|The Secret Cirkus|
|The Secret Cirkus|
I’m TimTv and I love a parade. Who doesn’t love a parade? Well... they’re broken, as far as I’m concerned.
It all started for me in 1976. Our country’s Bicentennial. You can’t imagine how out-of-their-patriotic-minds the folks of the Massachusetts town where I grew up got in their 4th of July frenzy in 1976. But I tell you, that parade, the first I ever walked in, seemed very much larger than life.
It taught me, I suppose, that when you have too much gratitude to merely walk, too much appreciation to strut, and too much celebration to dance, well, you must parade.
In 1995 I went to Mardi Gras for the first time. I went with a small group of friends who were more the “regular guy” type. What I THOUGHT we were about to participate in was a reverie of fantastical costumes and camp; showgirl-esque, dragtastic, fun… What I found was quite different altogether.
Imagine a narrow brick street closed in by rows of buildings on both sides. Turn loose several thousand sex-starved bulls, raging and snorting, ready to mount anything that moos. Fuel them with copious amounts of alcohol and engorge their testosterone with intense competition AND put about 50 scantily clad cows up on the balconies out of their reach. This. And the odious wreckage of garbage. And the exquisite unique filth of urine and vomit and spilled beer... This is the Bourbon Street experience, and this is what I fled.
In a depressed slump I lumbered downtrodden along a side street many blocks from the party. In an uncanny stroke of luck, I ran into an old Detroit friend from the punk scene. He had four words that were to change my life forever.
“Do you like parades?”
He then took me to the area of town where all the locals went to hide from the frat-boy mayhem. They were organizing a parade. To my best estimate it was over a hundred people; some in costume, some with signs, many with musical instruments, and all ready to go. No permits or permission was requested. No reasons given. But away we went.
The drummers drummed on drums, but also on any bystanding object we passed by. We sung and yelled and twirled and danced our way through New Orleans. Up and down and round again. When the parade reached it’s starting point, we had a drumming dance party in the street for hours and hours. And within the mayhem I was held tight in the heartbeat of the world.
I have walked in many parades since then, most of which were not my own; organized by this municipality or that. Sometimes I was on stilts, sometimes on fire, sometimes making bubbles…
But I knew I needed, and therefore there were others who also needed, something more. Something pure. So I put out the word to the friends and performers and cirkus-folk I knew. We were to have Greenville’s first “Freak Parade”.
You can just imagine it, can’t you? Thirty or so wild-eyed weirdos, all dressed in feathers and glitter, bright colors and funny hats. We had stilt-walkers and baton-twirlers, clowny-types and cutie-patooties. We marched and cheered and sung our way down Main Street and back up again. We got looks of delight, stares of confusion, and scowls of disgust; all of which I expected and all of which could be understood. What I didn’t expect was that there were people who simply didn’t see us at all. They walked past with locked expressions and no reaction whatsoever. It was as though we were from a different reality altogether and outside their perception. It was chilling.
The confused people were the most amusing. Some thought we were selling something, others thought maybe we were working for someone. “Why are you doing this?”, they shouted.
There’s a line I love from the 1953 film “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando. He’s part of a motorcycle gang called the BMRC; the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. His character Johnny is asked about it by a girl in the diner.
Mildred: “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Johnny: “Whadda ya got?”
“Why are you doing this?”, they asked.
“We’re celebrating!”, I shouted back.
“Celebrating what?”, they called.
“Whadda ya got?”
The time will come when we can dance these streets again, and when we do, I hope you will join me. There is much to be thankful for. Until then know that there’s a parade growing in my heart, growing by the day, and the soundtrack is 76 trombones.
yours as the crow flies,