b Papa Dog's Blog: We Help Lead a Parade

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Monday, September 13, 2004

We Help Lead a Parade

There was a street fair this weekend, an annual event that neither Mama Dog nor I nor any of the Pirates had ever before attended, despite a combined Bay Area residence in excess of seventy years. We would likely have chalked up another four years of non-attendance between us had it not been for the coincidence of this year’s theme, which happened to be the same as Baby Dog’s given name. Just days before the event, we heard (thanks to the Kitty) about the theme and learned that anyone with that name was eligible to be a Grand Marshal. All you had to do was show up with photo ID. Baby Dog of course has no photo ID yet, but we figured her birth certificate would suffice, and that proved to be the case.

Of course, we were late. I got absorbed writing that long post about the recliner and Mama Dog and Baby Dog got absorbed in nursing. Before any of us knew it, the morning was half gone, none of us were ready, and Doggy Dog still needed his morning walk. We raced through walkies and ablutions and diaper bag packing and baby dressing and so forth, and even though the area near the street fair was choked with cars, we managed to find a spot about six blocks away and hit the ground running with ten minutes to spare before the cut-off time for signing up. I zoomed the stroller uphill and down, occasionally breaking into a jog, and we made it to the sign-up table with minutes still on the clock, just as another baby with the same name was being signed in.

Marching bands were warming up, spectators were assembling to gawk, and parade volunteers were lingering about without apparent purpose. One of them, an almost-helpful lady on a golf cart, pointed us in the direction we were supposed to go, but neglected to mention the magic phrase “and turn left,” so we wandered a couple of blocks past the meeting point where all of Baby Dog’s namesakes were assembling. By the time we discovered our error and retraced our steps, the horse-drawn carriage that would lead the parade was already full of like-named individuals, with nary a space for us. That was okay. Mama Dog didn’t want to take Baby Dog, who was snoozing comfortably through all the hullabaloo, out of her car seat, and one of us would still have to walk behind with the stroller anyway.

The cart full of Baby Dog’s name-mates looked like a fairly random sampling of humanity, from a 95-year-old woman to the baby who had just beaten us to the sign-up table. There were a couple of men on the cart, too. At first I thought they were fathers or spouses or perhaps stowaways, but then I spotted a name tag on them and realised that they in face legitimately shared Baby Dog’s appellation, only as a surname. One little girl had it as a middle name. Of all this raft of strangers united by nomenclature, Baby Dog was hands-down the youngest, at 11 weeks.

A whistle blew, the parade started, and off we marched behind the cart. Next to us was another stroller, this one containing two children, neither of whom happened to share our daughter’s name. They were the siblings of the middle-named girl, and their father seemed a particularly enthusiastic participant, waving as he pushed them along, working the crowd like an ambitious ward heeler on election day. I strode in the middle with my hands behind my back, trying to look casual, like I hadn’t noticed yet that I was on a parade route. Mama Dog pushed the stroller and gamely waved now and then when she heard some stranger call out our baby’s name. Baby Dog slumbered through her big moment. I hope that when next a parade is held in her honour, she’ll pay a little more attention or at least stay awake for it.

The big hazard, of course, was the propulsion system of the carriage ahead of us, and most specifically its fuel by-products. I heard the spectators yelling at us, but didn’t get what they were trying to communicate until my foot connected with the road apples and I looked down to see that I’d gotten horse crap on my brand new Josef Seibels. Oh well. They were already a mess from the walk at Point Isabel on Thursday. A bigger problem came about three quarters of the way up the parade route when we were suddenly (and rather tardily now that I think about it) joined by the designated clean-up crew for the horse cart. That would have been okay, except that they chose to locate themselves between us and the cart, which meant we were now parading behind a very fragrant bucket of manure. At this point, we chose to break off from our duties as Grand Marshals and be spectators for a while.

We belled the Pirates on their mobby and arranged to meet them at the corner we’d ended up on. Baby Dog was awake by then, and after a time commenced to fussing. I took her around the corner to a quiet little spot behind the Super Cuts, and found that, perhaps inspired by the aromatic equine offerings we had been trailing, she had made a little contribution of her own to the Cycle of Waste, not-so-neatly deposited in the pocket of her Pampers. This was my first time doing a diaper change out in open spaces – I’d done it in the car on the way down to Santa Barbara, but this was my first time out in the open with the occasional passer-by stopping to look at us as though we were the Baby Changing Float. I set her down on a soft bed of browned pine needles, a perfectly pastoral spot for a diaper change were it not for the cigarette butts and other bits of detritus that marked this as a loitering spot for shady characters. I found the cleanest spot I could, but the ground wasn’t exactly level and she kept sliding off toward the edge of the changing pad. Worse, at one point she grabbed a fistful of tree droppings. Have I mentioned that she’s been grasping things lately? Good girl, but leave the dirty nature stuff alone! I cleaned her up as best I could under the circumstances, then went back to join Mama Dog in awaiting the Pirates.

They showed up soon after and, as we found we were in the vicinity of Walker’s Pie Shop, we ducked in to do further kinder maintenance (feeding on our part, changing on theirs) and stuff our own faces with good old-fashioned pie shop fare. At one point, I looked across the table and saw Papa Pirate experimentally offering a potato chip to his baby daughter. She sucked eagerly at it, looking very happy indeed. “Huh,” thought I, “that looks like something I’d get yelled at for.” A few seconds later, Mama Pirate happened to look that way and exclaimed, “What are you doing? Don’t give her chips! You might as well give her a saltlick!” “I knew you were going to get in trouble,” I observed unhelpfully.

Later, we strolled as civilians up to the end of the parade route and pumped a little money into the local economy. We saw one of those sights you only see at this sort of thing: a sandwich board fellow advertising his desire that all and sundry should repent and, less than a block later, the booth for the East Bay Atheists. Mama Dog and Mama Pirate did a little shopping at Sweet Potatoes and I stood with Baby Dog watching a pony ride just long enough that the smell of the cotton candy in the adjacent tent required me to buy some. We walked back the way we came, and when we reached the point where we had to turn off to get to our car, we parted ways with the Pirates. And that there was our day at the parade.


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