Sunday, April 09, 2006

i love a parade...even a soggy one

i had a gig on saturday night with jc hopkins' biggish band at swing 46. on the first break, chuck mackinnon introduces me to what he called his "two dads" -- they hugged me like they'd known me all my young life. turns out they were scottish tourists, in town for the tartan day parade. it wasn't a "kiss me, i'm irish" moment but it was awfully close. and very funny. ("we're scots," one of them declared, "not scotch. scotch is a whisky-flavored gin.") as it turns out, their two nieces (ages 14 and 16) were leading the parade the next day. they made all of it sound like so much fun, i thought i'd see if my friend wanted to go. after all, he is scottish-american.

i love a parade, the song goes -- and it's true, i do. i love it that everyone has their own parade in this city. we're not supposed to forget our heritage and our cultures and our languages to be "as american as possible" -- whose big idea was that, anyway? there's no such thing as a melting pot. it's actually a gigantic salad. it's our uniqueness that makes us great. i don't understand the push to keep certain people out when that's the way most of us got here. the only real americans are native americans. everyone else is an immigrant -- except, of course, the african slaves who came here against their will.

my friend thought that going to the tartan day parade was a lousy idea.

"first of all," he goes, "it's supposed to rain. you know what that means? lots of mulching woolen kilts." "that's never stopped any parade from happening in the city," i countered. so he checked the website and said, "sixth avenue?! who has a parade on sixth avenue?! everybody gets to parade down fifth avenue. the puerto ricans. the germans. the irish. why to the scots get sixth avenue?! and why do they only get 15 blocks?!" the truth is, he had a really good point. we had just happened onto the greek independence day parade a few weeks before on museum mile when we were on our way to the met to see the last day of the rauschenberg exhibit. interestingly enough, black folks' parades needed their own neighborhood and their own borough, respectively: the african-american day parade happens on malcolm x boulevard (where else?) and the west indian day parade (the biggest parade in the city, by the way) is in brooklyn.

was the city of new york treating the scots like *gasp* red-headed step-children?

i don't know how i did it, but i talked him into going to the tartan day parade. the weather was so cold and rainy as we stepped out of the subway that my friend declared, it's probably cancelled. it certainly looked cancelled, in spite of the steel barricades that were assembled along the route. we got there too early and standing around in the freezing cold was not an option, so we went to MoMA and saw the Edvard Munch exhibit, which was profoundly depressing. so we saw some de Koonings and some "monochromatic abstract art" that really annoyed me. anyone remember the broadway play "art" wherein one friend gave his buddy a painting that was basically white? lots of stuff like that. remarkably, my friend can make sense of it. i can, too, eventually -- but i don't think i should have to work that hard.

we killed a little too much time because when we came out, it looked the same as it had before, pretty much. i didn't even hear any bagpipes faintly in the distance. i felt sad. "don't worry," my friend said brightly, "i'll get you some bagpipe music." (he was totally making fun of me, wasn't he?)

hey, wait a minute. my friend is also part norwegian. i think i'll take him to the norwegian-american day parade in may. i won't tell him where we're going this time, though. i want to see the look of genuine surprise on his face when we show up.

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