Monday, December 08, 2008

i've been out there in a number of ways: giving a final exam about cloning endangered species; performing at an alternative gift fair, on the blogs learning about the ghanaian election, xenophilia and why the pictures i store on blogger seem to be so hazy- but, what i really came to talk about was the annual parade in our small town, the lights fantastic- always held in december, always freezing cold, always running right up the middle of our only main street, really, illinois avenue, which runs from the chinese-food valley by the university up through the bars, restaurants and liquor store area known as the 'strip'- populated by college students on october nights- and on up past the train station to the square which could more specifically be called downtown although our international students would never know that, since they would judge 'downtown' more by volume of people, and pretty much find the whole thing pathetic.

but on this freezing night in december folks come from all around, line the streets, try to keep warm, bring their kids hoping to catch a glimpse of santa or whatever, and sometimes if they're foresighted they bring folding chairs, blankets, thermos-fulls of tea or coffee, etc. for the duration which is usually about an hour or hour and a half. every church in town has a float, covered with lights, and the park district, the army, the pagans, the shriners, and whoever else has the energy to string lights on old trailer-beds in november make a show of it and march up illinois avenue slowly in front of everyone. one of the best parts for me is the local marching bands, coming from not only here but also from all the small towns nearby, the kids' fingers freezing onto their trumpets, sometimes they have the little red hats with antlers on them or the drums are decorated in some yule-type way, and they try their best to get sound out of their instruments in the cold...good luck! Even when it's bad it's worth seeing though- when i was in high school i never got to see the marching band, because i was in the orchestra and though we used the same practice room, it was always at different times and they went out a different door than us, the one that went back toward the football field.

so one 3-yr-old son perched on my shoulders for almost the whole parade, until he had to go potty, and that led us to the coffee shop which was always one of the original outposts, or places to view it from, where one could duck in and thaw for a moment, or buy a coffee and thaw some more. in the coffee shop bathroom he sat on the potty but couldn't go because there were too many people around, but his 7-yr-old brother stuck it out all the way and actually saw the santa at the end, along with his 16-yr-old brother, who knew a bunch of people in the high school marching band and saw, at the end, the hs band go by, fingers freezing on trumpets. he reported that that band had to be blackmailed heavily to even march, you got 100 points for doing it, 0/100 for missing it, and it was a credit class so it was serious business. one big question was whether the huge outsized trailer floats could maneuver the turn right up there by the coffee shop, or whether they had actually straightened out the route of the parade as the paper implied when it so blithely (and incorrectly) listed the route as shooting straight out of town to the north. the whole parade is a huge exercise in logistics- where do you park? where do you walk? what's the best place to stand, where you actually get to hear music, and get some shelter from the bitter north wind coming down from chicago or maybe, champaign? are there really going to be no trains for the duration of the parade or did they really straighten out the route? if you park up here in the square area is it ok to use the hospital lot or, if you were having a heart attack and needed a spot right away, would you resent the parade-goers for taking the good spots? and, who, thank god, had the grace & mercy to not schedule a basketball game across from the parade thus choking up all the local arteries in and out of the chinese-food intersection area, the university, where it now starts at the underpass instead of the interfaith, another faded & funky but warm, friendly place to have a cup of cocoa & watch the floats go by...(?)

guess i'll say, you see a lot of folks you don't ordinarily see, kind of like the sunset concerts, except they're all huddled up, under blankets, and there's lots more kids, walking up and down the sidewalks or wherever, trying to keep warm. but i'm here to say, the marching salukis, and the terrier band, were as good as any or better, they all showed up, as did we- the older kids saw it all, santa too, and a little bit of cold and fresh air was ok, it made 'em sleep better at night. we parked in the library- it was free, made for the public, plenty of room, and not too far to walk- but i don't want to give away a good secret, so i put it way down here at the bottom of the post, where only the faithful will read it. i will say that uptown is much better than down by the chinese-food-intersection, where one can use a blue sticker, and where the bands are all fresh and just getting started, but where the lights of the pulliam clocktower bathe the cordoned-off streets. but who wants to hang around the university area, when, on this night, the point is really to be part of the small town, one of many who has kids, wants to see it all, doesn't want to necessarily experience the season at the mall, where one can't afford the coffee or anything else. it's not that i'm into the churches, necessarily, or the way they place the thousands of lights, or even what they shine up & drive up the road- i'm into the bands, as i've said, and whatever they choose to try to play, and being part of a small town, one of these people that responds one way or the other, publicly or privately, to all the different messages and presentations that these marching folk put out there for us to see. it's winter, it's breathe-into-yer-fingers cold, but that somehow makes the warm funky places just that much nicer. god bless you all, for at least another season.


Blogger Peggy said...

I still have difficulty with the fact that the youngest is three already!

Those poor band kids! One would forgive sour notes in that sort of cold! I hope the parade was short!

1:32 AM  

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