Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Love a Parade

When I was fourteen or fifteen my buddy Dominic and I walked up to a St. Louis University street party from his Laclede Town townhouse. There was music in the streets and youthful excitement in the air.

I watched from the sidelines as a beautiful young girl danced up to me, grabbed my arm and tried to pull me in. I looked back at Dominic in horror and mouthed, “I don’t dance!” She shrugged her shoulders and gave me a look that said, “I’m not wasting my time on this.” Sadly, I watched the beautiful girl dance back into the mob where she disappeared completely.

It was one of many times I had to confront my darkest personal demon, I’m uptight.

Having already discovered the meaning of life is its celebration; I braced myself for years of therapy. A person should sing and dance with abandon.

Having said that, I love a parade!

It seems like I’ve been in one every year of my life. In forth or fifth grade I wanted to play drums so I joined the drum and bugle corps at school. I wanted to play snare but I was the only one large enough to carry the bass drum. My disappointment vanished as we paraded through the streets and people cheered.

I was in the Southwest High School Symphonic Band. My marching uniform converted into a tux when it got too cold to march outside.

I hated our horn heavy renditions of symphonic pieces in the auditoriums but I loved football half time shows and parades. We’d march in St. Louis’ Veiled Prophet parade playing When You Say Bud. I thought it was odd they used kids to perform a beer commercial.

When I was a teenager my friend Bill Schmidt and I were cruising in my jalopy downtown. We made a turn right into the back of the Shrine Circus parade. A dozen fat Shiners circled my car in their go-carts as we waved at the cheering crowd.

Years later my buddies at the Venice CafĂ© were invited in the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown. Knowing they were a creative bunch, the city officials’ only requirement was they wear green and white. They were mostly long haired men on roller skates wearing Girl Scout uniforms. They weren’t invited back.

From their Soulard exile the following year, the Girl Scouts on skates threw Soulard’s only St. Pat’s day parade. Budweiser got involved and it was a pretty large event.

I drove the lead car chauffeuring the parade’s grand marshal Ray Hartman. Ray still owned the Riverfront Times newspaper. They dressed me up in a white drum major outfit and covered me in Mardi Gras drag.

I drove Jeff Lockheed’s 1950s Italian art car that actually came with a stock propeller on the front bumper. I kept yelling at friends I saw in the crowd but no one recognized me. It was very cold and the car had no roof. Ray and I shared a case of long neck bottled Busch we stored in the back. The beer got colder as we drank them. I ran into him a few years later and he told me that was the most painful event he had ever attended.

Al the great parades started as local events that were eventually swallowed by corporations. The worst is Soulard’s Mardi Gras. The first one I remember in the early 70s was our volunteer fire department’s truck, a high school band, a few baton twirlers, and our alderman. They all threw candy as they traveled from Sidney to Russell on 12th Street. I don’t think they were calling it Tucker yet.

The parade has degenerated into rolling casino and alcoholic beverage bill boards with professionally costumed models throwing individually packaged beads with ad medallions.

A few years ago I rode on the Lohr Distribution float in the parade. They handle Anheuser Busch in the city limits. My ex’s dad ran their fleet of trucks. I have to admit unlimited booze, an infinite amount of beads, pretty girls, and a porta-potty on the float were nice, but the party didn’t really get going until my friends dragged my drunken carcass into the crowd where I finally sang and danced with abandon.

A couple of weeks ago my kids started coming along. First we joined the march protesting Arizona’s SB 1070 and a week later we were invited by my friend Jon to ride with the Banana Bike Brigade in the Latin parade on Cherokee Street. I rode a bull bike and a little girl in the parade couldn’t figure out why I attacked the red handkerchief she kept waving.

The second pic from the bottom is Jeff in the art car I drove in the Soulard parade. Note the propellar!

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

I want a bull bike!