Parades seen in Oregon, from a funky Nola perspective

July 20th, 2014, 4am

It was 18.9°C with overcast. The breeze was light.

I realized an incontrovertible fact recently: by watching the civic parades of Portland that I will always be an irreverent spy from that mysterious, boisterous symbolic, Dionysian life of New Orleans, my humidity drenched most northern city of the Caribbean doing double duty as an outrageous outpost of the Barbary Coast where pirates, liberationists, poets, and the funky soldiers all fight for places that are on the verge of vanishing. I hereby propose to all y’all that you are welcome to join us, the far-flung citizens who stamp our passports proudly as The Diaphanous Republic at the Ends of the Earth, and that New Orleans be the Capitol.

We have ambassadors in several places, but no government. We hold no elections, but have a 100% voting record, because the Diaphanous Republic recognizes every creative and scientific act on behalf of this world, so ridden with a sinking feeling, as your vote for the validity of the future. There are no taxes, but yes indeed you sure have to learn what it means to pay your dues.

I know that our Diaphanous Republic has many citizens, even if before today you didn’t know that we formally existed, as we tend to linger in a sort of absurdist mirror image inside the meeting halls and bars where old lefties, like The Wobblies — always my favorite trade union, and working people (in New Orleans we call these Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs and I suggest we unionize along these definitions, if having a whale of a Time interests you) congregate, using these secret society meetings for drawing together the dreamers who do the improbable acts of kindness that secretly change the world; calling together writers, scribes who study Lost Causes & Heretics, painters & photographers who chase the speed of light as it settles into this fragile world in the blinking of an eye, musicians who know the ways to link up the jigsaw puzzle of music so whether it’s Saudade or The Blues, an opera or a Balinese gamelan orchestra, a string quartet playing music for quarks or a mandolin chasing that same speed of light in an old Bill Monroe bluegrass tune, we are the pirates and pioneers for tomorrow.

Scientists are warmly welcomed with an unreserved excitement for their discoveries and painstaking process. We especially encourage more children to enroll in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) studies but to also supplement their wonkiness with a balanced overview of fables, myths, legends, and overall good storytelling from the biodiversity of cultures so that the children are steeped in a shared strata of knowledge. Bugs Bunny is definitely an established part of the Diaphanous curriculum, and let it be said that we understand that nerds driven to achieve, sporting a good sense of humor, and always glad to dance, or to speak from the heart about whatever makes his/her heart wobble with passion are the hallmarks of our Diaphanous education. We believe that participating fully to create a delicate fabric where our dreams fold exactly like wings to guide our civil discourse, and kindness is the objective, drives the green fuse of our political engagement. Urgency is everything, but spelling and good grammar fearlessly executed are celebrated, yet no judgmental douchebaggery is permitted. We row together by starlight, or upon meridians of understanding that no matter how long it takes, we can make it happen.

I know this doesn’t seem to bear the slightest relationship to a small float of a pioneer wagon in an Oregon parade, but hear me out. I am aiming at keeping the word count below that of The Declaration of Independence…

The civic pride of the Oregon Rose Parade, especially the kids parade in my neighborhood, spoke to me of a nostalgia fueled by equal measures of tradition and hope that seems at either the heart, or the mirage, that is The American Dream. The big boom of a parade bass drum will always speak to my Second Line citizenship in the Diaphonous Republic. The kids, some very sick rolling in wheelchairs towards a moment that makes me cry, just a bit, and cue up “As a Time Goes By”— it all just blew me away with their tenderness, and their wackiness, like a unicycle formation of kids pedaling 40 strong and a Dr. Seuss walking club. I missed the scintillating, sarcastic, surreal floats of New Orleans, which refuse to draw upon corporate advertising to fund our Carnival delirium, and the interactive “throws” & beads that insistintly demonstrate we are all participants in this spectacle we call Life. This Portland Kids Parade is the single largest children’s parade in the world, as adults are only chaperones and organizers; every element of the marchers honors the children who are hitting the streets of Portland, in a touching display of hope, which I think we can agree is a spice of Life in short supply these troubled days.

There’s also a goofy little 4th of July parade that just so happens to go around a few quiet neighborhood blocks, and passes in front of the house. I’ve seen it for a few years on my vacation visits out West, always with an ambivalence I have for the Fourth and for an America that left my city with broken homes after the levees failed post-Hurricane Katrina & dripping in oil from the incredible need for fossil fuels that fouled the Gulf of Mexico from BP/Deepwater Horizon, and all the accumulated other acts that give American history such a flavor of The Trail of Tears; yet this year, all of that I put on hold during this parade because…the streets are filled with kids learning, somehow, that we should congregate with music & food, family & friends parading for our communities, and as ever the soundtrack the band plays is the swinging jazz from my beloved city of New Orleans. Why be a curmudgeon, no matter that I know about history, when for a day I pretend that my Diaphanous Republic at The End of the Earth shares the same holiday and the same exact Declaration of Independence? Who shall argue against me that I cherish the rights of Freedom, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as a patriot holding a beacon of Hope that someday soon “We Shall Overcome…” and surely that old spiritual song makes for a better anthem?

As a poet, my job isn’t to see the normal illusions we accept in this world. My job is to give wings to our collective imagination, that’s right, ya heard me? The nation we imagine is the province of poets, hereby dubbed The Diaphanous Republic…

This year’s 4th of July I did get one throw, a tiny whirligig given to me by a girl costumed with diaphanous wings like a red, white and blue butterfly. She gave them out to everybody on the route, kindly, and the whirligig reminds me that my breath is my own engine for change. And the band came roaring down my sister’s street playing “O When the Saints (Come Marching)”as a benediction for my Diaphanous Republic. We drank a beautiful Rosé handmade by Forlorn Hope, made from 4 luscious old vine Portuguese grapes planted before Prohibition and saved for we thirsty in pursuit of happiness by Matthew Rorick, the mastermind vigneron of Forlorn Hope, who like a crazy cat lady goes around saving old vines of California planted by immigrants in search of liberty and justice for all. How would being sanctimonious honor these gifts? Instead, I garden for words to share, and imagine ferociously a nation that isn’t afraid to show how much we care.

I think with kids one brings some measure of hope that we as a society don’t grind down their weirdness & curiosities, that we find a way so that this generation of kids (my nieces are heading irrevocably towards being second graders 8 years old) might become wise-cracking grandparents who will be able to play Professor Longhair for their little minions, without speaking of New Orleans as a mythical place of the past tense due to the final cruelties of Climate Change. The pirates, poets, chefs, musicians and all the rest of my Diaphanous Republic are joined in the fray; bring your voice, your instruments of Science and Music, and don’t forget to march in your dancing shoes! And a picnic…with pie, for nothing describes the circumference of our Happiness so much as pie…

Adrian, David Wade, Shu and Stephanie said thanks.

Share this moment

Chris DeBarr

Chef who believes in eating the world to save it. Wine & language & sharp knives are the tools of my métier. At heart, I'm a warm & fuzzy Dadaist.

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook