Columbus, Ohio USA
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Superheroes, Sunglasses, Celebrities, and Villains
The 34th Somehow-Annual Doo Dah Parade

by Allex Spires
September/October 2017 Issue

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Tuesday, the Fourth Day of July in the Hundred-Score-and-Seven-and-Tenth Year since B.C.(E.)

photo by Larry Hamill

Riding on a number 5 bus, I wore jeans and a T-shirt that depicted a “Wanted: Dead AND Alive” poster for Schrödinger’s cat. I took a well-read, worn-out British copy of W.S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, with crumbling spine and dog-eared pages crusted together, out of my shoulder bag that says “Play Hard.” I read a while, and as the bus came out of downtown, I put the book away. High Street through the Short North hadn’t been closed for Doo Dah yet, so I rode in and disembarked at Russell – observed surely thousands of people on either side of me who waited to watch the parade go by. The people in audience, all age-groups included, were seething anticipation and leaning into the road like NASCAR patrons waiting for the big wreck.

The forecast called for rain, so I had my EyeDroid in a plastic sandwich bag and spoke to it recording my notes, hoping my voice would get through, which it did. Though there came no precipitation (clear blue sunny skies prevailed), I did sweat lots, so keeping my ‘phone wrapped in plastic was still a good idea.

I made my way down Russell to Park Street and came out at the halfway mark of Goodale Park where oodles of entrants were prepping their props and cars and floats and boats and wardrobes for the main event, calling “Happy Doo Dah!” to one another. I moved north up Park to Buttles, where Doo Dah un-officially starts.

This year’s Doo Dah Parade is unlike any other in its history. First: absolutely everyone hates the president. I don’t believe any sitting President of the United States has ever been so detested. There would be no pro-Trump entries for this parade at all. Not even in farce.

Also, making this year’s Doo Dah unique, in all its history as the prime Fourth of July parade in Columbus, this one, number 34, Doo Dah 2017, is the first Doo Dah Parade ever to not have “Starter Joe” Theibert acting as the Un-Official Parade Starter due, in no small part, to the fact he passed away on April 3.

I arrived at Buttles and Park with time to spare and explored the Doo Dah Block Party on Buttles between Park and High and observed food trucks selling $9 burritos and $5 pizza slices; a lemonade stand; a man selling handmade ice-pops with unique flavors like watermelon-mint, pineapple-mango, and etcetera; a beer stand to benefit Doo Dah; and free live music powered by a wind turbine. A man dressed in red-and-white-striped overalls and a star-spangled blue shirt, carrying a sousophone, danced in front of the stage. Under a gazebo tent called Thiebertville, erected near the corner at Park, people drank their beers away from the noonday July sun. A placard read “Dedicated In Memory of Our Beloved Doo Dah Brother, Joe Theibert, The Un-Official Starter.”

At High, I again observed a good several thousand people lined up along the parade route six to eight bodies deep, sitting on the curb or on a red, green, blue, or black folding chair, or leaning on a bicycle, or freestanding. The parade would start in fifteen minutes but wouldn’t come down High for another hour after that, and the road had not been closed yet. Car traffic still flowed “normally” as latecomers hunted impossible parking spaces. The people of Columbus and visitors from far beyond our city’s limits lined the road, watching the traffic, waiting for the big parade.

Back at Park and Buttles, a mess of golf carts, spectators, Un-Official Dis-Organizers, a police cruiser, several officers, and a late-model black Camaro convertible intended to chauffer the Less-Than-Grand Marshall – author and former undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion – Mr. James “Buster” Douglas, filled the intersection.

Doo Dah Deb, queen of the parade, in a green frock with an off-white sheer lace jersey, gave some last-minute words of encouragement to the people in the band. Somebody blew bubbles that floated past their stoic faces while she spoke. After that last minute was up, at one pee’em, we all sang the first verse of Key’s The Star Spangled Banner, horribly out of tune with misspoken lyrics, like Enrico Pallazzo, and with squeaky melodica and rattling tambourine accompaniment, because it’s our national anthem and we’re good like that.

The opening was now dilated to eleven centimeters... contractions coming closer and closer and growing more and more intense... this Doo Dah was ready to be born and it would come out kicking and screaming in gross imitation of Donald Trump. But something was wrong.

Down Buttles, awaiting the parade, I saw hundreds and hundreds of expectant people in hundreds and hundreds of pairs of sunglasses. Women wore shorts and tanks and tees, men wore shorts and short sleeves, for the most part, and about half of them all were wearing sunglasses. Photographers, videographers, vloggers, and basic social media users got their ‘phones and cameras ready with tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, and even their bare hands, standing mob-deep on lawns and in Goodale Park. They were waiting.

Back at the start, the parade was in moderate disarray because nobody had started it... I blame Joe. Realizing that something HAD to happen, the officer in the police cruiser sounded his siren, rotating the breech, as it were, and directing the head down the birth canal, as he started the parade route down Buttles. Mz Doo Dah followed, driving her stretch golf cart, swerving with swagger, the King of Doo Dah and four other Dis-Organizers aboard. Signs on it read: “It’s All A Fake!” “Fake Hair!” “Fake Advertising!” “Fake Friends!” “Fake Nails!” “Fake Boobs!” “Fake News!” “Fake Parade!” “Fake Orgasms!” “Fake President!” “Fake King!” “Fake Queen!” The Marching Fidels came down the road next with thick false beards and thick false accents, and real PBRs and Cuban cigars, carrying a banner declaring “Finally, it’s over!” Then the Doo Dah Marching Band, who would play every tune its members never learned on instruments they generally don’t know how to play, headed down the road.

This is Doo Dah! This is Columbus, Ohio’s official Fourth of July parade. Sort of like ComFest on roller skates on the Fourth of July, but with far fewer boobs (of one sort, not the other) and a wider range of brews (especially on High Street). It is a free expression masterpiece, and this is how we keep ourselves aware of just how free we all really are.

A superfluity of red-cloaked, white-coifed handmaids-as-vulvas in handmade costumes, wearing spectacles or sunglasses, and carrying “Don’t Tread On Me” flags, the snake shaped like the uterine-ovary system, marched for the sanctity of women’s healthcare while a giant turkey body puppet bearing a sign “Bee Free!” stumbled along beside them. You figure it out. A woman named Lindsey from waved a sign insisting “Toilet Paper is free why not Tampons?” Later in the parade condoms and business cards rained down on the High Street crowd who carried cups of beer out into the road, jaycrossing between the passing paraders. In 1959, when Naked Lunch was first published, these descriptions, from the handmaids to the tampons to the condoms to the boozers in the streets, canonized by an odoriferously extreme rendition of the National Anthem, would only be considered the product of a deranged and devious mind with lewd intent, unfit for publication in the USA, making a mockery of our freedoms and our way of life. But today I’m describng the city’s official Fourth of July parade as it happened. How far we’ve come as a society since then, crossing the uncanny valley and blending what was once fantasy into reality.

Something else in 1959 would have gotten censors unfettered: A troupe of flag twirlers who worked their rainbow-tie-dyed flags with great skill, behind a truck with a sign that professed “Make America Gay Again!” Twirling their flags, tossing them into the air and catching them in synchronized form brought the audience out of the doldrums with applause and cheers. The joy of American resiliance showed on the faces of spectators as the flag-twirling troupe brought much gaiety to the crowd grown tired of too-terrible-to-be-true yet still true-to-life depictions of Trump that pepper-speckled the parade. Gay again, indeed. Even the most staunch homophobe felt a surge of joy and patriotic pride as they went by.

Far less risqué across the ages: Ladies in handcrafted dresses and costumes marched under a handcrafted banner, “Make America Craft Again.” A John Deere tractor with a toy John Deere tractor as a hood ornament pulled a small trailer with “Short North Rednecks” scrawled on the sides. A dynamically arrayed motorcycle club put on a performance with a couple motorized bicycles, dirt bikes, crotch-rockets, and mini-bikes ridden by costumed crusaders and muppet-masked marauders who maneuvered deftly and pulled wheelies as they went. Captain Ohio rode gallant and bold on his Harley of Justice with the Ohio Flag waving behind him. A couple border guards drove a four-wheeled two-bike-chassis vehicle hitched to a Pink Floyd wall on wheels topped with minarets and razorwire, “The Wall” spraypainted on the obverse and “Keep Trump Out!” on the reverse where a jamming folk singer strummed a guitar.

photo by Larry Hamill

A variety of box-themed entries showed up here and there: A man in a large red dragon body puppet made from cardboard boxes. Another man simply donned a cardboard box open at both ends with lettering on it: “I luv u – what u do could tick me off.” A group of “Short North civic planners” were taking suggestions about the parking situation with a bottomless suggestion box, so when I dropped a suggestion to plan for parking before approving building projects, it just fell through the box and fluttered to the dirty ground. Buster Douglas, riding high on the backseat of the Camaro, posed pugilistically, squaring off with his fists for photographs for fans who love that boxer.

The dizzying array of entrants continued on with jugglers juggling clubs, one balanced on a tall unicycle. Alien life forms rode double-decker bicycles and held signs, “Uranus or Bust!” and “Take Me to Your Idiot.” Ghoulishly made-up zombie clowns and zombie handlers drenched in stage blood led a few zombie defense vehicles: a car with a zombie head on a pike for a hood ornament, a massive army carrier truck, and a goose-mess-green school bus (skull bus?) with a giant skull hood ornament and no windows trailed by a nine-foot-tall zombie body puppet in chains held by steel-skull-masked handlers. Then 7 Ghostbusters came in cleanin’ up the town, with cars numbered ECTO 1M and ECTO-5. Also, two women and a little girl along with two men armed with proton packs and neutrino wands marched as Trumpbusters.

The Seventh Son Brewing truck, which bore banners demanding the legalization of Brewcats – that may or may not refer to a Finnish beer brewed by women – broke down or ran out of gas about 45 minutes in and was pushed through a good portion of the parade. Boy Scouts know: Always bring a gas can with your gas guzzler.

Another truck bore a “Theibertville” banner and carried in its bed an empty folding chair and an empty tri-corner hat. Again, I blame Joe. Jiggly hula gals working from the hips in leis, grass skirts, and bikini tops followed a grass hut truck labeled “Freaky-Tiki Dancers.” Belly dancers in similar proper form and costume danced amongst a bevy of what I believe were flying squirrels – which reminds me, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, June Foray, will be 100 on September 18; short is the list of centennarian celebrities.

The beloved art cars made appearances, one covered with wine corks (Cheers!), one in wallpaper swatches with a crocheted Old Glory on the hood. Ramona Moon, a pioneer and lifer in the art car movement, brought in a fresh idea, her tan sedan had odds and ends of dross and detritus stuck to it with magnets. Shopping bags on the roof and coffee bags along the sides, the Ohio flag and an assortment of Old Glories, “Liberty Now A Bag Lady” on either side, and a Statue of Liberty miniature on the hood. All were apparently held on with magnets – fully rearrangeable or removable for more formal driving. Heretofore I have only seen art cars display permanent installations. An off-white van covered with toys and figurines and bumper stickers sported the UFP serial number NCC-1701/7 depicting the Galileo shuttlecraft from the Enterprise NCC-1701 after the Catullans (space Hippies) had their way with it. Darth Vader rode in a tie-fighter pedicab and promised to make the galaxy great again. Palpatine and a Trump-wigged storm trooper were close in-tow but no Luke Skywalker in sight. Princess Leia Organa was present, carrying a blaster, no less, but too distant to mount an attack against the Sith.

The oh-so-very decadently rich, with C-notes spilling from their pockets, begged the crowds for chilled caviar and proper martinis, parading as professional mendicants preying on us all, reaching out especially to those among us who love the feel of a stranger’s cold hands clutched around their naked dollars. A troupe of swing dancers line-danced like it was 1950 or a post-structuralist musical rendition thereof. A man in a coconut bra and faux grass skirt pretended to hula. Then came Dance-Walk Columbus, walking the parade but dancing as they went, which might seem like the swing dance entry except the Dance-Walk group could not stop to give demonstrations because they dance AND walk. Indiana Jones drove a classic motorcycle with his father in the sidecar on the same general quest as Monty Python – they also apparently ran out of gas and had to push through part of the parade: Always bring a gas can with your gas guzzler. Another entry featured children of today portraying the Children of the Seventies who had perfectly speckled freckles, rode banana-seat bikes, cared for pet rocks, and freely ate lead paint chips.

A woman dressed like Jeannie waved a sign shouting “Make Glitter Great Again!” Goths and the Angel of Death carried picket signs: “Satan Walks Among Us,” “The End Is Near,” “Hell is real...And Glitter Can’t Fix This Sh*t!” So there went that idea. There were also picket signs demanding impeachment. Why and Why Not carried a banner simply stating, “Why?/Why Not?” A cosplay group of fantasy-era warriors beat and battered each other with padded weapons. Three Wonder Women and three Xenas performed on rollerskates to promote Columbus Roller Girls. Chris Christie sat in the sun on his own private ENTIRE Jersey shore. A gang of black riders drove Vespas with photos of the faces of Trump’s steadfast cabinet over the headlights with the eyes cut out so the empty sockets glowed red. It felt so much more like a bad trip than a Doo Dah Parade. I felt numbly uncomfortable.

Even the Rocky Horror Picture Show crew’s Time Warp song and dance didn’t get everyone jumping left and stepping right with Dr. Frank N. Furter, the Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania, because we couldn’t use it to get to a place in time where nobody had voted for Trump. Dr. Bob Tesla walked alongside an El Camino with gorgeous ladies in the bed promoting Free Midnight Monster Movies at the Gateway’s presentation of Slave Girls On the Moon. Furries dressed as cartoon dogs, two with only head and paws and one in full costume on this hot and humid Fourth of July, surely sweating to death under their dog disguises. A CNN-logo-headed figure who walked in fear of a random act of Trump reminded us all how we feel about random acts of Trump. Only one other entry had the same uplifting effect as the flag twirlers: Richard Simmons in his red-and-white striped gym shorts and blue tank top with a following of lively aerobicists wearing sweat bands, short shorts, and ankle weights, hopping through it all, working out and sweating to the oldies.

And then, the pièce de résistance, the chocolate mousse, as it were, the 2017 Doo Dah Parade Donald Trumps: Donald and Melania lampooned as mariachis. Trump as a woman with Putin drunk on vodka trying to get into her pants, or something like that. Trump in a suit jacket, shirt, and tie, with a rubber baby doll face and a pair of sky blue shorts, looking like a grown-up rendering of Richie Rich, the Poor Little Rich Boy, riding on a scissor-lift and actively tweeting. The final entry was another Trump, this one in his tennis togs, walking with a podium on casters with a microphone attached to loudspeakers, who shouted very Trump-esque statements with actual Trump quotes mixed in. This was before Charlottesville and before the Boy Scout Jamboree, so his rhetoric was nothing like it might have been. He walked with a Secret Service caddy who alternately handed off a golf club or a tennis racquet to the faux US President who would then take a swing and comment on how hugely successful he was, and that this was the biggest Doo Dah Parade ever in history because he was in it. When the parody so clearly mirrors the object it parodies, it loses the humor. I know we need an outlet, and that’s kinda what the parade is for, but we also need an escape because the President is really like that 24/7. Some days we do need Kathy Griffin to exercise free speech for us all and take Trump by the beard.

Afterward I went to High Street and caught a COTA number 2, headed north to visit my friend DJ and watch Twin Peaks and Rick & Morty. On the bus I read more of Naked Lunch and reflected further about how far we’ve come since 1959.

See Doo Dah Photos page 16 and page 17 and page 24 and page 25

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