Sunday, January 18, 2009

Parade Rest

The Town plow went by pushing the 12 to 14 inches of new snow off the road and into my driveway. I know he doesn't have a choice, but damn it's frustrating when he does it while I am standing there at the end of the drive enjoying the fruits of my own snow removal. A plow moving through fluffy snow at 20,25 mph can really toss it back. Like a pedestrian hanging curbside when a taxi runs through the nasty puddle, I had to kind of move quick to get out of the way. He did lighten up some so I did not get the full shot. And since the snow blower was right there still running, I quickly cleaned up both ends of my drive before putting it in the garage to drip dry over the dry well.

In the meantime while I survive another day in Eden, the Sanford High School Marching Band from our closest high school is probably now doing some cool thing in Washington DC. They were one band of many to be chosen to march in the Inaugural Parade. They left yesterday morning in two buses and landed in DC about 7:00 or 8:00 PM. With them exiting the bus were probably some very haggard adult chaperons thanking God they had arrived. If there is a true torture chamber found anywhere in this country, it is on a long bus ride with teenagers, or worse possibly, pre-teens.

So these Maine kids are about to participate in one of the most talked about and historic inaugurations our country has ever had. Many of them I am sure have never been much further than Boston or maybe Canada to visit Mamay or Pepe. A visit to the Nation's Capitol will leave an impression by itself, never mind the event they are going to be part of.

Typically a poor school syndrome played itself out. No money in the town coffers to send them, so they hung outside of local eateries, stores and on corners asking for nickels and dimes so they could pay for their trip. They had three weeks to pull it off and somehow they did it. A trip like that has to be damn expensive, what with the two buses, meals, lodging, etc. I tossed more than a few quarters and even some folding money their way. And I am a tight SOB.

I used to march in parades. I was a member of that elite force, The Charlotte Hall Military School Drill team. We would hit four or five a year hoping to bring back yet another piece of brass for the school display case. Sometimes we did, sometimes we did not. But I will say I learned to hate parades. A lot of waiting around to start, then waiting around on the streets in formation at either "ten hut" or parade rest. Either one sucked if you were in it for more than fifteen minutes. The actual marching was okay. Once you started moving, you knew it would be over fairly soon. Most routes were a mile or less.

Many of the wimpy schools followed the lead of the US Military and used special "parade rifles". Looked like rifles but were just empty wannabe rifles. Weighed about 1/2 the weight of a regular M1 rifle. We used the real thing. the rifles each of us had been issued when we came to the school. The same rifles we shot at targets, we marched with. Those suckers were damn heavy. But once you get the center of gravity down, they spin and twirl almost as well as the fake rifles.

I may have already mentioned my afternoon in Baltimore with the homeless wino woman after a parade in Charm City. We had been given 4 hours of R & R after the parade to wander the streets and see what trouble we could get into.

Most of the cadets went looking for likker or women. Some for both. Horny high school kids who had not had been off campus in a long time. I went my own way that day. Just started to walk around. Spotted this raggedly old black woman coming out of some cheesy rundown bodega near Fells Point and asked her if she would buy me some booze. Sure she would as long as I would buy her some too. So I gave her a ten spot and she disappeared back into the bodega. I had ordered a pint of whisky. Instead she came out with 3 quarts of Mad Dog 20/20.

I think I was just shy of my 16th birthday then. And even though I was sure I was hip and all, I had never heard of Mad Dog 20/20. It was wine fortified with extra alcohol. Sweet and disgusting, it went down easier the more you drank of it. I was going to give her some shit, but well she did bring me some alcohol. No since wasting it.

I forget her name, but lets call her Ellie. Why? Hell I don't know, it just popped into my head. So Ellie grabs my arm and leads me up some street that ran along the city canals that were right next to the Inner Harbor. Streets running parallel on both sides with huge decaying concrete barricades keeping the cars from taking a swim. Half way up the block she climbed up on the barricade and told me to follow. On the other side was just enough room to sit with our backs to the wall and our feet dangling over the water.

Ellie cracked open the first bottle. She took a huge swig and then handed me the bottle. "You don mind sharing a bottle with a ragged ole nigger woman does ya?" Uh, well, I had never had the pleasure nor had I ever considered it, but I took the bottle and took as much as I could handle and handed it back to her. "Sure I can", I said while my stomach did flip flops and I wondered if I was going to heave. That was my first taste of MD 20/20 and my taste buds were caught with their pants down. I had never tasted sweet wine before. My mom would not serve it.

Ellie and I sat there for a couple of hours anyway. Looking at the water, talking, and catching a serious wine buzz. She told me of lovers, husbands, jail, and some regrets. She lost a child in childbirth long ago and could never have any more. She went to jail for living with the wrong man doing the wrong thing. She thought she was 75 or 76. She wasn't sure because, they had no written record of her birth down in South Carolina where she had been born. Born poor, lived poor, and I would imagine that if she was homeless at 74 or 75, she died poor.

While the other guys were getting into trouble at bars that did not card or catching something they would regret from one of the whores near The Block, I stayed out of trouble having a great afternoon listening to an old homeless woman I am sure no one had listened to in a long time. I got my buzz but I also learned some valuable things about people. Everyone is interesting if you give them half a chance.

I never saw Ellie again, but she had her impact on me. She could have been bitter. Maybe she should have been bitter. But she was not. She considered life something that happened and crying about it only made it harder. Ellie had some serious backbone.


Gary ("Old Dude") said...

oooooooooh you sure do talk pretty----your posts are always good reading.

Demeur said...

Again you bring back some memories. Similar situations slightly different places at about the same time. Did you guys do the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC during the spring? We sent our band and color guard. We lugged German M 98s that the army must have aquired in WWII.

Dawn on MDI said...

That was absolutely magnificent. Marvelous post! Great storytelling.

laughingatchaos said...

I envy those band students. I went to George I's inauguration, but we didn't march in the parade, just played festivals. Can't believe that's been 20 years.