Monday, August 07, 2006

The Day I Shook Darth Vader's Hand

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You could almost argue that this site is perpetually Long, Long Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Hecate posted a powerful photograph of Dorothy Vader on her site last week. I especially liked the white breastplate with "Hello Kitty" motif.

Seeing "Dorothy Vader" reminded me about the day I met Darth Vader and shook his hand. So, with no further ado:

I live about 8 miles from Philadelphia. On New Year's Day, Philadelphia has a huge, 8-hour parade called the Mummers Parade. Half the population of the city dudes up in sequins and feathers. The other half turns out to watch. And trust me, the parade is so good that it;s easy to forgo all drunken revelry and get a good night's sleep on Dec. 31, in order to watch the Guys in Feathers and Their Fabulous Strutting.

Exhibit A
Philadelphia Mummer

For a few years in the late 1990s, the city of Philadelphia threw what it called a "Summer Strut" around the 4th of July. This was a shorter evening parade of Mummers in costume, aimed at tourists and families with little kids who don't crave spending 8 hours in the frosty outdoors on January 1.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" just adored the Summer Strut. Especially the daughters, Heir and Spare (designated like royal children for their breeding potential). Spare was young enough during that era to get all excited whenever a Mummer gave her a little feather or any old thing.

Typically for some aspects of Mummers Parades, the line between participant and viewer at Summer Strut was drawn not by behavior but by attire. Meaning, of course, that if you saw someone cute in the parade, you could run out in the street and dance with him.

Now, if you look at Exhibit A above, you will note that this is not the sort of attire one might want to wear on a globally warmed summer night when the temperature is hovering around 85 and the humidity is topping 5o percent. No matter how much fun the Summer Strutters seemed to be having, the heat took its toll.

The final Summer Strut occurred in 2000.

We cannot remember how many Mummers stringbands participated in the Strut. Perhaps about 8 or 9. We remember that it was hot that night in Philadelphia.

We also remember that the Strut was moved ahead a few days to be presented as a welcome to delegates to the 2000 Republican National Convention.

We assume that the Mummers were informed that they would be performing on the street for Republicans from all over the grain-fed USA.

Emmmm hemmmm. Yo, Philly! Let's hear it for Republicans!

One by one the Mummer bands slogged by, noticeably less enthusiastic than in years past. They didn't want to shake a single hand, lest it might belong to some Corporate Welfare Bible-Belter.

And then one final band closed the parade.

The band was led by Darth Vader, carrying his sword. Behind him, in perfect goose-step, marched five rows of those white soldier drones (the ones that always get killed in great numbers while the hero gets away).

This band did not play any music. But it had to be one of Philly's own, because no mere freelance Mummers could have gotten such authentic costumes in such numbers, and marched with such precision.

So, being the wild woman I am, I rushed into the street. I strode up to Darth Vader. And damn, the closer I got the sorrier I was to be such a wild woman, because he was the tallest, broadest dude I'd ever seen.

Screwing up my courage, I extended the right hand of fellowship and said to Darth Vader, "Welcome to Philadelphia, we hope your convention runs smoothly, and please enjoy your stay."

He shook my hand and strode on. I had to leap out of the way of those white storm troopers and make my way back to the curb.

I had spoken loudly enough that the other parade-goers around me heard what I said. I got hugged, high-fived, and free beer-ed to the max.

Remember, this was 2000. Before the current administration had an opportunity to unfold its game strategies.

So that's how I met Darth Vader. I stared that sucker in the eye (I think. Where is his eye, anyway?).

I wasn't born in Philadelphia. I don't have any family in Philadelphia. Half the time when I drive into it, or see the skyline from a distance on the freeway, it looks like Mars to me. But I know that inside its neighborhoods are people who think like me and who have more grit than a Death Valley sandstorm.

Republicans in town? Let's dress up like Star Wars and give them the welcome they richly deserve.

Yo, Philly. You rock.

AREA 14, STAR 14


Mary Jones said...

I live about 8 miles from Philadelphia.

Really? Where abouts? I live in Philly.

I used to go watch the Summer Mummers, but then I noticed they stopped doing it anymore. I didn't realize when they stopped doing it.

(I still don't understand why we took on the Republican convention, a city this blue.)

Anne Johnson said...

Mary, I know you live in Philly, that's why I emailed you about LlynHydd Grove. Weren't those summer struts fun? I think they were a victim of global warming.

One reason we got the Repubs. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Mary Jones said...

Oh! I didn't realize you were the same Anne! (I've been really unobservant lately--I blame the heat.)