Yesterday--a fine, crisp and invigorating day by most standards--my wife and I had to sit through a parade. A holiday parade. Or what Bill O'Reilly would insist on calling a Christmas parade.
Oh, I suppose we didn't absolutely have to sit through it. We could have stayed home where it was warm. We could have told our daughter, "Sorry kiddo, but a stupid parade just isn't our cup of tea, even if you are in it."
We are both all too aware, though, that time is running out on ways we can share in our girl's pre-adult experience, simply because our girl's pre-adult experience will all too soon flip over to adult experience, no "pre" about it. In a mere year and a half, she will no longer be a member of her high school's marching band. She will no longer be a drum major, conducting her compatriots through jazzed up versions of seasonal songs. In a stinking year and a half, we will no longer be able to see her dolled up like a nineteenth century warrior princess, leading her brigade of horn-tooting, drum-whacking grenadiers down the boulevards of Meridian. We, her mom and I, must snatch these opportunities as they come, even if it means having to sit through a stupid holiday parade.
But I see no entry in my "How To Be An Attentive Dad" handbook that says I have to enjoy the thing. Furthermore, I see no reason why a parade can't be reviewed. Really, we review restaurants. We review musical performances and books and theatrical productions. We review almost everything, from movies to employee productivity. So why not parades?
Following is my review of the Meridian Holiday Parade. If you object to anything I have to say about it, then in a year and a half, you're more than welcome to my spot along the parade route.
The festivities kicked off with about a half-mile's worth of cop cars, fire trucks and ambulances, lights aflashin' and sirens awhoopin'--and we all know how festive it is to have a fire engine sound off not 10 feet away, don't we? I tried not to cover my ears, thinking, "That's exactly what Scrooge would do," but it was hard not to. Holiday cheer is all well and good, but I have a tympanic membrane to consider.
Following all the flashin' and whoopin' came Meridian's fleet of street sweepers. You heard me... street sweepers. And they weren't even sweeping the street. "Thrilling" isn't the word I'm looking for here.
My memory is dim as to the exact order of entries after that. Possibly I was "swept up" up the moment, ha ha. I do know a few beauty queens went by, shivering away in the back of pick-up trucks. State Representative Shirley McKague was there, all waves and smiles. I vaguely recall thinking she looked more animated during that single parade than she's been throughout her entire five terms in the state legislature.
Oh, and Congressman-Elect Bill Sali was in it. I don't know what he's running for now, but he sure is good at it. Seeing him all jolly like that, you'd never guess what a lump of coal he is.
Our mayor, Tammy de Weerd, went by in an itsy-bitsy toy convertible. She looked awfully cramped, but she'll soon have room to spread out. The town is tearing down the old creamery to build her a spacious new city hall. We can only hope as much gets accomplished in the new building as got done in the old creamery. But let's not hold our breath.
Throughout the affair, there were lots of shiny vehicles with no apparent reason for being there other than to advertise some insurance company or real-estate agency. There was a karate academy, with a line-up of 10-year-old ninjas handing out introductory coupons, and Gold's Gym had a rig in the parade, along with some Gold's Gym elves who passed out Gold's Gym free-trial offers. At times, the whole thing felt more like a pop-up ad on Yahoo! than a parade.
Early on, there came a marching band. Mom and I thought, "What a break! A few more minutes and we're outta here!"
But, humbug! It wasn't our kid's marching band. And in one respect, I'm glad it wasn't. Whichever one of Meridian's many geniuses had organized the event stuck a leather-togged bike club, all straddling Harleys, directly in front of this marching band. V-RRRROOM! V-RRROOM! I heard snatches of some seasonal tune (could have been "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," but that's just a wild guess) just under the roar of 25 or 30 unmuffled hogs.
There were some horses, complete with decked-out riders, and there were some hay wagons full of Girl Scouts. One expects horses and Girl Scouts at parades. And there were old-time cars. One expects them, too. Ka-HONK-a, Ka-HONK-a. I love the horns on those vintage touring cars and rumble seat jalopies. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of those waxed-up Model-Ts and Packards were the same ones I watched 50 years ago in Meridian's parades. You know, back when I still liked parades. And Meridian.
Horses, Girl Scouts and old cars--not advertising a damn thing. How reassuring. If I were to like parades anymore, that's what I'd want--horses, Girl Scouts and old cars, along with a couple of marching bands and maybe a Shriner's float stuffed with little kids singing. Insurance companies, real estate agencies and gyms shilling for new customers have no place in parades. That's what business parks are for.
But then, that's pretty much what Meridian is now. Insurance outfits and real estate agencies, video stores and frozen yogurt joints. They're tearing down the old landmarks like there's no yesterday and putting up the same building, over and over and over. I can't imagine what my kid or anyone else's will ever remember about their old home town when they're my age. The Wal-Mart?
But I've strayed off the parade route, haven't I? Let's cut to the end, shall we ... before I Grinch out on any more politicians, insurance salesmen or parade organizers. Or before I point out how much modern Meridian and Bill O'Reilly's Christmas have in common. Both being just one, long, loud, tedious pop-up ad.
So, along came my daughter's band, second to the last entry. They looked great. Take my word for it. As the only professional parade critic in Meridian, I know what I'm talking about. They looked so great, we followed them down the street like groupies, all the way to where we'd parked the car. V-RRROOM! We were outa there.
There was something else following the band, but I didn't notice what it was. I'm guessing Santa, tossing out "No Money Down/12 Months to Pay" offers from his bag of goodies.