I know what I saw on December 4th in Richmond, Virginia, from a Broad Street median near the Shafer intersection between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 Noon. For the Elmore Five, this year’s Christmas Parade sponsored by Dominion was the eagerly-awaited sequel to our first Richmond parade – last year’s version sponsored by Ukrop’s. With literary aplomb, the 2009 parade witnessed an appearance of the proverbial: it rained…on the parade. And given the coming metaphorical twist of fate for Ukrop’s – in 2010 the family-owned supermarket sold itself to a Dutch conglomerate with an evident poor taste for type fonts, and our groceries became the bagging province of homo sapiens wearing Martian-green polo shirts – apparently more rain was in the forecast.
Nonetheless my lingering memories from the 2009 parade include: telling our three children that a little rain never hurt anyone; standing in the Broad Street median, across from Lowe’s, fighting the chilly, slanting rains and the whiny, murmuring children as it dawned on me that what I had preached to them was bona-fide crap; watching my youngest son (then 3) shake hands with one of his intergalactic role models, Darth Vader; arguing with my oldest son (then 7) about the merits of parade-viewing in the rain (We’ve chosen to do this as a family; it’s fun!; now smile and enjoy it or your Christmas will disappear.); and, of course, laying down the cash for overpriced hot chocolate drinks in a time of recession.
At least the sun didn’t act so scared this year as the first weekend in December rolled around. So with the family in tow once again, my eyes beheld what must be described as yet another glimpse into vintage human cultural spectacle, situated in the city I love. Another parade issued forth – and with it, all manner of things that march in a line in one general direction and/or wave.
When What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear
10. To whoever designed the Santa Claus balloon without a body, frankly you startled my children. They were desperately curious about where Santa's other parts might have gone (not to mention what happens when he eats the cookies). But you have to hand it to the Santa Head: going body-less, these days, is a great way to fly – especially when it comes time for the inevitable TSA pat-down.
9. Forget about whether or not Shockoe Bottom should become a city-sanctioned entertainment district. I’d support any promoter who could guarantee a weekly performance of elderly gentlemen sporting thick mustaches, donning red fez and speeding around in mini-cars like they’re part of some special society that’s ambivalent on the question of secrecy. It’s sugary sweet icing on the cake when one of the mini-cars is being towed by a rope.
8. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think there was a distinct difference in the hand-waving of the cheerleaders in the Richmond Raiders Walking Unit and the hand-waving of those people on top of the Goodwill Baptist AWANA float.
7. I loved the fact that the Navy Seal Physical Training Unit wasn’t content to walk the parade route and make courtesy greetings with their hands. Instead they featured an exhilarating mad-dash foot race between several of their fine representatives. Still, my personal preference would’ve been to see developer Justin French re-dramatizing his dash from Virginia State Police.
6. If James Lipton of Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio had spent even five minutes with the Narnia characters riding atop the Regal Virginia Center Cinemas 20 float, I’m quite sure we’d all be considerably more interested in the movie.
5. Has Nutzy been hitting the acorns rather hard this autumn? Just saying. The Flying Squirrels mascot, who ambled alongside their float and generally mixed it up well with the public, seemed a bit more on the jolly side of the scale, if you know what I mean. Either that, or the organization went and changed the mascot’s body type. To quote Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” – body type.
4. A Gingerbread Man balloon is nice and safe. But who among us seasoned voyeurs wouldn’t want to see a live fox released, at the mayor’s command, to attack the balloon and gobble it up in front of the children – and with it, a couple of children, Brothers Grimm-style?
3. Breaking News: WikiLeaks is releasing an archive of cables featuring the classified communication between high school marching band directors on the subject of each others’ performances at the parade. Nothing will ever be the same.
2. Watching a young baton twirler (apparently she was injured) limp off Broad Street, and with considerable assistance, like a gritty running back hobbling to the sidelines after getting nicked up in the fray – now that’s Christmas. Not really, but it was sketch-worthy humor. It shouldn’t be; you know you’re not supposed to laugh; you know you’re older now and more mature. But there are too many questions.
1. Finally, a four-alarm tragedy that I missed in person – until the Internet was kind enough to show it to me via YouTube. How is an inflatable, full-bodied Rudolph balloon passing under the street light at Broad and Meadow only to get punctured violently in the noggin by the street light's pole to the holiday dismay/amusement of gaping onlookers not the symbolic showpiece of a very Richmond parade? It’s a Christmas non-miracle!