In just exactly the same way that some days a city can be a Holden Caulfield playground and others a full-on Nathanael Westian Day of the Locust, the canyon is sometimes Anne Shirley’s Avonlea and sometimes something a bit more Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery." Fourth of July, for instance, skews Shirley Jackson.
Yes, yes, this probably says more about me than about the actual goings-on, which include a parade organized by a shadowy cohort calling itself the Parade Committee. Shadowy is no exaggeration -- no one knows its exact composition, and yet it wields such power. See, the perspicacity of apostasy.
The committee puts forth a “grand marshal” of unclear achievement other than residency, who rides on the back of an open convertible as per unwritten Parade Law. But the amenable folks with the cool 1966 Mustang convertible moved away . . . wonder what the committee will find instead. Like thousands of other Fourth of July parades, this one is comprised of children and pets, equestrians and equines of various sizes and colors, cub scouts, Brownies, the local unicycle-riding family, an antique and some modern fire trucks, the latter staffed by jovial firemen spraying the spectators with fire hoses and throwing candy to children. It winds up down at the elementary school, where the fire trucks put themselves on display, hot dogs and drinks are for sale, parade awards bestowed, and an inexorable, benighted death march of a raffle excruciates, whose tickets were sold by the more committed members of the local women’s club trolling early-assembled parade spectators, and whose prizes are SO not worth standing around on the schoolyard tarmac in 100 degree heat it is not even funny.
The hot dogs are perhaps the scariest thing. Bought in bulk unknown years prior, stored in the temperature vicissitudes of sundry home freezers, on the day they are not-quite-heated on borrowed gas grills, installed in industrial buns, individually wrapped in foil, and then stacked in a cardboard box. The earliest barely-heateders of course start at the bottom of the box, and there they remain, last-inners stacked atop, all of ‘em certainly quickly attaining and holding a perfect HACCP Danger Zone temp. There has been a little grumbling about improving the fundraising food, if not its safe delivery, now and again, dunno whether it’s been attempted.
Several years ago, caught up in the throes of I don’t know what, we were actually IN the parade. We borrowed a friend’s groovy Audi convertible and affixed beautiful banners identifying Ivan as HONORARY GRAND MARSHAL, and Ivan, resplendent in violet Irish linen jacket, pale orchid shirt, paisley silk tie, and Ray-Ban aviator shades, waved and saluted with grave enthusiasm, and at the (many) stops got out and gave flowers to ladies in lawn chairs along the short parade route. I drove, and blasted “Secret Agent Man” and “Agent OO Soul” as appropriate, or, constantly.
The firemen from the local station, undeniably hunky but unfortunately still living in Mustache Nation, who traditionally judge all such neighborhood competitions, awarded us first place in our category! Said category: General. We were the sole entry. There were whispers that we shouldn’t have gotten a trophy even so. The vagaries of guerrilla theater, eh? Ivan has an idea percolating for another entry, three guys in dirty torn t-shirts and do-rags, one behind the wheel and two pushing a broken-down car accented with plenty of primer, no motor but its stereo playing “Sweet Home Alabama” (his choice; facile, I think) or “Green Grass and High Tides” (mine; I actually like this song.) So far the necessary throes elude us.
Our Fourth of July habit now is to flee. We plan for later grilling, but leave for the day, before the road becomes impassable, have a meal, see a movie, preferably something on the theme of cold. One year March of the Penguins was perfect, for instance. I understand there is another penguin movie out just now; that might suffice. We somehow skipped the penguin movie between this one and that one, I note. Ratatouille is a strong contender, too. By the time we return, the steaming asphalt at the school is empty, and at home we grill and drink cold things, and hear from neighbors stopping by for a drinkie or a bite what we missed. Only, we already know.
Priscilla writes from a Southern California canyon with the predictable attendant population of militant environmentalists, amateur naturalists, itinerant notaries, entrepreneurial winemakers, and llama farmers.