For some inexplicable reason, parade marchers are always told to arrive between 7:30 and 8:30 A.M. I’ve done this three years in a row now, sliding in 8:30 A.M., 30 minutes before I assume the parade starts. Each year I forget what I learned the year before, that the parade does not start at 9 a.m. but at 10 A.M. So why are we all there so early?
This year, while waiting, I got to sit in a car with two other crones, both with the “Reverse Citizens United,” i.e., Corporations-Are-Not-People group, the group me, puppy Shadow, and my corporate flag, would end up walking behind, sandwiched in front of the local Raging Grannies group.
I almost didn’t come this year, because of threatened heavy thunderstorm. A lot of others felt the same way, I’m sure, and most of them stayed home, apparently, because the crowds were much lighter — during sunny days there are usually five or six deep along the entire parade route, both sides of the street, people parking their chairs hours before the event under the shadiest spots —
and the parade itself — which had 100 entrants signed up — had not nearly so many; afterwards, I realized that I had only heard one marching band; and I doubt any of the floats actually showed up. The Reverse Citizens United group couldn’t even bring their beloved “Octi” the Octopus, symbol of the hydra-headed corporatocracy, its tentacles carried in the parade by the members of the group. “Too risky,” Tami told me. They had watched upcoming weather for five days, wondering, and even at one point had loaded Octi into the pickup . . .
So there we were sitting, waiting, hanging out, laughing at how we all keep arriving early, talking with whoever happened by —
doors and windows open to the drizzle.
At some point I had to get out of the car, to find someone who would help me carry my corporate flag. Admittedly, the message on the flag is subtle, but even some people in the Reverse Citizens United group didn’t understand the point of replacing stars with corporate logos! But one woman, Danni, definitely did. And she volunteered both to stretch out the flag with me in the parade and to have her picture taken with it.
Finally, the parade got underway. Since we were far down the line, I got to run out and take pics of some of the first entrants.
What struck me as we parade marched (stopped and started, pooled, lurched, waited . . .) that mile and a half or so through downtown Bloomington was just how many small children and their parents and sometimes grandparents lined the streets, the kids all wanting to pet Shadow. I bet this small dog was caressed by at least 100 children! (He doesn’t exactly relish the attention. But he does stand there, politely.) After a while Danni and I remarked, at exactly the same moment, how each child might run up to pet him, or shyly sidle over, but then when he or she got there, that little hand would go out and oh so gently and tenderly pat him, stroke his back. Such subtlety, such a soft touch. Every single child. No exceptions. I’ve noticed this before, about small children with Shadow, but this was the first time I saw the phenomenon consistently repeated over a period of one and a half hours.
Could it be that underneath our crass culture’s addiction to the virtual “reality” of screens is a longing for the soft, tender touch? And that little children, who are less masked than adults, can more easily access that sweet place in themselves?
By the time we got going I was surprised at the number of people — beneath colorful umbrellas — who lined the streets, especially in the very center, Courthouse Square, on this bleak, rainy day. The weather never did produce the predicted thunder and lightning however, so we marched along cheerfully, all the way to the end. Once or twice in each block I would notice someone flash a thumbs-up, or clap, while looking directly at our flag.
One more note: before we left our assigned parking lot, I noticed a very interesting “float,” or rather contraption, a sort of Dr. Strangelove rocket ridden by a wildly dressed and bearded young man.
Looking closer, I saw the truck that pulled the float had a tiny sign, “Beanpole, the God of Pointless Behavior.” This group has marched in the parade for many many years, and is a sort of institution. Took several pictures,
including of folks who walked along with the contraption.
Puppy Shadow was unnerved by the yellow dog, wondered if it was real. Sure it’s real. Besides being pointless, it’s all real, right? So says a local article on this hilarious “religion,” from 2007.
The Church of Beanpole will be making its 12th annual appearance, this time playing tetherball with Uncle Sam, on Wednesday during Bloomington’s Fourth of July Parade.
The float is one of many scheduled to appear in this year’s parade, but has stuck out as one of the more noticeable since its first appearance.
Nathan Cambridge, Beanpole’s high priest, grew up in Bloomington and always enjoyed the Fourth of July Parade.
“I was inspired in the name of creativity and freedom to go ahead and start expressing that freedom on Independence Day,” he said.
And Beanpole was born. With a group of friends, Cambridge, an actor who splits his time between Bloomington and Pasadena, Calif., founded the organization with and around the God of Pointless Behavior.
“Whatever you’re doing, no matter what you’re doing, it’s just as good as anything else,” Cambridge said. “Everything is pointless, so why not use that to liberate yourself and enjoy the things you want?”
He said that people can look forward to odd and absurd appearances at the parades for years to come and eventually across the globe. Beanpolers have ventured from Bloomington to Seattle and even China and Turkey, taking their beliefs with them.
“We don’t have an agenda. We’re not trying to get elected to anything. We’re not trying to promote a business. We’re just trying to share with the community something a little different and something fun,” Cambridge said.