I've gone for Carnival Week a couple times before in recent years, but this year's theme, "Jungle Fantasy", was much more fun and open-ended than the other two (Wild Wild West, and Summer of Love) were. Many of the costumes and floats were brilliant. Some were absurd and delightful. Personally, I found Bubala's "Curse of the Black Mamba" float to be the best large float, and I think the pedicabs decorated like animal traps gets a nod for best small float. I tip my hat to the creativity and energy so many, locals and tourists alike, threw into the event week.
For food, I ate at Front Street twice. Edwige's menu was too sim ilar to last year's. Ross' Grill seemed too full. I ate at Victor's once. Front Street still keeps my A+, and Victor's gets a solid A for the nice tapas and the reinvention of an old building (it was once the snack shack, Silva's, where we used to get fried clams and watch skunks come perilously close to the picnic tables. Nice update to a site. Snacks and small fare were gained at Burger Queen, Lucky Dog P-town, Relish, Purple Feather, Twisted Sister. Frappo66 was good for a quick, hearty meal (and the half portions of the entrees at $10 still include 3 sides - what an absolute bargain! Their Israeli couscous was so good, I wanted a big bowl of just that.) The biggest mistake I made, dining-wise was allowing a friend to talk me into eating at the Surf Club. The food was awful, the service was slow and unattentive, and we could hear the waitresses and buspeople arguing behind us. The view at Surf Club is amazing, with a dioramic view of the bay beach, the harbor, and the milling pier pedestrian traffic. Someone should revitalize this place and turn it into something less offensive. I shudder to think that this will be the ferry and bus visitor's first feel of P-town fresh off the boat or long bus ride...
Show-wise, Carnival itself was a show and people-watching is free, but I also took in Dina Martina's act (she's an adorable drag presence, employing wit and wordplay and goofy self-defacement, in a show almost worth twice what she charges). Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans reprised their hit play The Gulls, a parody of Hitchcock's The Birds, employing some current themes and P-town humor. I saw it the first time & loved it, so I saw it again & still loved it. Ryan's a warm-hearted, passionate genius. He's never too shy to say hi to me as he bikes past, but he puts a lot of energy, talent and drive into his work. Margaret Cho's show, while hysterically funny, seemed to offend, upset or lose some of the lesbians in the audience. Perhaps hosting Margaret at Vixen (a mostly lesbian nightclub facility) is a mistake, as her fanbase is more largely gay men and she talks more about gay men and raunch than about lesbians. She'd sell out just as quickly at the Crown & Anchor, but be in less of a niche. Two more events I attended, albeit not for their entirety, were Scream Along With Billy (at Enzo's grotta bar), which was quite interesting and avant garde, but the location was so tiny I got claustrophobic, and the Governor Bradford's "Fag Bash", which had a NYC underground club vibe, a horde of people in self-made costumes and effects, and an extremely friendly, positive, all-inclusive mission statement. Reclaiming a negative word for a positive experience. After I saw everyone's personal magic, I headed off for drinks elsewhere.
I give Joe's coffee a D for the new location. It may be bigger, but it's cold, horribly designed (the condiment station is exactly where those who just ordered are standing, so a big space still has everyone tripping over each other). The old, tiny venue had two benches outside that forced people to interact, and I used to have great conversations with townies, with summer stays, and with daytrippers alike. Now, a bunch of tables hold fort on a large patio, but it feels aggressive and elite, a vibe Joe's used to be the opposite of.
The weather was perfect most of my ten days, and one overcast day and one crazy, rude lady with a walking stick (a local my year-rounder friends tell me has offended many a local as well), can not dull an otherwise really good trip. I'll be heading back again in the Fall, to enjoy Commercial Street in a quiter, less confetti-littered glory.