You really can’t see it here (or more importantly, feel it, but it was about four thousand degrees in Catonsville yesterday. I decided to put up the ghetto tent in the driveway and stake out as much shade as I could for us, instead of melting on the curb. Here you can see the wood pegs I whittled to replace the broke-down steel poles that are all bent to hell, and one section of the roof that’s folded back on itself.
This attempt at staking out territory was somewhat thwarted by people who were not invited to our party using the tent as shade. We kicked all but a few out so that our whole party was seated in relative comfort. After a few tense moments staring down two local cops parked across the street, we resumed flouting the open container law in full view, and relaxed once they retreated into the air conditioning of their squad car.
The parade was a lot tamer than in years past; there was no POW in bamboo cage, no Elvis, and no Mummers. There were many flags, though.
Governor Combover showed up with a retinue of supporters, handing out
propaganda stickers and signs. The LT-Gov was right behind him with better signs and larger stickers. Finally, the Mayor came by and I made sure to get me some signs and stickers, but his were flimsier and disappointing —I want to put a big billboard on our front lawn and piss off my neighbors. My neighbor got his pokes in with the Steele sign until I evened the score with my O’Malley sign.
I don’t understand the reasoning behind this float: are they celebrating the fact that Catonsville has huge, Volkswagen-sized cockroaches? Is this a slight on my community? Should I be afraid when I take out the garbage? Will one of these bloodthirsty creatures attack me when I’m mowing the lawn? Could I mount a saddle on that thing and ride it around as some form of green emissions-free vehicle?
I would, however, love to buy this sculpture from these men and mount it on the roof of the Jeep, Dale Gribble-style, just for kicks.
That guy in the front there really loves his Jeebus. I mean, think about it. It’s nintey-nine fucking degrees out there, and he’s in a pair of long chinos and tennis shoes, with a blue sash around his waist, walking a three-mile parade route. And what’s with the tambourine? They had a truck with two big speakers blasting out some music, and there was choreography. Like, weeks-of-practice-in-someone’s-backyard-choreography. That’s the most hardcore thing I think I’ve ever seen at the parade, and I’ve been to a few of these now. And the guy in the back, with the big sign—I wonder if he won that job or got stuck with it? Don’t get me wrong—I have love for the Sky Pilot, but I prefer to celebrate it in the comfort of air conditioning, thank you.
(my neighbor turned to me after they’d passed, and pointed to their chase vehicle. “That’s Jesus’ minivan,” he said solemnly.)
This particular float never ceases to amaze me. Every year there’s something different. Here’s how I imagine the brainstorming session went:
Person 1: We need to put something new on the float this year. Banjos and stuffed animals just aren’t cutting it.
Person 2: The kids love the MTV these days. The old stuff isn’t interesting anymore. Nobody even knows what a paddle-wheel is.
Person 1: Well, I can rig up some linkage to make the stuffed animals dance…
Person 3: Yeah, OK, but we need a “hook”. Something that makes everybody say, “WOW”.
Person 1: …
Person 2: …
Person 3: What about a dragon?
Person 1: A dragon?
Person 2: Like, a fire-breathing dragon? We’d need to get a permit for that…
Person 3: No, like a big moving dragon. Nothing with fire. We could mount it on my van…
Person 2: I have some camouflage tarps and some angle iron.
Person 1: We have some leftover hydraulics from the low-rider float two years ago…
Person 3: Let’s do this. (clinks beer bottles together)
Yes, Virginia, that’s an animatronic dragon on the top of that van. I’d have a better picture for you, but every single time I lined up a decent shot, several members of the Jailbait On Parade comittee would walk in front of the camera and fuck it all up on me. (This is where roving bands of teenagers walk in the opposite direction of the parade, on the street, in clothes more revealing than a Penthouse photo shoot, for no particular reason. I’m no prude, but no fourteen-year-old daughter of mine will leave the house looking like that, thank you very much.)
This guy, god bless him, is in every parade. By the time he makes it to our house, his striped hat, once so proud and tall, is flopped over his back. His belly is soaked and hanging out on the tank of his Harley, and his coattails flap weakly in the breeze of exhaust and humid air sweeping down Frederick Road. This year, he obviously decided the tophat was too much and switched to a striped do-rag, a much cooler, if not less formal solution. He was out in front of Lady liberty, who was mixing it up with the kids on either side of the street. He’d zoom ahead a few feet and stop, gunning the engine on his Sportster and waving weakly, then turn around and wait for his old lady to catch up. I like to think of this as a good representation of what we celebrate on the Fourth of July: the freedom to dress up silly, drive loud, obnoxious vehicles, and treat our women rudely. God Bless America.