Saturday, July 4, 2015

Vive le 4th

July 4th, like a lot of long summer weekends, always makes me feel like everyone is out of town, or sort of like being stuck on campus during the Christmas holidays. So for the past couple of years, if the spirit moves me, I go and watch a parade.

Last year, I stayed  in my bedroom community in Northern Virginia. There was small town parade there, with Latin American dance groups, Shriners in those ridiculous small cars, a few karate kids in gees doing martial arts katas, and my personal favorite, the Falun Gong ladies beating on small drums and sweltering in bright yellow Dacron pants and tunics. They follow a shiny pick-up truck with giant speakers blaring strange music and their smiles never falter, and they have really good teeth. The local bicycle shop employees ride all sort of two-wheelers, our  State Congressman waves from the back of a classic convertible, and even the county trash truck gets a turn. The driver throws candy to the kids and gets a huge cheer, much greater than the local politician.

This year, a friend and I went to downtown Washington, D.C. I’d invited a couple of other people but they didn’t want to deal with the crowds, which, as it turns out, were nonexistent. A morning drizzle kept the viewers away and cleared up before the parade started.

Here’s what I saw: The Lone Ranger, mounted on his horse Silver. Tonto was not invited, apparently. I did learn something—it’s not Hi Ho Silver, Away!  It’s Hi Yo Silver, which frankly sounds a little inner city, but maybe the masked man was ahead of his time. It turn out there’s quite an online debate on this subject, which only goes to show some people have too much times on their hands.

There were a bunch of red, white and blue silvery spangly floats that had no identification at all. One had four rather aged lady singing Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy and I thought they might be channeling The Andrews Sisters, and doing a bang-up job of it, too.  There were large balloon characters floating overhead and held by dozens of people—I was particularly struck by what I thought was a giant chicken with an Uncle Sam hat, but I was told later it was an eagle.  I don’t know what the dinosaur symbolized, or the exceedingly strange 25-foot-tall Buddy Holly, whose slowly deflating Fender Strat caused a lady next to me to hum, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which I thought was brilliantly à propos. I particularly liked a decked out and lowered SUV driven by two guys I’m pretty sure were Mara Salvatrucha gang members, but it turned out they were representing the Silver Brook Elementary School.

When I was a little kid in France, my dad used to take me to the Champs Élysées on Bastille Day, and we’d see France’s military might displayed—thousands of soldier marched by; the scariest ones were the French Foreign Legion, whose members were bearded, unsmiling, and wore leather aprons. They carried no firearms but wielded axes.

The parade here was largely military-free, though there was a color guard and a truck full of Civil War Buffalo Soldiers. There were a lot of bagpipes. There were also a number of high school marching bands with high-stepping drum majors and flag twirling cuties in flesh-colored leotards. I am absolutely certain that the three front rows of a band from Kansas was playing Oh Susana  while the last four rows were playing Sweet Caroline. No one noticed except me and a woman who winced and told me she taught music in Albuquerque.

There was a contingents of turbaned Sikhs; a float of sweating Chinese (I know because they had a banner that read something-something-something Chinese-American) pounding giant drums; Irish cloggers; big wheel bikes; lots of men in kilts; a couple of women in kilts, too, handing out bottles of water to the men in kilts; and some totally charming Vietnamese women doing a dance with their conical hats.

Three out of five spectators were not looking at the parade, being too busy texting.

Lots of people were taking selfies.

I sort of missed the Shriners and their little cars and wished for an appearance by the French Foreign Legion, but no such luck.



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