This morning, I overheard a couple of knuckleheads talking about how white people were "pussies," and "weak." A lot of them are, but then again, so are a lot knuckleheads, with their misguided sense of bravado and antisocial antics.
Glen, Matty, and I walked up to the St. Patrick's Parade, and stood on the corner of Cuyler and Hamilton, among a diverse group of parade-goers; by diverse, I do not mean "racially," specifically, but rather, "sensibility-wise." Believe me, there are dummies in every shape, size, and color. We stood behind a suburban mom and her entitled daughter, who had placed an old bedspread on the corner, and took up way too space for the two of them; the rest of us near them did not want to step on the bedspread, so we were pushed off to the side and rear of the corner. The suburban daughter insisted that the mother turn over her fancy hat to the daughter, because the daughter wanted to wear the "more expensive one." The mother obliged.
To my left was a scraggily older woman who talked to me as if we had been friends for years. A Snow White float went by, and she informed me that there was no one white on that float. Ha ha ha, she said. It always floors me when a complete stranger offers commentary like that. Who does that? She quickly changed the subject, and pointed out that she had brought her parakeet with her, and gestured to a cage about 10 feet from the corner, next to her car. I didn't ask why; after all, why wouldn't this woman bring her parakeet to a very loud and terrifying (to a bird, anyway) parade? The bird, in case you're interested, is 2 months old, and appropriately, mostly green. Also, he was resting in a little hand knitted hammock, made of fun, multicolored yarn; the woman told me how much Eugene liked his hammock, and she was planning to visit all of the pet stores to market her idea, since all birds would love such a thing.
Eugene the Parakeet was in this cage, somewhere. Also in this cage was a fluffy yarn hammock, which will soon take the bird world by storm!
A gruff man with a shopping cart full of Irish and pop culture do-dads went by; he accused a 3-year old boy of stealing a long, green plastic horn from his cart; the boy's mother understandably went ballistic on the peddler, and showed him how old and chewed up the boy's horn was; something even an ambitious oral-learner could not have done in such a short period of time.
Every year we've been to the parade, we've been sidetracked by a group of religious zealots who offer "tickets to heaven," and this year was no exception. The zealots descended on the parade this year with a fierceness I've never seen before, and obstructed everyone's view at some point. I'm sure there are zillions of tickets to heaven littering the street, right now.
"Oh hi! I know I'm blocking your view of the parade, but I just HAVE to hand you this Ticket To Heaven, even if it — and all the others in my hand — winds up on the street. It's my calling."
The political candidates were out in full force, and I'd like to think they would have done a better job screening their campaign workers who were mingling with the crowd, but alas, that was not the case. Most notably, George Muschal released the Cracken on us, and the gals walking around for Eric "Mr. Jackson If You're Nasty" Jackson were SO disinterested in the crowd. They were all on their cell phones, and their "Jackson" signs were flopped over to such a degree I had to crane my head to see who they were working for.
Doug Palmer couldn't make it to the parade (again), but sent his truck, and his cousin Jeff to perform some Lynyrd Skynyrd for the St. Patrick's crowd.
The woman who brought Eugene, the 2-month-old parakeet, was sitting about 10 feet back from the crowd, on a small chair, in front of her car, next to Eugene's cage. It was a good-sized crowd, and most people were at the edge of the sidewalk or standing in the street; or, if they were right near us, they were only 4 feet back, behind the entitled girl and her mom on the bedspread, so we all could get the best view possible. Eugene's owner asked the women in front of her, with their two small children, to move over, so she could see the parade from the comfort of her chair, 10 feet further away. They chose to ignore her, and, so, she started yelling at them. A younger man who was with her, possibly her grown son, confronted them, and called them ignorant. I was pleased to see they ignored him, too, and held their ground. A float offering beads and candy came by and tossed their goods into the crowd, and then some Irish setters trotted by, and everyone around me was happy again.
I thought about the knucklehead who claimed that white people were weak, and I hate to even address that claim, because to do so may seem stupid at best, and racist as well, especially as I write about a parade that features some of the whitest people on the planet. I just feel the need to respond to the statement I heard this morning, issued by a kid who happens to be black, but is, more importantly, a knucklehead, a label which transcends race. Anyway, some of my neighborhood knuckleheads came up to the parade, and on one hand, I think some community-building might be helpful in getting these young men back on the right track. But on the other, I know the likelihood of them joining the ranks of the non-knuckleheads are slim. And, to drive that point home, the knucklehead-in-charge started yelling across the street at some of their knucklehead friends, and the knuckleheads on my side of the street, crossed over, impulsively and rudely, through a group of 7 foot tall white dudes in skirts, who were playing pipes. On my computer screen, the words "skirts" and"pipes" may not sound particularly masculine, but I am quite certain these men could readily kick some ass, if necessary. The knuckleheads, and even their cliché pit bull, instantly realized they should have waited a few minutes for the skirt-wearing, pipe-playing giants to pass. I think, too, even the Mummers, who seems smaller in stature than the pipe playing men, should be avoided by knuckleheads. Why would anyone want to mess with dudes brave enough to wear feathers and sequins in public?
It may sound like more of annoying afternoon than a fun one, and I apologize for that. It was way too warm for March 20th, and perhaps people were overdressed and uncomfortable; and it seemed there were more open bottles of booze than usual, too. But, it was a beautiful day, and the floats and groups were great, and most everyone was really glad to be at the parade.
Matthew had his first Tootsie Roll today, tossed from a float, and he loved it. He fell asleep not long after finishing it, his lower lip smeared a bit with chocolate; he drifted off amid the Civil War reenactors' gunfire, on Glen's shoulder. And he stayed asleep, despite the volume of the bagpipes, and the exuberance of the various Mummers groups. I hate to admit this, as a Jersey girl who associates with the New York City-influenced part of the state, but after many years confused and somewhat frightened by what the Philadelphians do on New Year's Day in their city, I really am thrilled to have the Mummers come to Trenton for our St. Patrick's parade. We kept planning to leave the parade today, since Matty was asleep on Glen's shoulder, but each time we made the turn to go home, one of us would spot the wild colors and sequins a block ahead, coming our way. We needed to get our fill of Mummers before heading back to the homestead. Don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for bagpipes and burly men in skirts, but the bright colors and shiny sequins of the Mummers, along with their banjos and playfulness — in contrast to the leafless trees and somewhat dilapidated backdrop of Hamilton Avenue — are happy reminders that there is always hope: spring is here, and soon the leaves and flowers will be back. The Mummers offer cultural hope, as well: if various Philadelphian groups will come to Trenton to march in the parade, maybe this city can turn itself around.