A Category Five Parade
There are walks; there are marches; lazy, hazy summer perambulations by the bay. There are ancients and horribles; there are brownies and cub scouts and all kinds of uniforms scuffling through cordoned streets in communities everywhere. There are middle and high school kids in scratchy polyester band suits toting trombones and drums through crowds of local tax-payers. There are unknown and innumerable honorables riding proudly before local fire trucks in festooned festivities. There are a lot of parades.
Then there is Bristol. To borrow from hurricane nomenclature, The Bristol Fourth of July Parade is a category five.
I only had to actually go to the Bristol Parade once, in 1976, when I was working in public tv and had to wear a little white painters hat that read CH 36 – Have a Public Affair. It was. And I hope I never have to witness such a thing in pubic again.
I mean parades are all public affairs; Bristol is a mother orgy. There are Shriners. There are sippers and sinners, octogenarians and infants. People are painted and sweaty and in need of toilets. They holler and hoot and shoot noisy fire at strangers. After the patriotic retreat, the debris is a social archeologists dream. Heck, even Clydesdale horses leave a giant dump in Bristol on July 4th!
All to say I was not an entirely willing viewer this Fourth, but I am a very willing and good voyeur especially when I don#t have to leave my living room. I watched the first third of this Fourth. It was different.
This not 1976.
My first scribbled note, like the line (falsely) attributed to Mark Felt (A.K.A. Deep Throat), was about the money and following it towards a truth ( or at least to a good story – as greed, power, and trickery will always write). I wrote that the parade was a waste of it.
The Bristol Fourth of July Parade is a major event that is neither insignificant nor inexpensive. Acts, marchers, bands, and decorations are selected by and paid by the folk who ride in convertibles, are the town elders and get the fanciest hats and titles. It is not karaoke night at the local Rappers Café. But, it is a big fancy party for ancestral Bristol and they really do it big and well.
Illusions never come cheap. And even our favorite Americana cartoonist Norman Rockwell#‘s real life relations were dichotomous.
After the #64 division had passed, the parade proper began.
My second scribbled note reads: The Care and Feeding of Jingoism and The Arts of Distraction. It was prompted by a giant float of cliche Patriotism from Raytheon that stopped me in my tracks and dropped my jaw and reminded me that this was a parade being presented in wartime. Scary.
Patriot Missile maker Raytheon#‘s motorized tableau was the size of several football fields (or
fighter jet carrier decks).Smiling red-white-and-blue-clad Patriot cheerleaders stood on a flower-covered bow, gesturing like bad salesmen towards an ACTUAL REAL PATRIOT MISSILE The crowds cheered. The float was Best in Parade.
The flowers made me think of Ferdinand the bull who would not fight; The Raytheon float just made me think of bull waste.
But that was all then and this is all now and Buddy Cianci will still be allowed, even welcome, in Bristol.
The jets may be silenced by sequester, real hooligans sequestered by six-pack patrols. But the Fourth; July 4th will fall and cherry bombs will burst in air.
We can’t help it. It’s our country’s birthday. A lot of our soldiers are coming home and we’ll be in Bristol eating cake.