Sunday was the Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Baltimore. It’s not a glitzy downtown parade, but a rag tag neighborhood parade lent credibility by propping the mayor in a cream-colored car and riding her down Falls Road ahead of the high school marching bands and people dressed like Elvis. That rag tag neighborhood is Hampden, an area of the city where you’ll find the pseudo-nostalgia of John Waters’ films, the remaining toothless descendants of early Applachian settlers, cruising teenagers pushing strollers, cute old church ladies, and greasy-haired twentysomethings suffering for their art.
So even though I lived only 2 blocks away from the parade route, I made sure we staked out our parade seats about 90 minutes too early–I wishfully imagined that this was going to be packed with a crowd of Macy’s Thanksgiving-sized proportions. It was not. And yet, sitting there in patio chairs, braving galeforce winds, and losing feeling in our toes long before Santa ever turned the bend, it was the only true way to do a parade. Call it parade-spirit. Besides, there were a few other nuts claiming up prime curb space too.
I had also imagined balloons, floats, and maybe a D-list celebrity appearance. Instead I got a lot of tough-looking high schoolers thrusting while marching with tubas, quite a few Santas hurling stale hard candy, and religious people in shepherd costumes handing out tracts. It was awesome, in a wonderful, crappy, old-timey-Christmas way. And in a weird Baltimore way. I mean, you know you’re watching a good parade when the weiner mobile goes by with a wreath on front.
Stay weird, Baltimore.
The parade got off to a slow start. After waiting a million years in the iciest of winds, we finally we heard a root-a-toot-tooting thing coming down the street. It was playing It’s A Small World. OK, not a Christmas song, but circus-y and weird, so….awesome. It was a truck hollowed out with an old-fashioned steam organ inside, playing the song. At this point, a larger crowd finally poured out to the street to see the parade. Everyone waited. It’s A Small World tooted off to the next street. Silence.
A bunch of motorcycle dudes rode by. A few people clapped. They whirred off to the next street. More silence.
Wait, were they even part of the parade or was that just some random motorcycle gang?
Twenty minutes passed. Finally, we heard drums in the distance. This was it. Oh, ho ho. The mayor drove by waving from atop a car. People stared curiously, as though viewing a giraffe at the zoo—there was nothing behind her, no parade. The parade she was leading appeared to have significant gapping issues. The mayor waved her way to the next street.
The real parade did finally catch up, and it did not stop for what felt like two hours. One of first things to ride by was 101.9 car, the Lite-FM station. That is when I am convinced that I witnessed the greatest moment of the entire parade, and in fact, in the history of well, ever.
101.9 has an evening program that plays love song dedications, hosted by Fran Lane, a woman whose voice is coated in lavendar and vanilla. The program has these sad-sacks call in and tell Fran about the person they’re thinking of tonight. She coos and promises to play them a special song, which is always Celine Dion.
Anyway, Fran Lane was in the car. Upon seeing Fran, a woman in the crowd screamed FRAN LANE FRAN LANE OMG WTF FRAN LANE! Alarmed, Fran Lane looked to the direction of the screaming.
The parade slowed. The fan continued to scream Fran’s name as she rushed the car containing Fran, about to accost her. I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN, FRAN LANE. This is of course happened in slow motion, as these things do.
Another disturbed moment in the parade occurred when a lady dressed as Superwoman came down the street. She filled in a gap between two displays. Oh look, here comes Superwoman a few people exclaimed. But as she came closer, something seemed off. She looked unwell, distraught. Some people clapped uneasily but it became clear she was talking to herself.
You gotta hand it to her, she woke up that morning, put on a pretty nice Superwoman costume, found a space in the parade, and marched the freaking entire route, telling people to shut the fuck up as she went. Some days I’d like to do just this myself.
Stevie Wonder sang, “Mary wants to be a superwoman…”
Other oddball moments from the parade were Doc from Back to the Future, and a dog in a hat on a magic carpet go-kart. I love dogs in hats riding magic carpet go-karts. It’s a thing.
I like horses wearing hats as well.