Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I love a parade

Tonight was the 58th (!) annual Greenwood Seafair parade, part of a series of neighborhood parades and other events that have been rolled into Seattle's summertime festival since back before there was actually anything to do here. I say that only partially in jest. Seafair was developed as a way to generate civic pride and community involvement in an era where Seattle had no major-league sports teams and televisions were still a novelty. It has an invented mythology (which has languished a bit in five decades), with beauty queens and a chosen King Neptune, plucked from the ranks of civic leaders each year, handed a trident and a crown, and tasked with defending the city from a band of maurading pirates. You have to understand that this was, once, a small town. It isn't, any more...but there are a few weeks per year, a few hours of milk-carton boat races and stomping drill teams, that still feel like the cheesiest corn-pone of small-town Americana. I probably don't need to tell you how much I LOVE THIS with all my heart.

When I was a little girl we'd go to several of the neighborhood parades, with our mom and her mom, who'd taken her in the 50s. We stopped when I grew old enough to find them--and generally any public exposure with either parent--mortifying. And then, when I was in graduate school, Seafair rolled around again and I jokingly turned to my mother and said, hey, for old time's sake, should we go? That was probably 15 years ago. We've never stopped.

It is hard to explain, the combined tenderness and hilarity I feel towards something as silly as a neighborhood parade. You either love it or you don't; it's not for everyone, this being pelted with stale taffy by drunk businessmen in clown suits (though they have sobered up some, since the good old days). The people-watching is unmatched: families in lawnchairs, little kids staggering around dazed with anticipation, local barflies dragging chairs out of the Baranoff lounge to smoke on the sidewalk and cheer for the pirates as they roll by, firing their cannon. Grandma used to stake out spots on the curb with a blanket, hours in advance. She would also administer a punch in the nads to anyone who dared try to step over us and block the view. So there is a long thread of memories, going back three generations in my family. One of the main reasons I hope to have children someday is so that I can take them, with their grandma, to get the holy bejabbers scared out of them by the pirates.

Here's Mom, waiting to wrestle a random toddler to the ground for a thrown Tootsie Pop.

I don't know who these kids are; this is blurry, but I so loved their anticipation, peering far up the block for a glimpse of the police motorcycle drill team. The squat, on that one little guy, kills me.
Safeway; Starbucks; princesses in Corvettes. God Bless America.

I love the girl's hair on the right, here.

Mom and I got a little verklempt, somehow, at the Navy band. Anchors Aweigh!

This, immediately following, helped us recover. The little girl in the foreground climbed her mother like a tree about two seconds after this was taken.

Anyway. What's not to love?

One more picture. This is Mom, again, circa 1955; she's dressed as a pirate herself, ready to attend the Wallingford neighborhood parade, I'm guessing. This is framed in my living room, and is the one non-living thing I would grab, if the house were burning down. Thanks for going with me again, Mom. I love you. YARRRRRRRRRR!


Some Bloke said...

What a strange country this is. To me, thanks to growing up in Belfast, parades are sectarian. Parades as a common experience shared across the community is an entirely new concept to me. I don't think I'd like it either: the damage has already been done.

Kim said...

Yeah, it's interesting, because I myself can't imagine the alternative. The various community parades, for Seafair at least, are so oriented towards children--at least half the participants actually are kids.

Though Seafair goes through phases where there's a more militant angle--after the first Gulf War, and the first year or so of our ongoing debacle in Iraq. Lots more armed-forces representation, many more flags. This year we had one Army color guard, the Navy band, and then about six elderly American Legion gentlemen in the back of a truck, waving eensy Stars-and-Stripes on little sticks. I look at the young sailors marching and think, well, at least they're safely here.

Some Bloke said...

We definitely don't have the armed forces taking part in social / community events. But we aren't a military country like the US. In fact, as I'm officially living in the Rep. of Ireland now, I think the entire Army consists of a bloke who happens to have some clothes that look a little like a uniform when seen from a distance..

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kim! It’s the occasional comments like yours that make me proud to be a member of this scurvy crew. We do a lot of really fun things but more than anything it's the memories we’re building and the history we’re helping maintain that warms my heart and makes me beam with pride when asked “Hey, are you one of those Seafair Pirate guys?”!

-Pirate Steve

Kim said...

Right on! An actual pirate is reading my blog?! (And there is a sentence I never figured I'd type, certainly.)

Very cool indeed. Thanks, Pirate Steve, for reading and for all that you do with your fellow scalawags!