One might think a parade is a simple thing, a trip from point A to point B. But, like our trip through life, there are delays and distractions along the way, without which it would not be as interesting.

I arrived in Manhattan bright and early on Saturday morning, with little information more than a street corner. The band leader for the main Italian band I play with from Brooklyn had called me during the week to see if I was available to play a gig for another band from New Jersey that we play with. Though I had a Memorial Day parade to play on Sunday with his former partner's band, as well as two more on Monday for the son of my late music teacher, my Saturday was clear and so I agreed. Idle threats of rain had resulted in a beautifully cool sunny day, and I enjoyed a twenty-plus block walk through the city. I found the Brooklyn band leader and his drummer son waiting on the corner, as various floats and other groups assembled nearby.

We conversed while waiting for the rest of the band to show up. The son told me that the sonogram revealed he was having another daughter. His fiancée had just given birth to their first daughter back in October, and his father clearly looked exhausted at the prospect of another mouth to feed. The son did tell me he had finally gotten his own computer, a laptop through which he was able to procure any songs he needed for his DJ business, so hopefully he'll be getting more work and be better prepared to support his own growing family.

As we waited, I began noticing some of the flags and costumes of the parade participants, which I at first mistook for Russian. But instead of a sickle and a star on red, it was the crescent moon and star of the Turkish flag. Apparently, I was at the Turkish day parade with an Italian band. As the morning wore on, more and more band members showed up, many asking after my father's health and sending him their regards. As he continues to regain his strength after the ordeal of his shoulder infection over the Winter, a parade in the city would have been too much for him, even if he just came down to watch. If he had come along for the ride, I would have had someone to hold my jacket and the bag I carry my instrument in, but I managed to combine the two and tuck them under my arm for the duration of the event.

At one point I noticed a strikingly beautiful young woman akin to a young Lynda Carter pulling along a small wheeled suitcase and looking around as though she was supposed to meet someone. In my mind, I walked up to her and led with “here I am”. In real life, I continued to observe through my mirrored sunglasses like the creepy little band geek I am. She made a call on her cell phone, and was soon joined by a couple. The boyfriend was pulling along another wheeled suitcase while the girlfriend wore a red dress with the moon and star symbol on the front and looked a lot like a comic book superhero. She handed Lynda Carter a small scrap of red cloth that was obviously another dress. Carter now looked around for somewhere to change, and in my mind she just spun around like Wonder Woman. She walked down the block and vanished into the crowd, and emerged an unusually short time later, her black shirt and blue jeans replaced with her Mary Marvel costume. It was going to be a good day.

By noon, we finally lined up on Madison Avenue, only to wait some more. A young lady with a notepad approached the Jersey band leader, and I overheard her telling him she was a casting director. She asked if his band would be available to appear in an upcoming movie starring an actress who spent ten years on a popular sitcom playing a waitress and the on-again off-again love interest of a dorky paleontologist before she moved on to a film career. On the off-chance that they actually use his band, and I'm one of the musicians he calls, and it's on a day when I'd be able to miss work, I probably shouldn't say too much as there would probably be some confidentiality agreements. So I won't even give a hint as to who the actress is, or wonder if I'd have a shot with someone Vince Vaughn had dated. I doubt any of it will actually happen, although the alleged casting director and her partner did take a picture of our group. I was definitely regretting the form fitting t-shirt of our uniform.

By 1 PM, we began one of the most disorganized parades I've ever been a part of. At first, we were right behind another band. Anyone with any experience in this area knows you always space out your bands with floats or groups of people so they're not playing over each other. At each corner, the police would stop us to empty floats and other groups out from the side streets. Initially, I had heard we were going to be one of the first groups in the parade, but as the afternoon wore on we ended up being practically last. The floats were filled with dancing girls and booming speakers. I couldn't translate any of the lyrics, but those songs will be in my brain for some time to come. The day felt less like marching in a parade and more like waiting in traffic, and on the rare occasions we did have some forward momentum and weren't too close to a deafening float, we managed to get in four or five songs. Our harshest critic was a possibly mentally challenged Bill Haverchuck-looking adult who ran out into the street and began yelling at our leader, “Left-Right Left-Right MARCHING band!” over and over again. The boss had a few beers in him by this point and just took it in stride and smiled until the guy ran back to the sidelines, almost knocking a baby out of a woman's hands along the way. Most Italian bands are strolling bands and not subject to the same rigid steps as fire department and military groups. The downbeats of the bass drum are also quicker and too close together to keep the left foot hitting the ground in step with it, lest we break into a run. Fortunately, we were close to the end of the parade and suddenly left the street for the sidewalk ourselves.

I thought it was an odd move, but other bands were on the sidewalk as well, leaving the floats to continue on their journey to some water front park. The Jersey band leader and some of the other musicians hopped in a cab to get back to wherever they'd parked, while I walked back to the train station with the Brooklyn band leader and his son. I remember getting on my train and handing the conductor my ticket, and then I woke up about three stations before my stop. My long and winding journey had ended, though there would be more journeys and more tales in my future...


Blogger Lorna said...

Your journey just replaced a TV show I was going to watch, and I didn't even care.

5/24/2009 11:18 PM  

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