I Love a Parade!

I wasn't sure that I was going to head over to Minneapolis for the Mayday Parade on Sunday. With finals week coming up, I'm not getting any real sleep for a while, and the responsible thing to do would have been to lock myself into a library somewhere.

But then the funniest thing happened...

I opened up the front door on Sunday and stepped outside, and ... Well... (I don't know quite how to put it)... the rays of the sun warmed me.

It was so weird! I was standing there, and as per usual the sun was shining and everything it had been kinda wet and clammy and I had my sweatshirt and wool hat on and everything, but something was different. I felt this warming sensation on my skin, kind of like in an oven, and it was coming from somewhere high overhead.

To be frank, at first I didn't know what to do. I took off my winter wear and shielded my eyes from the harsh rays as I stood there for I don't know how long, blinking and warm, trying to figure out what to do with myself and all my wool sweaters.

Somehow (I don't know how!) the sun's rays were warming me, and it could only be a sign! I had to go to the Mayday Parade.

[This is how sidewalks were meant to be... Completely crammed with people and everyone outside.]

Parades are an awesome use of sidewalks, and the Mayday Parade particularly so. People crowd the streets and line up in giant groups, leaving a little narrow people-alley for you to walk down should you so desire. People and more people and families and people of all ages cluster together and form ranks along streets filled, not with cars, but with people walking and running and dancing and playing music as they walk through the street a-smilin'. Songs and puppets and all sorts of things happen, and for a brief hour or two the streets of the city transform into a giant party. It's absolutely fabulous.

And the Mayday parade takes all the normal things that are good about parades -- their diveristy, chaos, and glee -- and amplifies them to absurd proportions. There are totally wild puppets and butterflies on stilts and hordes of little children with tiny drums and everyone's outside at the same time while all sorts of political and ethnic groups -- Hare Krishnas(!) -- come walking by all leisurely and strolling. The music is wonderful, and it's a completely unoppressive, equal-opportunity parade where you can enjoy as much or as little of its message and mythology as you like. It really is a parade for everyone, and an amazing example of inclusive social formation.

So, it's always nice to go down to see it.

[There's a totally complicated mythology to each Mayday parade, with bridges and animals and metamorphoseses and politics and materiality... each year it's kinda the same but each year its quite different. This one had windmills and a giant mushroom-puppet-face-head and butterflies and "bridges".]

But what I really love about parades is something alltogether different. I used to live on Saint Paul's Grand Avenue, and I remember waking up one Saturday morning in the early summer kind of hung over. I stumbled downstairs in my pajamas, because this strange noise had trickled through my bedroom window. I came downtstairs rubbing my eyes, and looked out the front porch to find a parade going past my house. It was the Grand Old Day parade, and there was a clown at my front stoop!

So, I grabbed a coffee and watched as the world walked past my doorstep, completely unexpectedly, and I had the rare pleasure of booing Norm Coleman in my pajamas from the comfort of my front lawn.

My favorite thing about parades is when you come across one unexpectedly. I love the people who don't know what is going on, and are going about their everyday life when all of a sudden thousands of people descend on a street and all of a sudden -BAM!- there are clowns and a marching band. I love to watch the look on people's faces as it slowly dawns on them: there's a parade, and they're not going anywhere for a while, and maybe they should relax and enjoy it.

A good parade magically transforms a street from simply way to get from Point A to Point B into a place for public performance and hanging out... Parades are transformative, and maybe its a coincidence, but I am giving full credit to this year's Mayday parade for this whole sunshine / warmth thing that just fell down upon the Twin Cities like a bucket of pillowfeathers. Yay!

[After eight long months of winter, I didn't even know this many people lived in Minneapolis.]

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