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There’s really no way to check your fly when you’re standing on a parade float. Or rather, no good way. You’re illuminated by two floodlights; the eyes of the spectators are upon you with that searching, expectant look that says: am I supposed to know who this guy is? No? Oh, well, that’s good, then.

Tonight I was the Grand Marshall for the Holidazzle parade. It's an important job. Last week, the GM was the Governor of the State of Minnesota. Of course, next week it's Bullseye, the Target Dog. For those of us who are inbetween these stations in life, the job consists of riding a float down ten blocks, waving, and grinning like an idiot. But a sincere idiot. I truly enjoy this; it’s fun to be in a parade, and when people shout out nice things about your work – well, could it get any better? Sure: I brought Gnat.

That’s why I volunteered in the first place. The idea of being in a parade pleased her, but she didn’t quite grasp what it meant, since “parade” for four-year olds usually means marching around the room with seven other kids banging on wooden sticks. So when we showed up and she saw the floats, she was somewhat stunned. Milling around were a hundred extras in costumes – elves, nursery rhyme characters, pirates, oversized ornaments and bulbs, marching bands, nutcracker guys, the whole secular panoply of The Season, as it’s known. And standing on the streetcorner, shooting the breeze with an elf: SANTA! Whoa! This was like an all-access backstage pass to heaven, or something.

Santa gave her a big hug.

At 6:25 we got up on the float; she didn’t want to wear her gloves, which meant the Entire World would see what a bad parent I was. The music started up and the floodlights snapped on; the float jerked forward, the band headed down the mall, and we were off. Wave, smile, wave, wave, smiling, waving, wave, smile, thumbs up, wave, don’t forget the other side of the street, wave, wave up to the people in the skyway, smile, wave. “It’s Gnat!” someone shouted. Bless you, whoever you are. Hey! It’s the Giant Swedes and their kids! Extra wave! And there’s Mommy and Gnat’s best friend! This is the greatest world ever!

She waved for the entire route, nice little queenly waves. When we got to the center of the Nicollet Mall, the Dayton’s / IDS block, the place that always feels to me like the absolute heart of Minneapolis, I held her up in one arm and waved wildly with the other. Start raving happy.

The parade ened on the dark end of the mall; the lights go off and the music stops, and the elves stand down. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. We walked back to the Target HQ to find my wife & Gnat’s friend and her mom; the kids wanted to have hot chocolate and pizza and popcorn and candy canes and perhaps an emetic to bring it all back up before their gorges emptied of their own accord. I bade goodbye and walked back to the car, still floating. Got in the car, turned the key; the radio comes on. Hewitt show.

“How bad a driver do you have to be to back through your garage door? I don’t even know if it’s possible!”

And so on.


Drove home, listening to callers describe how they ran through their garage doors; it made me feel a little bit better. When I got home I hit the garage-door opener button before I remembered: duh. Right. I called the show, defended myself as best as I could, then walked the dog and settled into the evening routine. Exactly 90 minutes after the parade began, I was in my sweats with a Pale Ale.

Life is good.

Thursday at noon I’ll be signing “Interior” at the downtown Barnes and Noble; stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. I have a fundraiser in the evening, too – these two days are rather dense. Minimal bleatage for Friday, but you never know.

Anyway, here’s some footage, such as it is, shot from the Grand Marshall’s viewpoint; it looks like I’m being dragged through NeoTokyo by extras from Tron. And since I shot it in 16:9 Minneapolis looks thinner than it really is. No shots of Gnat waving, since I was too busy being the GM to film, and really: it would be rather crass to be up there filming it all instead of giving them something to film. But I think you’ll get the idea. I didn’t add the music: that was the fanfare we got every other block.

Imagine you’re four, and this is what you get to see.

Is it spoiling her? Don’t think so. I gave her a hug when it was all done and told her she was a great parade princess.

Oh dad I’m not a princess, she said. I’m just a kid!

Would I be hurt if the highlight of her night was having pizza and hot chocolate with her best friend? I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t.
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