Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

The Shriners were doing OK but the Colombians stole the show. The South American boys and girls jumped, capered, spun, skipped, wiggled and beat their hats on the ground. They yipped and hollered and wore fantastic costumes embroidered in silver and filigreed in gold and they had the coolest shoes I’ve ever seen on a man. It was a steamy 85° at the Falls Church Memorial Day parade in Northern Virginia, and their grins never flagged. There were three separate troops of Colombian dancers, ranging in age from four to 50, and a gentleman sitting on the grass watching them go by explained that each of the nine states in Colombia has a variety of dances. Since there’s a healthy Colombian population where I live, dance groups have sprung like weeds. There are more than a hundred in the area, each with its own repertoire, costume and leaders. The gentleman I spoke with belonged to a group that had not marched today, but he told me that towards the end of August, a nearby festival will feature more than 3,000 dancers. “We practice three nights a week,” he told me. “It helps keep the young ones out of places where they should not be.”
            The Shriners, well, they were Shriners. They had a dozen floats including the Ladies’ Auxiliary, which was mostly a truck pulling a trailer on which eight stately women sat, hurling candy at the children. They had three clowns who made the kids laugh, or maybe scared them. They had tall papier maché camels, and seven of those little cars that zip around the street driven by very large men wearing fezzes. I’ve seen those guys a dozen times at least, and it’s still a mystery how they can fit in those tiny vehicles. They had a serious looking bagpipe and drums marching band, and it struck me that a couple of the pipers’ faces were an unhealthy purple.
            There was a crazy lady marching behind the Shriners making somewhat lewd gestures and everybody pretended not to see her.
            There was a solitary man in black pulling a cross that had a lawnmower wheel at the bottom of it for ease of travel.
            There was a marching band from a Baltimore high school, led by two statuesque black girls who could have been movie stars and knew it.
            There was a truck from the county storm drain team, and a snowplow. There were no cops or firemen, no beauty queen, no Boy or Girl Scouts, but the governor of Virginia was there though I couldn’t tell which of the men foolish enough to wear a suit and tie he was.
            And then, of course, there were the Falun Gong ladies, beating small drums in intricate patterns and taking mincing steps. At their head were three men holding up a banner that said, Falun Dafa is Great. I loved the understated assertion; it told me everything I needed to know about their organization. I liked the bright yellow satin pants and tunics, and the Old Navy flip-flops, but I wished they’d been more imaginative in their choice of marching music. In the two minutes it took for them to pass by, the same eight bars were repeated six times, which may have something to do with their persecution in China.
            Both Democratic and Republican congressional candidates had volunteers marching and distributing stickers to children, who stuck them upside down on their foreheads.
            I got sort of nauseous after two cups of tiger-blood-flavored shaved ice, but I managed to avoid the corn-dog stand and the deadly cheese-fry concession.
            I love a parade.

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