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Saturday, July 15, 2017


     This is the final segment of my four-part series on summer parades. Along with today's Maine event, we visited two Fourth of July parades, and last month's Keep Austin Weird 5K. Here's hoping you can enjoy a festive procession soon.


    As a kid, it seemed strange to see grown men acting like children. Every year I'd see guys dressed like clowns driving tiny cars in Miami's Orange Bowl Parade. Others looked like Moroccan palace guards swinging curved swords.          
                                                                        "Baby Cakes"

       My mother explained that these men were "Shriners", a club for men who enjoyed acting silly in parades. It seemed as odd then as it did last month when I ran into the secret society again.
       They were having their own parade in Belfast, Maine. For an hour the Bangor members of "The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine" passed by with their crazy costumes and miniature vehicles. 

     Shriners were a popular men’s club long ago -they’ve been around since 1870- but like the Moose, Lions, and Odd Fellows clubs they are slowly fading away.  But somehow they've managed to stay strong in Bangor, Maine.  The city has a large chapter that spends it weekends parading all over the Pine State. There i
t is still cool for a young man to wear a tasseled fez and pledge allegiance to the “Potentate”, (the local group leader)

             Potentate of the Bangor Temple, Stephen "Steve" Trimm
    To join you have to first be a Mason and  express a belief in God. It was a lot like that when I joined a fraternity fifty years ago. 

   If you'd like to become a Shriner
we still have our Miami group ("The Mahi Shriners").  It might be fun to wear the fez and clown around.  If you're a woman, they've got an auxiliary for you, "The Daughters of the Nile". Besides throwing  parties and parades they raise a lot of money for children's hospitals.

     So there I was in Belfast, Maine, waiting to see my first Shriners in fifty years. When the first of  of them marched down the road they did not disappoint. I spent an hour fascinated inside their fez-topped time warp.

      The procession followed rank, beginning with their leader, Steve, on a throne.

   The current Bangor Temple Potentate was pulled up the street by neophytes hitched up like horses. The head horse wore a clown nose.

Next were,
past Potentates  
driving snazzy convertibles.


Tuxedo’s Potentate wannabe’s

were followed by white coated wannabe’s hoping to move up to the tux level.


The six most recent applicants ("The Second Section") were marching in street garb hoping that some day they too will wear the fez. Their leader also wore a clown nose.
Most of the hundreds that followed could be called, "No Way I'll Ever be a Potentate, I'm happy enough playing in the Temple Band",

This is a good time to point out that the Miami Shriners are looking for musicians to reform their temple band.


or the temple priests, keepers of mystical secrets,
or a Chanter, happy to sit in the back of a truck and sing songs from the 1890's.

   After fifteen minutes of this a huge billboard rolled by reminding us that the Shriners may seem weird but they raise a lot of money to support hospitals for children.  One of them is in Milwaukee.

  After all these preliminaries we got to the serious kidding around, hundred of Shriners hot rodding  in loud, little vehicles. They got darn close to the children perched on the parade's edge of as they zoomed, slid, and figure-eighted driving

Mini-model T’s
Go Carts




 Mini-Formula One Racers

Mini-18 wheelers and, this being the boys from Maine,

Go-carts pretending to be Mini Lobster Boats.

Interspersed within all these "mini-groups" were scary clowns with names like,

                 Green Giant 

Snickers and Cray Cray


and this smiling man with the unlikely name, "911".


Oh it was entertaining watching those silly men. Their antics were fine with me. 
     No kids got run over,  none (hopefully) had clown nightmares and the sick children of Milwaukee are better for it. 




Sunday, July 9, 2017


    Jack O'Neill died last month. In his 94 years the surfing pioneer managed to be a WWII Navy pilot, raise a family, and create the surfing empire that bears his name. 

     O'Neill is credited with creating the black neoprene wet suit that allow folks to surf in cold water.  California, the surfing capital of the world, has very cold water. 

    Two months ago, I met a young man who surfs  the coast of Maine every day of the year (yes, even in the snow) .  He said his aquatic addiction was made possible by his O'Neill wet suit.  
    The master surfer also created the O'Neill Sea Odyssey organization in 1996. It provided hands-on educational experiences that teach thousands of children to preserve and protect the ocean.

      Miami's Adam Steckley is an educator at O'Neill Sea Odyssey.
      Today we went to O'Neill's memorial service next to his home in Santa Cruz, California.

     There is a longstanding tradition of the "paddle out", a way to say goodbye to departed surfers. 
Today thousands of watermen carried their boards to the shore

and paddled out to sea. 

    There, along with a few curious seals and otters, they formed a huge circle to pay tribute to the one-eyed Jack (O'Neill lost an eye in a surfing accident). 

    Many more -like my wife and I- watched from the cliffs a half-mile away.
    When all was said from the officiating schooner, the surrounding surfers hollered and splashed in approval. It sounded like a football stadium roar rumbling across Monterrey Bay.

    They owe a lot to this guy. On this foggy 62 degree morning everyone of them was kept warm by a black neoprene wet suit.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


    Like South Florida, California is very diverse.  After enjoying a very Anglo Fourth of July parade in La Selva Beach, we drove ten-minutes inland for the Mexican version.
     It took place in Watsonville, an agricultural community that produces 90% of our country's strawberries. The workers who pick them come from the Mexican states such as Chiapas,  Veracruz, and Michuacan.
 Their diversity was reflected in the city's holiday parade...its music,
and tractors passing by.

There were many old tractors. Antique firetrucks too. The forest firemen


were hefting noisy chainsaws. Loud and macho, what could be more American than that?

Maybe funked up classic cars. This fiery Buick had everyone droolin'. 

The baddest ones had serious hydraulics
that allowed them to drag their bottoms or hop like frogs. 



At one point there was even a Watsonville police car jumping down Main Street.


    After all the costumed dancers had passed there were dozens of beautiful, dancing  horses. It seemed like the perfect ending as


noone likes to dance in horse poop.

We thank Francesca's brother, Antonio, and his wife, Michele (local residents) ,for taking us to their Independence Day parade.