When I was a kid protesting the war in Vietnam, picketing Safeway in solidarity with the UFW, attending political rallies of all sorts, and tagging along with my parents as they 53586worked on the campaigns of Wayne Morse, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Jerry Brown, were some of the major activities that occupied our evenings and weekends. We watched the Democratic conventions on television and talked politics constantly. We had a Shirley Chisholm for President poster on our wall for years. My best friend’s father was such a hero of the Portland Democratic party that there is an annual party fundraiser in his honor. These pastimes were not relegated to the world of adults. These were family activities.

downloadCosseted in this environment, my surprise when I found that Richard Nixon had been elected to the presidency was deep and rending. We had been to a rally the night before. My parents had broken the news to us that McCarthy was going to lose, but I didn’t believe it. No one wanted the war. Everyone hated Nixon. I could not imagine even one person I knew voting for Nixon, except maybe my grandfather. But I was 7, and of course that, particular election cycle was far more complex than I could understand at the time. I don’t remember being aware that Humphrey was even a candidate.

1972 was less hyped up for me; my parent’s marriage was disintegrating and I spent most of that summer at camp. However, we were all in for McGovern. I remember getting a letter from my cousin while at camp in which she described the Democratic download (1)National Convention in great detail and had covered the back of the envelope with McGovern slogans. I was every bit as shocked, maybe even more, when Nixon won AGAIN. I just could not understand it – who was voting for this man? Once again, probably my grandfather and NO ONE ELSE. Imagine if I had understood how thoroughly he had been trounced.

Fast forward: Ronald Reagan. What a shithead. I was, to put it mildly, not a fan in 1980. But jeez, I really hated him by 1984. I had my own life, my own politics, by this time. ronald-reagan-maskReagan being re-elected was unthinkable to me. I was horrified to find that most of the people I worked with weren’t registered to vote. My strategy to beat Reagan was to get them all registered. More than half of them registered as Republicans. I simply could not wrap my brain around this. I was not surprised but was every bit as devastated and confused as similar losses from my childhood left me, when Reagan was elected to a second term.

197413_1002269188793_8414_nAnd so on with both of the Bush presidencies. I had a newborn baby when H.W. won and remember our frat-ish neighbors having a loud, awful testosterone filled party the night he won. I despaired. I still can’t talk about the wins of the younger, although he is looking less awful every day.

This last election took me all the way back. My magical thinking – I don’t know anyone who voted for this guy, ergo he can’t possibly win – is long gone, replaced by what I flatter myself to think of as reason. I have had the experience of voting for someone I 8-1.jpg.2600x2600.squarewas truly excited about and seeing them win and govern well. But 10 months after the last election, I’m still the little girl in a room full of adults rendered speechless, kicking deflated balloons, and wondering what happens next.






Wayne Morse: https://www.oldimprints.com/pages/books/53586/oregon-politics-wayne-morse-re-election-poster/wayne-morse-and-the-united-states-senate-november-5

Nixon Button: https://fontsinuse.com/uses/2397/richard-nixon-1968-presidential-campaign-butt

McGovern Button: http://www.loriferber.com/mcgovern-in-72-button-day-glow-orange.html

Reagan Mask: https://www.halloweencostumes.com/ronald-reagan-mask.html

Balloons: http://www.istockphoto.com/photos/balloon-deflated-rubber-birthday?excludenudity=true&mediatype=photography&page=1&phrase=balloon%20deflated%20rubber%20birthday&sort=mostpopular

Vintage Poster: https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/49906/photos-wwi-propaganda-posters


I Love a Parade


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, The City of Roses!, there was excitement around going to the Grand Floral Parade. It was better than the visiting navy vessels, the rose competition, the Fun Center [sic], the Starlight Parade, and the super lame children’s parade (I’m sure it has a real name) all combined.


We would set up near the start of the route. There we didn’t have to wait for hours for the parade to begin, there was room to spread out and it was close to home. So much room and so close, in fact, that we were able to carry a super lightweight couch from our living room to a curb on the route.

Like this only ugly and cheap

Cushions, blankets, snacks and some height – we had it all. What may have looked white trash to others seemed genius to us. And it was. I have yet to experience that same level of comfort and satisfaction with any other parade going experience.

Over time I grew out of the family parade experience, but I somehow got a job in my late teens working on building floats. I did it for several years, having been an active part of the gig economy before it was called that. I know I did other things, but the part of the job that always stuck with me was the flowering. It was a floral parade, after all, and every inch had to be covered with plant matter. Using seeds or other non-perishables you could apply days ahead of time, but the flowers were another story.

Not me, but it could have been

My recollection was that the earliest we could really do anything with the flowers was maybe 48 hours before the parade started. It was a ridiculous amount of work to do in such a short period of time – and it required many hands. They would hire church or scouting groups to come in and help, and I would supervise. Filthy and sleep-deprived, jangly on coffee, I loved the work of making these massive, silly things. In those years I would not watch the parade. In the wee hours, the drivers would head off for the parade staging area and I would go home and sleep.

It seems I have passed on this parade work, sort of. This year my youngest daughter drove the Macy’s float at the Pride Parade in San Francisco. I couldn’t be more proud.

When my kids were little, we would go to the Grand Floral Parade with my siblings and their kids. We usually liked to get a spot downtown near the Fish Grotto – the drag queens would set up their own viewing area, with their own announcers. It transformed, elevated, the parade, allowing us all to glory in the kitschiness of it all. The parade itself never really seemed to change much. The rodeo queens, the Royal Rosarians and the Rose Court, the marching bands, even the floats were the same as they were in my childhood. Is it nostalgia if something stays pretty much the same?


There have been other parades in my life, and they have all left me cold except Trooping the Colour, which is a parade of a different kind entirely. We happened to be in London for a couple of days and it was our great good fortune to be there for the occasion. I made my husband and my daughters that were with us (and my youngest’s best friend) get up early and hop on the Tube. They indulged me.

It was kind of rainy and they thought I was crazy.


But it was awesome. My oldest daughter filmed the Queen and Co. going past and you can hear her hollering “It’s the Queen! It’s the fucking Queen!”

And there are parades I would like to go to… I have often thought I should go to the Rose Parade in Pasadena or the Macy’s Parade in New York. I have never been to Mardi Gras anywhere.

My children, and most of my sibling’s children, are now grown. A few years ago my brother – the last of us to still live in Portland – was getting ready to move to New York.  Our youngest sister decided it was time for us to go to the Grand Floral Parade, together, one last time.


It was so fun to be with them, cocooned in time. The parade seemed shorter, but the elements that afforded us every familiarity remained. Towards the end of the parade was a massive group of Mexican musicians and dancers in their fine, colorful costumes trailed by these fabulous, giant puppets.

Sorry… crap picture

I felt glad that the parade from my childhood hadn’t been entirely trapped in amber; they made up for the absence of the drunk, crazy Shriners in their wee cars (a loss I am not sure I will ever get over completely).

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On the day my oldest daughter was born in Eugene, Oregon, the Grand Floral Parade had occurred.  I have always associated her with roses, and the parade. We lived in Portland again for a few years when she was little, and a few times we had her party at the parade, which, in hindsight, was crazy. A few weeks ago on her birthday, she and I both happened to be in Portland and we went to lunch. I asked if there was anything else she wanted to do, and she surprised me when she asked if we could go see the rose gardens.


They were lovely, although extremely crowded, and shockingly fragrant. The only thing that would have delighted me more is if we could have gone to the parade. I love a parade.