeared and my friend shoved me back to the car before they did. But how mesmerized I was by it.
This was not that. Despite the noise, the parade appeared unsullied, irreproachable. All was missing were rides with undercarriage lights, twerking cheerleaders in the crosswalk and flags of nations on each corner.
I saw video recently of a car spinning on a magic carpet of burned rubber smoke then excreting a young thug, a red projectile flung and spinning mid-air flat as a board only to skid along the ground, before appearing to fall asleep searching for his thumb. He was blanketed by a mountain of headlamp-illuminated smoke erasing the intersection into a dreamscape. My street was too narrow to invite such magic. A 20 year old turf dancer flipped like a quarter. I began to think some youths consider it an honor to street dance in the smoke and get swept off one’s feet by a passing bumper.
Sideshows are cars performing freestyle dance. More rhumba and pirouette than a parked low rider hitting hydraulic switches to make their caddy twerk and boogaloo. Despite the price of gas, this is certainly cheaper than a club that offers music — a pitiful one track at a time, as opposed to the stack of Toyotas and Fords each boasting different beats. More entertaining than standing at the bar sipping overpriced drinks. The cars migrate from enclave to town to city, searching like a dog for a place to turn around and kick up great castellated clouds of ignited rubber and scuffed gravel.
The parade didn’t stop for an hour. No clue where they were coming from or going to. It would pause and breathe only to re-ignite with hoots and thumps and phlegmy growls making the night holler again with Buicks, Nissans, Suv’s and one huge U-Haul truck. The liquid darkness in my room pulsed. Voices drunkenly chanted and rapped and aerial n—as sat atop cars like antennas. No sirens. I sat on the edge of my bed, waiting for the scream of tires, gears shifting and heard nothing except the steady progression of cars in traffic a quarter to three in the morning.