March of Folly


Embed from Getty Images


Some years ago I spent three happy weeks in a town outside Paris. There was a tourism office, and as it was July, I stopped in to ask if there were festivities for Bastille Day.

Now, in French the word for parade is défilé. So it is possible that, what with my accent, the lady at the desk was maintaining admirable sang-froid in the face of a shockingly indecent request. Still, though, it seemed like I’d asked when the next school committee meeting was.

“Well,” she replied. “There is something in the town square…”

So on July 14th I showed up and there were bleacher-style benches erected. I did not have trouble finding a seat. What followed was, by gum, solemn. Military units marched by, and the mayor or whoever gave a speech, and that was that. No one ate cotton candy.




File:2014 Fremont Solstice parade - What Cheer Marching Band 02 (14324212029).jpg


My friend Will served a decade in the estimable What Cheer? Brigade. He’s probably marched in more parades than you, Gentle Reader, have had hot dinners.

“You know the thing about parades?” he once told me. “Most people watching look miserable.”





I trust I will not overly burden your confidence by confessing that I am not, by disposition, a parade-goer. I have of late found myself in attendance, however, due to the enthusiasm of Twins 1 & 2. And to my enormous surprise I find I kind of like them.

Although during the course of the very first one we attended, a man running for local office came over to give the girls whistles. “Sorry about this!” he said cheerfully.

He should have expressed his penitence on bended knee. For days afterward I ached with regret for not having recorded his name, for my sole desire was to tirelessly volunteer for his opponent. I longed for Koch brothers riches to advance his ruin. You try taking whistles away from two-year-olds. Then they lost interest and I again accepted that democracy has merit.