Thursday, November 1, 2018

Anyone Can Spectate

If it turns out to be the last, it was a fine sendoff.

My default All Hallows' Eve plan for over a decade now has been All the Saints' Halloween parade and with rumors flying that this, the thirteenth, might well be the last for organizer Lilly, the urgency to be part of it was even stronger. Like every year, there was a funereal theme - funeral march for the patriarchy - but also an exultant one - a celebration of the divine feminine.

Don't even think about trying to stop me from being part of that tribute given how highly I think of my gender. Especially after a couple of glasses of Mont Gravet Rose. Gloriously warm weather didn't hurt, either.

Mac was back for her third year and Mr. Wright had signed on to have his Halloween parade cherry popped, so I made sure we were in Monroe Park by 6:30 so we could have first crack at choosing signs to carry. Once upon a time, aka the first few years of the parade, I dutifully carried one of the enormous puppets or banners, but I have since moved on to a more manageable sign and since I'm smart enough to show up early, I have that option.

Naturally, I've taught my acolytes to do the same.

Almost immediately, organizer Lilly wrapped me in her arms in a bear hug and thanked me for being there. "You came!" she laughed. Of course I did.

I was greeted by Jameson and Laney of Lobo Marino, both of whom were acting as parade marshals, telling people what was happening and encouraging them to participate. Laney roamed the side of the line of people, calling out, "Who wants to carry a puppet or banner? This parade is not a spectator sport!"

As one who has walked it shivering in frigid temperatures, perspired non-stop on humid, sweaty nights and everything in between, I can assure you that watching the parade is not the way to experience it. No, to fully embrace the spirit of the thing, you need to be part of the line of humanity - estimates were 2,000 participants last year and that's without spectators - that marches through Oregon Hill to cheers and people snapping photographs and videos from all sides.

Lilly walked by with a costumed mummy in tow, asking if anyone had seen the Zombie String Band, which we had, because they'd just walked by, blood dripping down their dead faces. Several of us indicated that they'd gone that-a-way and the mummy was whisked away.

Waiting for things to get started, a long-time museum friend sporting a snail head caught sight of me and ran over to chat. "Be careful I don't slime you!" she laughed, hugging me. "But lots of people will want to slime you. Be discerning!"

If Mr. Wright hadn't already been in place with Mac just ahead of the Trans Remembrance puppets in front of me, I'd have introduced her so she would stop worrying about me being approached by slimeballs.

Instead, I helped Jameson by handing him his elaborate, fringed mask, drum and drumsticks after he mounted a gigantic puppet on his shoulders and could no longer bend over. Gradually, the rest of the drums laying on the ground were claimed by others and I soon found myself positioned just ahead of what one drummer referred to as "Kind of like my high school drum line."

Jameson quickly amended that with, "A really strange drum line."

The black, coffin-shaped sign I chose read, "Here lies humanity: Death by patriarchy," and you'd better believe I not only held it high but, given my place in front of the drum line, also moved it in time to the beat, making for a parade essentially dancing the whole way.

When the parade cleared Monroe Park and turned on to Laurel Street, we were hit with a gusty wind blowing up from the river that about took down some of the biggest banners and puppets with its force. When what you're carrying is 12' tall, it essentially becomes a sail when the wind starts gusting. But people held on and righted their puppets so they could keep going and the wind settled down.

I have to admit, much as I love being part of the Halloween parade, I've never adjusted to the onslaught of picture taking, so I manage by holding my sign in front of my face and dancing it side to side to avoid eye contact with the cheering masses. It's a way of creating my own little world while surrounded by strangers, a stilt-walker and drunk people.

But because I'm not maintaining sight lines beyond the feet of the Trans Remembrance carriers in front of me so I don't step on their heels, I was occasionally jolted by a roller skating ghoul doing figure eights in my vicinity. Talk about an adrenaline rush, try having someone suddenly zip past you and your sign with no warning.

After the U-turn at the overlook on the river, we made our way back up Pine Street as I jumped ahead and joined Mac and Mr. Wright to see how they were holding up. You don't bring people to the parade and not make sure they're representing you well. Fortunately, they were.

It will be a shame if Lilly bows out of the parade after 13 years, although I certainly understand wanting to cede all that work making puppets, banners and signs and organizing thousands of people to someone new. If you ask me, her spark leading the parade - along with No BS Brass Band - is the heart and soul of Halloween in Richmond.

When we finally got to the lot where the parade ends, the three of us leaned on our signs to listen to No BS play some covers under the moonlight as those marching behind us continued to fill up the grassy lot.

If anything could be more satisfying than listening to "Thriller" played live on Halloween night followed by fireworks after walking my divine feminine self through Oregon Hill, it's not something I'm going to blog about.

And just for the record, the slime warning was unnecessary. No one messes with a dancing coffin.

No comments:

Post a Comment