Saturday, May 28, 2011

Marchin' Down State Street (Again)

Memorial Day Parade - borrowed from the Trib
Wish I had grabbed my camera before leaving the house this afternoon--the Memorial Day parade caught me by surprise, coming down State Street. I didn't even know Chicago had a Memorial Day parade; there are so many f-ing parades in this city (St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Gay Pride, Bud Billiken, et cetera) that even a certified parade-lover like me can't possibly keep tabs on all of them. And I do love parades. Even in this modern era of obnoxious corporatization, parades remain a highly entertaining form of human spectacle--outlandishly-costumed paraders strut symbolically down the main drag and engage in a whole spectrum of highly-charged behaviors, depending on the occasion; from the shirtless grinding of gay day's go-go boys to Shriners spinning circles in their mini-cars.

Today's parade was a type I rarely come into contact with--the military parade, probably one of the oldest activities known to man. There's a terrifying beauty to the military parade. It certainly has an intoxicating power--military parades played a huge part, for instance, in the growth of Nazism in the 1930s. Today's parade was interesting because it seemed to skew heavily toward ROTC and JROTC contingents--formations of nervous, pimply teenagers-in-uniform, almost of of them black and Latino, many of them girls, shouldering drill rifles and marching in lockstep. There was some oddly-funky drumming here and there, and chants ranging from the traditional sound-off to the whimsical I'm a Steamroller Baby (if you're ever bored, check out some military cadences--lyrically, they can be pretty brilliant and off-the-wall). But pomp and drumming aside, you realize that you're basically watching the next generation of baby-faced cannon-fodder pass by, and the parade takes on a melancholy hue, draped in a gauze of late-spring rain.

Travis from ONO was there, repping for AVER, the gay veteran's organization, and banging a big drum--and our new mayor, shaking hands at the ceremony for Gold Star Families. There was a 21-gun salute, which I'd never before witnessed and didn't realize was actually just seven guns, fired thrice, and an over-the-top rendition of America, the Beautiful sung by a honey-throated old veteran; and even, thank god, the requisite sprinkling of rain-or-shine protestors, handmade signs warning against US intervention in Libya. And so parade season begins in earnest, with weirder and more debaucherous processions on the horizon--see you in the streets!

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