I was at the beach on Sunday, and Ms. Columbia walked by. Everyone yelled her name and waved. You can’t miss her large neon green beard, and the outrageous clothes.
10 years ago this month was my first encounter with Ms. Columbia. I was on the street at Rockaway Beach, and she was pushing her poodle Carino, who was dyed in rainbow colors, in a stroller along the sidewalk. Ms. Columbia also had a parrot on her head, and she was wearing the most outrageously fabulous outfit. There was an access van parked on the street, and she took the parrot and placed it in her shirt, and then pushed the stroller into the van. I didn’t believe that I had witnessed what I did, but was so excited to see this kind of eccentricity alive and well in NYC.
Over the years I have seen Ms. Columbia all over the city. I have marched with her twice in the Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn, and even have seen her strolling around midtown. Every time I see her, it signifies that day will be a special day.
I found out this year that Ms. Columbia has AIDS. When she was diagnosed in 1988, she decided to quit life as a lawyer and live her life to the fullest. 26 years later, she is still going strong and spreading joy all over the city.
The locals who hang out at Jacob Riis Beach Park all know Ms. Columbia, and love her. I was out there a few Friday’s ago, and I heard a woman say, “Columbia’s dog died! Did you know that? How sad.” I immediately knew who they were talking about, and felt a bit sad myself. But then when I saw Ms. Columbia this past Sunday on the beach having a great time without Carino, I stopped feeling bad about it.
Ms. Columbia is my favorite New Yorker and one of my personal heroes. Her brassy devil-may-care attitude makes me smile, and I believe she is one of those citizens who make this city great.
For a more in-depth look at Ms. Columbia, including an audio recording, click HERE.
Ms. Columbia, thanks for being you!