New York Today: New York Today: Swallowing Swords in Brooklyn

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Kiri Hochendoner, or “Betty Bloomerz,” at Coney Island. Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Good morning on this unbecoming Friday.

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow is open for the season.

It’s one of the few remaining sideshows in America, where you can still be dazzled by a fire breather, spooked by a snake charmer or shocked by the human blockhead.

Among the band of performers in Brooklyn is Kiri Hochendoner, a sword swallower known on stage as Betty Bloomerz.

At 5 feet 4 inches tall, Ms. Hochendoner can swallow a 2-foot 4-inch sword.

And it’s not a trick.

“The scariest swords are the ones that stop right behind your heart,” Ms. Hochendoner said. “You can feel the temperature of the metal against that part of your body. It’s very sensory and you experience your organs in a totally different way.”

There are few professional sword swallowers these days, said Dan Meyer, the president of the Sword Swallowers Association International, which keeps records of the number, training and capabilities of performers. Less than a third of the sword swallowers documented by the association are women.

Performing on stage as many as eight times a day, Ms. Hochendoner slides larger and larger swords down her throat, often letting them drop a few inches before catching them with her teeth, throat and stomach muscles.

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To achieve this she tilts her head back and relaxes her throat while suppressing the gag reflex. She navigates the blade down the esophagus, past the epiglottis and into the chest, where it’s separated from her heart by about an eighth of an inch of tissue. From there, the sword is guided past the sternum, through the diaphragm and past the liver and kidneys until it reaches the bottom of her stomach.

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The risk, she says, is worth it. Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Is it dangerous? You bet.

“Once there was a sword in me and it nicked the back side of my stomach,” Ms. Hochendoner said, calling it her only injury in the decade she has spent swallowing swords.

“Like any loving relationship, you have to listen and ask your body, and sometimes it’s not the right time to go all the way.”

But the risk, Ms. Hochendoner said, is worth it.

“I want an honest reaction,” from the audience, she said, and she usually gets it. “Whether it’s extraordinarily surprised or extraordinarily disgusted or happy. Whatever their reaction is, it’s always extraordinary.”

The Congress of Curious Peoples — a 10-day festival of discussions, lectures and sideshow performances from entertainers across the United States — kicks off today in Coney Island. You can also catch a performance of the Coney Island sideshow through the end of summer.

Here’s what else is happening:

Weather

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The weather is performing stunts of its own — sunny, rainy, warm, chilly and back again all week long.

Today will be wet. Be on guard for showers and thunderstorms, with a high of 62.

We’ll be flip-flopping between clear and cloudy, dry and drizzly all weekend.

Oh well.

In the News

Syrian refugees became New York City tourists, shedding the past for a day, and savoring the present. [New York Times]

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“Freedom is good,” Rihab Taki, center, a 33-year-old mother of four, said through a translator. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

A New York City firefighter died after falling from a roof while battling a blaze in Queens. [New York Times]

As winter recedes, the Lake George area grapples with the tragic boat crash that killed a young girl last summer. [New York Times]

In “Big City,” the Times columnist Ginia Bellafante looks at what we can learn from the visionary urban theorist Jane Jacobs. [New York Times]

And in “About New York,” the Times columnist Jim Dwyer writes about the Bronx church that received a large donation from Bill O’Reilly. [New York Times]

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This church received a large donation from the recently deposed Fox News host. Credit Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times

Apple’s glass cube on Fifth Avenue is coming down, for now. [The Real Deal]

City’s waterfront rebounds as New York revives its maritime spirit. [Smithsonian.com]

There will soon be a protected bike lane stretching 24 blocks along Seventh Avenue. [Streetsblog N.Y.C.]

A Bronx police officer wrote a novel about the complexities of policing in our city. [DNAinfo]

Today’s Metropolitan Diary: “Goodbye to the Listeners’ Row

Scoreboard: Phillies stump Mets, 6-4. Rangers rip Canadiens, 3-2 (in overtime in Game 5 of their N.H.L. playoff series.)

For a global look at what’s happening, see Your Friday Briefing.

Coming Up Today

See the work of more than 100 artists at the New York Academy of Art’s MFA Open Studios 2017 in Lower Manhattan. 6 p.m. [Free]

Actors portray some of Shakespeare’s greatest villains ahead of the anniversary of the Bard’s birthday, at Bryant Park. 6:30 p.m. [Free]

Learn about the Great Subway Race of 1967 with the Manhattan borough historian at Hunter College on the Upper East Side. 7 p.m. [$15 suggested donation]

Skate to Prince songs at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park. 7:30 p.m. [$20]

Comedians roast the character Carrie Bradshaw, from the television show “Sex and the City,” at Q.E.D. in Astoria, Queens. 9:30 p.m. [$10]

Yankees at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. (YES). Mets host Nationals, 7:10 p.m. (WPIX). Rangers host Canadiens, 8 p.m., in game 6 of their N.H.L. playoff series (NBC).

The Weekend

Saturday

Earth Day workshops, discussions and activities at the Sustainability and Social Good Pop-Up at 558 West 21st Street in Chelsea. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. [Free]

Learn how to commute to work on a bike, during a workshop at Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Noon. [Free]

Look for wildflowers and migrating birds with the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods at High Rock Park on Staten Island. Noon. [Free]

Learn how to write science fiction and fantasy stories with the author Richie Narvaez at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. 4 p.m. [Free, registration required]

Four Latin dance companies perform traditional numbers at the Queens Theater in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. 8 p.m. [$25]

Mets host Nationals, 4:05 p.m. (SNY). Yankees at Pirates, 4:50 p.m. (YES). Red Bulls host Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. (MSG).

Sunday

Enjoy the tulips, join a bulb-planting demonstration or participate in arts and crafts at the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing. 8 a.m. [$6]

Visit the new exhibition, “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” at the Brooklyn Museum. 11 a.m. [$16]

Take your children fishing at Baisley Pond Park in Jamaica, Queens. 11 a.m. [Free]

Pick up a tree, choosing from among nine native species, at Crotona Park in the Bronx. Noon. [Free]

New York City F.C. hosts Orlando City, 1:30 p.m. (FS1). Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m. (YES). Mets host Nationals, 8:08 p.m. (ESPN).

For more events, see The New York Times’s Arts & Entertainment guide.

Commute

Subway and PATH

Railroads: L.I.R.R., Metro-North, N.J. Transit, Amtrak

Roads: Check traffic map or radio report on the 1s or the 8s.

Alternate-side parking: in effect until May 25.

Ferries: Staten Island Ferry, New York Waterway, East River Ferry

Airports: La Guardia, J.F.K., Newark

Weekend travel hassles: Check subway disruptions and a list of street closings.

And Finally …

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Time to design an upgrade. Credit Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Newspaper racks in the city are in need of a serious makeover.

At least that’s the message of the Midtown South Community Council with its News Rack/Newspaper Dispenser Design Contest.

The council is seeking designs for newspaper racks that can withstand life on the mean streets of New York. Namely, dispensers that can survive graffiti, vandalism and bad weather; can be placed on crowded sidewalks without being knocked over; and won’t impede pedestrians.

(The news dispensers must also meet regulations from the Department of Transportation.)

Think you can design a more dapper dispenser? You can win up to $2,500.

Submissions are being accepted until July 31.

New York Today is a weekday roundup that stays live from 6 a.m. till late morning. You can receive it via email.

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Source: New York Times

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