The Parade of Ruses
Nothing makes me regret being older more than my lost ability to stay up at night, for auspicious occasions, and to be able party heartily. Actually, I would settle for partying on, in any manner, whatsoever. From 1967 through 1971, I went down to Colorado Boulevard, in Pasadena, California, on New Years Eve, and spent the night with approximately two million of my new best friends. We strolled up and down the five mile course of the Rose Parade, that would be shown on national television the following morning. The parade was followed by the Rose Bowl game, which we watched each year from our living room, while having a family poker game.
“So you used to go watch the parade every year?” you might well ask me, at which I would snort derisively, and respond, “Parade? No, we didn’t care about the parade-only the night before’s extravaganza.” It was all a ruse. If one showed up on New Years morning itself, and tried to find a site from which to watch the parade, one would never be able to squeeze into a spot, because there were so many people already there.
So the idea was to show up sometime during the night and stake your claim to a niche somewhere along the parade route, where you and your friends could spread out sleeping bags, and/or chairs for conveniently being able to watch the event that took hours to complete. That is, if you indeed intended to watch the parade. My parents believed that was our intention, but the reality was, that I never once clapped eyes on a single float. It was all an excuse to get me into the arena initially.
I went the first year with my older brother Brian, who, at the time, was old school and conservative, but had flummoxed us by slipping outside the parameters of his square box, and purchasing a brand new 1967 Camaro. He had further astounded us by taking the car to a body shop, and having a rear spoiler installed on this most extraordinarily bitchin’ mode of transportation. So the two of us drove thirty-five minutes to Pasadena, and proceeded to do nothing more than cruise up and down the five mile stretch of parade route, listening to Jim Morrison and the Doors belt out “Light My Fire,” Jimi Hendrix perform “All Along the Watchtower,” anything from Cream’s “Disrali Gears,” the Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed,” and even the Box Tops.
A couple of years later, we would be listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Abbey Road, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, the Chambers Brothers and the Grass Roots. And we would be listening to it loudly, because that was the way it was done. That first year, I kept turning that volume knob up, while Brian was maneuvering through traffic, and then he would turn it back down, and so forth.
We did bring sleeping bags, and we did dress warmly, because though it never rained, the temperature was regularly in the forties, which for SoCal is durn cold. We would also use all of our wits to wheedle a six-pack of tall Olympia out of some guy going into a liquor store, or even a bottle of-gasp-Boonesfarm Strawberry Wine, enough to make me gag, even thinking about it. Mama didn’t need to know about the Boonesfarm. I was not necessarily a wild man, when I was a kid, more of an observer of wild men in action. I was not a suave, debonair hunk of manhood, so much as a note-taking wannabe, content to have access to the action, even if I really was not a player. At least it kept the cover story to a dull roar.
When asked why we were home without having watched the parade, all we had to do was look pained, as if the answer were so clear, the question need not have been asked. We were home because we had decided that home was where it was at; it was as simple as that.
When Papa announced that it was time to deal the cards for the big poker game, with the Rose Parade going on in the background, we congratulated ourselves on having attained the best seats in the house, after all.