So. I went to the Rose Parade January 1st and nothing else. All times are approximate; I may have vastly misjudged when these things actually went by.
6:00 AM. Boy, I'm glad that it's 9 AM to my internal clock, or I'd be horribly cranky.
7:45 AM. We reach the parade route and start to stroll along it. It's mobbed with people, as you might expect, but the prevalence of heavy jackets, blankets, and finally sleeping bags reveals the horrible truth: the people camped out along the road, the ones in the good seats, have been here all night. And unless my conception of the Pasadena area's demographics is wrong, the vast majority of them are inexplicably Hispanic.
7:52 AM. So you're walking down this parade route in front of people who have been dourly camped out waiting for something to watch for hours, possibly days. They watch you, and if they're USC fans they shout something like "WOOOO USC" and since it's really early in the morning and you feel silly because you thought California was much warmer at 6AM and you've spent the first hour of your day trudging from Rose Bowl to Rose Parade, your mood is black black black. The prospect of doing all this to sit down and watch a parade conjures up memories of boredoms past and generally ruins your day.
8:00 AM. People are turning and pointing and looking. I ignore the pointing and looking for a while -- I've seen parades and know how fast they travel, the chances we're being overtaken by it are zero -- until I begin to fear something coming up behind me. I turn and look where the pointing indicates.
Holy crap! It's a Stealth bomber flanked by what my brother says are new F-something Raptors. They fly over, and though military flyovers are sort of creepy indoctrination, they're also just plain badass. I feel much better. San Dimas Miltary Industrial Complex RULES!
8:10 AM. I forget that I'm wearing my Zoltan For Space Emperor Shirt, which makes the quizzical looks from cops unsettling, until a few Michigan fans along the route scream "ZOLTAN!" and give the Z signal. Ohhhhhh. That's why. We reach seats -- only 40 dollars -- and sit.
8:30 AM. Finally, parade. First up are motorcycle tricks from a set of policemen. Since it is mildly interesting, it vastly outstrips my expectations from moment one.
8:32 AM. Float. Very tall. Mother Nature. Woo.
8:33 AM. Horses.
8:36 AM. More float. Butterflies or something. I have quickly come to the conclusion that the Rose Parade isn't all bad, but I can never really love it as long as the yearly themes are things like "Our Good Nature," which spurs an incredible array of boring hummingbirds. (Some floatmakers ignore the theme: dragons and dinosaurs may technically be classified as animals, but don't really get across the intricate wonders of the natural world like a hummingbird evidently does, especially when the dinosaurs are in a rock band.) I spend much of the downtime in the next two hours thinking up kickass parade themes like "Cartoons of the 80s" and "Mythological Disembowelments." Or you can combine the two and feature things like Brainy Smurf removing Prometheus' liver over and over again.
8:40 AM. Llamas! Official Brother of MGoBlog is excited!
More floats with hummingbirds. Floats are either sponsored by corporations or various local cities. There's a vaguely parade-affiliated man with a megaphone who's exhorting us to shout "happy new year" at various personages as they roll (or horse) past us; we find him deeply irritating after a while. He's a card with all of the creaky borscht belt connotations of the term.
8:43 AM. Horses. There's a guy with a lasso that becomes very large, so that's cool.
8:45 AM. Band from Wisconsin rolls by playing something unmistakably from the Ohio State University catalog. The end of it has that little thing that goes O-HI-O. I make a mental note: "kill state of Wisconsin."
8:50 AM. Horses. They're drawing Wells-Fargo carriages; as they roll past us someone nearby exclaims "hey, that's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!" And it is, by god! Kareem is lounging on one of the Wells-Fargo carriages, being seven feet tall. I'm astounded. This seems a horrible misallocation of celebrity. Where is the 50-foot float of Kareem dunking a rose? Where is the adulation for parade aficionado Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Why has he been stuck on some random stagecoach and why have we not been alerted to his presence except for the efforts of one particularly eagle-eyed parade-goer?
9:15 AM. Song Girls. Hot. Mental process:
- Song Girls. Hot.
- Not a fair comparison with Michigan cheerleaders since Song Girls don't actually do anything except dance around and be hot. Cheerleaders have to do stunts and flips and stuff, which naturally narrows the pool. A fairer comparison is to the Michigan dance team.
- Song Girls. Hot.
- The Song Girls still win by a huge margin.
- Song Girls. Hot.
- ...but the presence of a superhot babe elite probably has few practical applications for anyone who's not A) rich or B) Matt Leinart or equivalent. They're just there to taunt you with their hotness.
- Song Girls. Hot.
- I'm sure one of them would find a piquant sarcasm just charming.
- Song Girls. Hot.
- The best way to make an introduction is to charge wildly from the stands, leap onto the float, and tackle one pelvis-first. Here we go!
- Song Girls. Hot.
- Dammit, I shouldn't have spent so much time thinking "Song Girls, Hot." I've missed my chance.
Aforementioned dinosaur float. They do indeed play The Rock Music. This is the best point to discuss the other strange Michigan fans from SEC country sitting directly behind us. One is a middle-aged woman of the sort that reads the banners as they go by, repeating everything she finds funny -- and she finds everything funny -- before deploying her unintelligent-sounding laugh.
So. She reads the banner: "humor trophy." The dinosaurs clear the building to our left and pop into view. She acknowledges the input of her eyes: "they're dinosaurs in a band." She laughs.
10:30 AM. Horses.
10:35 AM. Stormtroopers!
Except they kind of suck. They're Stormtroopers all right, and there are Empire guys blowing whistles and trying to be all task-mastery at the guys in suits who haven't left their basement since Episode III came out, but
- the marching ability of the typical Star Wars nerd hovers near zero
- they don't even have guns, let alone the ability to do sweet marine-style drills with them,
- there should not be a bank of them carrying flags from US states and various countries, and
- look... when you put a certain kind of person in a certain kind of suit and ask them to walk a lot more than they're used to, the result can only be described as a waddle.
10:38 AM. Grambling State's band is up next. I cringe, anticipating more Horrible Racism from the nice enough guy to my right, but their twirler vanguard is... um... green.
So by the time it's clear that these are Not White People, the band is upon us. And no comments are made.
10:40 AM. Horses... except awesome ones. They're miniature. These are the sorts of horses I can get behind, especially when the Rose Bowl website reveals that they're called the "Petite Elite Miniature Horse Precision Drill Team," which is the best name for anything ever.
10:48 AM. There is a float with dragons.
It's fairly cool -- the dragons are animated and sort of goggle at each other -- until it stops dead in front of us. A hatch leaps open, emitting a panicked float technician who runs around to the back of the thing to fiddle with intricate float technologies for a while. Then he runs around, closes the hatch, and the float trundles off to scattered, possibly sarcastic applause.
10:51 AM. Horses. I don't get it. This parade is about 20% too long and the 20% consists entirely of horses. (We would like to stress that this 20% does NOT encompass either the Petite Elite Miniature Horse Drill Teams or llamas, which are welcome in any parade anywhere.) All they do is poop and remind me of Sarah Jessica Parker. The latter is unwelcome and the entertainment provided by the former is base. Down with horses.
10:54 AM. There is a Mexico-themed band with a flag and dancing girls and hats. The crowd goes NUTS.
11:00 AM. Boring float section. Dogs promoting various local pissant universities. A mobile Christmas tree shop. THE FLOAT OF SPACE. A float I mentally file under "Mass Hysteria":
11:15 PM. During the period of black hatred of all things, I mentally wrote this paragraph:
"Please, please, please be a high school band! YESSSSSSSSSSS!" It was! They marched! Then I thought "OMG, it would be the best of they played Stars And Stripes Forever just like the rest of the high school bands!!!" Then... then! Then. Then... through the discordant blorping and tweeting came a melody faintly reminiscent of Sousa. It was! It was Stars and Stripes forever! My mind dissolved in an explosion of ecstasy. Downed by a paroxysm of glee, I collapsed to the ground, twitching in the wonder of it all. Thank you, high school band. Thank you, John Phillips Sousa. Thank you, Rose Parade....so when a high school band actually finished blorping out "Stars And Stripes Forever" just as it reached us, I had a moment of ironic pleasure that didn't quite cause a twitching seizure but was nice nonetheless.
11:30 AM. Parade over. Enter the Jesus freak. I wonder if they tour around, looking for people to troll in various areas of the country. In the littered aftermath, it's clear that my imagination did not lead me astray in re: Hispanics. Discarded tortillas line the route next to "Ugly Betty" -- a show based on "La Fea Mas Bella," for anyone who caught a lot of Univision commercials during the World Cup, and heavily marketed to Hispanics -- masks that exhort the wearer to BE TRUE TO YOURSELF in 2007. I note an odd thing: businesses along the route have boarded their windows. Local ordinance? No. As we reach the hoity-toity ticketed area around the TV cameras, a Hispanic-free zone, the boarding abruptly stops. The overall impression left is one of panicked Pasadena businessmen fearing that parade-mad Latinos will riot and loot them from house and home at the first hint of a rose, funny and sad all at once.