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Saturday, May 20, 2000

PeanutsAmericans love a parade, don't we? We don't have enough excuses to get the whole town together, all focused on something positive. Laughter, for example. Fun. Community. Cotton candy and giant pretzels.

Santa Rosa has its own traditional parade, the Luther Burbank Rose Festival Parade, which has been held every year since 1950, and sporadically back as far as 1894. This year's event was held this morning, honoring our best known citizen, Charles Schulz, and featuring his Peanuts characters acting as grand marshals.

Until a month ago, I lived close enough to leave my car at home and walk to the parade. Naturally, I rarely bothered, preferring to stay home and grumble about the traffic and trash that overran my neighborhood. Now that I'm living out in the country, I decided I had to see this year's parade. So instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning as usual, I was up and out the door by 8:30. I'd tricked Mom into going with me, so I picked her up and we headed downtown.

The parade didn't start until ten, but parking would have been a problem if we'd left any later. We were able to park within two blocks of the parade route, but we wandered for another few blocks before we found a place on the curb. Mom sat, and I stood behind her, the better to get good camera angles. It wasn't the most comfortable position, because I had to lean against a tree which was slanted toward the street just enough to stoop me over like a revered tribal elder. At my age, I really don't need to be reminded that my body is on the downhill slope to obsolescence.


Slender as it was, the tree gave us some shade, which was a help in the 92°F heat. That's what it said on the bank marquee, anyway, and I believe it. It was tough holding that position for two and a half hours, though, and I came out of the experience with some aching muscles and joints, plus a few decent photos. I'm a novice photographer, and the digital camera has some drawbacks, but I learned a few things that will help me next time. I won't try to take a picture of every float, band, horse and clown, for example. Some of my better shots were of the reactions of the people in the crowd and in the parade.

browniescub scouts

The parade itself was over before I was prepared to see it end. Most of the local schools sent bands and drill teams, and since our spot was near the end of the route, the kids were fading in the heat by the time they got to us. They were troupers, though, most of them, and the moms were there with water bottles. About 4,000 citizens of the area were in the parade, and the streets were lined with friends and family, waving and shouting encouragement. It was fun to see a weary marcher recognize someone in the crowd and suddenly come to life. Even the most jaded middle school tuba player was happy to see neighbors and cousins on the side of the street, eager to give him a thumbs-up and a smile.

Hot, tired and hungry, we made our way through the post-parade line of cars slowly snaking its way through the streets of town. My back was aching, my legs were stiff, and after bolting down lunch at a local café, my stomach was in bad shape as well. But I came home and had a nap, and that was all it took to help me feel alive and refreshed.

SnoopyThe parade was modest by New York and San Francisco standards, despite the presence of Macy's Snoopy "millennium balloon." But that's what made it good for me, because it was a reminder of the small town I grew up in. That feeling was back for a few hours in the sun today, despite the city of 140,000 that has grown up around that small town. We still think of ourselves that way, and it helps us keep our sense of community. People are kind to each other on a day like this, when everyone has the same sense of purpose. I was glad to be a part of it.

When I got home from the parade, I would never have guessed that I'd have enough energy later on in the day to tackle any kind of project. After my nap, when I was starting to feel better, I gave in to my more industrious side and got the weed trimmer out of the garage. It had cooled down enough by then that I was willing to push myself a little further. It was satisfying to see the overgrowth melt away.

Not that there weren't setbacks, right from the start. The extension cord I'd bought was long enough to get me a little over halfway to the end of the yard. And there were still muddy places where I sank in to my ankles. The grass and weeds were so high that I had to pull the plug and clean the clumps of wet vegetation out of the trimmer head more often than I wanted to.

Worse than that, though, were the bugs. They didn't take kindly to my rousting them out of their weedy homes, and they attacked me savagely the whole time I was doing it. Tonight my body, even the parts that were covered by clothing, is a mass of welts from all the places I was bitten.

In fact, it was the bugs that made me give up, with only a third of the yard done, more even than the aching muscles. My legs were still sore from the parade, and now my hands had been gripping so tightly on the trimmer that I had no feeling below my wrists. I looked at my hands and they were foreign objects to me, something out of a science fiction movie. I couldn't feel anything, but when I held them in front of me I could see them shaking.

When I recovered enough to be able to turn the faucet, I took a shower, but there was really no relief. I have bites on my arms and legs, on my back, and on one ear, which has swollen noticeably. The worst is my neck. I can feel a ridge of welts, and when I look in the mirror I can see a bulge on one side. A normal person doesn't have a neck shaped like that. Hell, Popeye doesn't have a neck shaped like that.

I won't try this chore again until I have something to ease the itching afterward. I might even be a little nicer to the rowdy neighbor boys, in case I can con them into doing yard work for me at a reasonable price.

I swear, I'm not complaining. I had a good day. Kinda glad it's over, though.

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