Sunday, January 6, 2013

Park your gravy boat in the new year

You haven't lived until you have watched somebody parallel-park an eight-foot gravy boat.

I, my friends, have lived.

It was New Year's Eve. The gravy boat was a Rose Parade mini-float attached to a larger float, and the whole vehicle together was too large to fit its pre-parade parking space. So the g-boat was detached, and a crew of guys maneuvered it curbside by hand, a skill you will not find in your DMV driver's handbook.

Seriously. A gravy boat.

I witnessed all this as a volunteer for the parade; my duty was to spend the night, all night, with the Stanford float, assuring Stanford's floral security, and then ride a scooter as its escort in the parade New Year's morning.

Huge crowds came out all evening and past midnight to view the lineup. I was amazed that people were still strolling and taking pictures at 3 a.m. I was getting woozy myself after nine hours in the street.

At one point I thought I was hallucinating huge butterflies. When dawn broke, I saw they were just on a float.

(See: butterfly, just below the moon.)

Nothing can prepare you for riding a scooter through the canyon of humanity which forms to watch the Rose Parade, an estimated 700,000 people. Stanford fans roared as our cheerleader-festooned float passed and their band played. I watched one elderly alum stand erect, slowly remove his hat, and hold it theatrically over his heart.

Stanford's mascot is a tree. (Long story.) It is a majestic tree, I admit, and not meant ironically; something you probably cannot say of UC Santa Cruz's Banana Slugs.

But a tree does not automatically inspire your opponent's dread that, say, a sword-wielding gladiator mascot does. Still, I loved the Stanford fan in one grandstand who stood and held up the sign: "Fear the tree."

I also enjoyed the poster somebody held up near the very end of the parade, for the benefit of exhausted marching bands, I would guess, which said, "You're halfway there!"

I despair sometimes for our globe. After the anger-filled political year we just departed, a year of such meaningless gun violence, the Rose Parade felt like being dipped in a vat of hope.

I saw, close up, the smiling faces of people of every color, jammed shoulder to shoulder in rows 10 deep for miles, cheering for the simple beauty of flowers, smiling in unguarded awe at the extraordinary things people can create if they work together. 

A new year, another chance.

Take a deep breath. Now go park your personal gravy boat like only you can.

. . .

More pics below

While a white suit is required dress for the parade, overnight duties involve rocking extra-large coveralls.

People sleep out overnight before the parade, sometimes sitting up.

Little-known fact: if you don't fertilize your roses enough, sometimes they can break out in eggplant.

 These were the folks from the Trader Joe's float, about an hour before the parade. They were really up for it. My camera couldn't resist the stripes.

It was a good time.