Friday, July 23, 2010


A convoy of light blue cars, Cadillac in tone, glide through the streets. The drivers are impartial, blank-faced functionaries wearing dark black suits and plastic smiles. Seated on top of the back seats are older men and younger women, the men bald, the women with flowing blonde hair, middle-aged in texture, turning to gray even as this day bumps forward. Everyone is smiling the smile of the bored and the glum. Glumness is squeezed out of this forced joviality like toothpaste from a tube, bit by bit. Strutting beside the cars as they inch along the roads of the tow are dozens of gleeful, almost anorexic teenage girls, confident in their newfound, safe-for-consumption sluttiness, blonder by far than their mothers and aunts who sit in the cars beside them. Metal batons are twirled and caught. Then twirled. Then caught. Everything is repeated and nothing is forced. A natural, almost magnetic flow can be detected in the force field that surrounds this annual ritual, a shared understanding of roles and duties that binds and attracts as inwardly it repels and even disgusts. The high school marching band brings up the rear while its members watch the rears of the cheerleaders in front of them, thinking of what could poossibly arrive later on tonight, once the trumpets are shelved and the pom-poms are all arranged neatly in rows on the shelves of changing rooms that stink of sweat and farts and underarm deoderant smeared with human guck.

On the sidelines, the grown-ups take pictures while the children secretly wonder what this fuss is really all for. Does the brassy bold sound of the band's blatant boom, rising and falling with predictable oomph, make up for a day absent of games? Probably not. The older children's eyes, from age eight and up, stray from the scene and stare at the sky. Ice cream is eaten by overweight mothers who wish they were young. Their husbands stare at their families and wonder why the tushes of schoolgirls intrigue them so much.

The parade keeps moving on while all stand so still. Everyone expects a grand finale, a final push, an end to the march that will elevate their energies into something grander than middle-class pride. Instead the local furniture store has a float that breaks down with the burst of an overburdened tire. A boy and his sister sit on a couch and roll their eyes at their sudden misfortune. A punctured wheel has made them the sad spectacle of their friends and their foes. The rest of the parade can't help but move on, while they wait on a sofa, picking their noses and holding in burps, watching cotton candy sticks and half-eaten cones casually fall to the ground with heartbreaking splats.