For no very apparent reason, there was a parade in our neighborhood this spring. Not a parade on Broadway, which would have been the logical place for it, but a parade a couple blocks over on our street, which is decidedly residential and sleepy.
I was tipped off to it when I heard bagpipes. Loud bagpipes, as if there are any other kind. Then there was a gaggle of Cub Scouts, kilted pipers, people with dogs, princesses atop convertible cars who were waving sparkle-gloves underneath fleece jackets (it was a chilly Portland morning). There were fire trucks, police on motorcycles, old people, parents and toddlers, a weirdly shaped bright green vehicle that reminded me of the Chilis logo, and another convertible with princesses (I’d like to change the plural form to ‘princessi’).
The weirdest and best part about all this is that almost NO ONE was watching this parade! When I threw on some shoes and took my dog down to watch there was exactly one other person on our block watching it go by. As I circled the block, trailing the parade, I saw small groups of people pausing to watch it, or strolling to follow it. It looked like the parade had a 10-block radius and there were certainly less than 20 people watching it. So the people in this parade were essentially waving to no one. And still they paraded. It was almost like a ghost parade, like the people were there only because a few onlookers willed them to be.
My lone neighbor watching the parade told me that this happens every year. I can’t believe I’ve missed it, but I’m going to take her word for it. She said there’s an older gentleman who lives on Hancock Street who loves St. Patrick’s Day, and so every year he organizes this parade. He coordinates the permits and everything. The parade winds through his neighborhood and at the end everyone in the parade goes to his house for a big party.
I have decided that I really love this idea — that someone organized something as elaborate as a parade just because they really like something and want to celebrate it. He doesn’t care if anyone is watching it, but he does care to have a long line of people get dressed up and put on a show in honor of one his favorite things. And the people in the parade probably don’t care if anyone is watching either (at least I hope they don’t). They are doing it to say, “We were in a parade!” … or “I know this crazy old guy and he forced me to be in a parade.” Either way, bully for them!
Telling this story makes me feel like a little kid in a Santa Claus movie. “I saw the invisible magic parade, I swear I did!” I would have shot photos of this but my camera battery was dead. I tried. But I realize it still sounds a little too fanciful. See, I knew no one would believe me.