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Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Parade

I've watched plenty of parades, but this is the first time I've been part of the show.

BikeWalkKC was, I think, the 84th entrant in the Kansas City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

I was riding in a panic to get there by 9:45 as instructed. I needed some green helmet mohawk makings, so that meant a stop by a Wal-Mart. Which meant chancing the 18th Street Expressway to get to Roeland Park on the way to midtown.

It's not that scary a road, really, except there's not much of a shoulder for a lot of it, and the traffic (what little there is early on a Saturday morning) moves fast. The main danger point seems to be the exit to Kansas Avenue, which isn't any too long, so cars figure they have to make a dive for it even if that means diving in front of a bike.

But they're diving so much faster than me, there's not much chance for a collision. I hope.

Anyway, as I approached the parade route, there were cars everywhere. Parked, looking for places to park, trying to find a way through despite all the cars.

I got to a road block and decided it would be wiser to seek forgiveness than permission, and cruised right by a cop. Nobody said a thing, and I cruised right up Broadway the last five or six blocks to the staging area unmolested.

One of those things you can do with a bike. Try that shit in a car or even on a motorcycle and you won't even get to explain that you're part of the parade.

Anyway, the bike-pedestrian people were all still decorating their bikes, too. I only had green shower scrubbies to make a green helmet mohawk (more of a three-puff array than a mohawk it turned out), but was offered balloons and crepe streamers and spent over an hour decorating my bike thinking that any minute we'd be mounting up.

Nope. This is a huge parade, and we were near the last of it. So I got to take plenty of pictures.

The wind was pretty intense (I'd notice the headwind riding out to get there), but it blew the clouds away and we had a bright, sunny crawl down Broadway when we finally did get going.

An old black man with a cigar sticking out of his ear* joined us on the route. He wasn't at the staging ground, but his bike was decorated. Not for St. Pat's necessarily, but he had improvised reflectors running the lengths of his spokes. When the parade (frequently) stopped, he would hold out his shirt front to make sure people could read it.

It was a t-shirt advertising the Green Duck Lounge on Prospect. I thought I remembered it from twenty years ago when I had a distribution route to run down that street. A seedy joint as I recalled. A Google search reveals that a few months ago it drew the full attention of Jean Peters Baker's prosecutor's office because so much drug dealing and murder was going on in and around it.

There was a band near us in the staging area with a stage set up on a trailer, with their girlfriends to rotate the drum riser (which was on a sort of Lazy Susan).

Also the roller derby girls, no doubt the sexiest entrants in the parade.

It was, I think almost two hours after the official parade start time when we were finally rolling. I could have stopped for breakfast and shopped in three or four more places for decorations if I'd had any idea.

Even once you're moving, it's a real stop and go affair, more so than I would have thought by watching parades.

I really want a green head-to-toe suit. For cold winter days, it would be perfect: socks, gloves, thermal underwear and balaclava all in one.

The pelican bike wasn't very green, but the guy riding it claimed to be color blind.

After the parade was over, making my way back through midtown the traffic was even more jammed up than coming in. It was liberating to be able to weave between cars that had no possible place to move.

After seeing all the vendors along the parade route and not having had breakfast, I was hoping for a vendor to be stationed at the bottom of the route to sell to hungry paraders. No such luck, though I did get a truck that was packing up to sell me a couple of hot dogs at half price. The street sweeper was a half a block away, the pedestrians were gone, and he was going to have to throw them away if he didn't sell them to me. I probably should have driven a harder bargain than half price.

*You ever taste your own ear wax? This was a Swisher Sweet type cigar with the plastic holder on the end, but surely when he takes it from the ear and goes to light it up and take a puff, he gets that nasty, bitter, awful earwax flavor. Just when I thought smoking couldn't be made more across-the-board disgusting.

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