Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Parade of Prophets

Nobody’s Opinion: Since I would hate to repeat the obvious putative commentaries on the fact that on this year’s Fourth of July, more than most Americans were extremely frustrated with the “State of the Union,”---I’m willing to bet there was not one single politician anywhere near a public place.

So, because of this I thought I would write about my more personal day. After all, there is only so much you can take of watching Bill and Hillary trying to present themselves as good ol’ country bumpkins who just love Iowa…ah sucks…

Bill even put on worn-out blue jeans for the occasion.

I turned off the TV, the radio, and thought to myself, “Let them all be damned.” which is proof that I am still an American…and got myself out of bed early to go see my very first Fourth of July parade.

My husband and I talked about this.

“Well, have you ever seen a parade?”

“No…not a REAL one…Does Mardi Gras count?"

“No, that’s mostly a bunch of drunk people on floats that all look the same, throwing out beads to drunk people…no….I don’t think so.”

“I used to watch swamp buggy parades in Naples, Florida when I was a kid…where all the swamp buggies would line up to go to the big race….the high school band would play.”

“No…that’s not a real one either.”

“Well, we’d better go. I’m not getting any younger.”

So downtown we went.

I don’t know how many readers have ever been to St. Louis, but the whole city should be condemned. Oh…you might be coming up to it, and see the Arch, the new baseball stadium, a few boats on the Mississippi…but my advise is---don’t leave your car.

Drive under the arch and go… "Look Jack, there’s the Arch!" ---and keep going.

Why vast shells of thousands of empty, burnt-out, broken-down, rat infested, buildings have been left up to rot in the sun, for more than 100 years…I have no idea. It’s always been a mystery to me.

Some of downtown St. Louis looks like Chernobyl on drugs.

But there are two days in St. Louis you can go downtown without fear of being killed…and that’s on St. Patrick’s day, and July the Fourth.

So there we were downtown, July the 4th,… at nine o’clock in the morning, walking down the street, and we sat on the first “benches” we came to.

Because well... we didn’t really want to stand in the hot sun, or walk any further than we had to. Hey, we didn’t get to be out-of-shape Americans for nothing.

We had no idea that these benches were for family members of the top “Masonic” families. There weren’t any signs saying, “Only Masonic families allowed here.” We didn’t figure it out until we saw almost all the people on the floats and clowns, the people holding the balloons waving at our section; in fact, it seemed only the horses did not know someone in our small section of benches.

Hi Fred! Hey…I talked to Louis! Hey Mike…there’s Mike…HEY!”

It was only then that I looked behind me and saw the big giant “M” on a glass plated door. Oh….rich people. Well, we fit right in.

It also didn’t take us long to figure out that the whole Fourth of July parade, really had a deeper history. Here in St. Louis, it’s called the Veiled Prophet Parade…and it’s actually our town’s version of Skull and Bones.

The very first float had nothing to do with Independence Day…Standing at the very head were some men from the Masonic Lodge, with secret veils on, holding long staffs and dressed in long pope looking robes.

No one knows who these guys are; or why they don’t want to be seen, or what law they had to break to get the job.

And on the float was a court of Rainbow Girls, all daughters of Masonic Father’s.

I was waiting for Fred and Barney Flintstone.

I’m thinking, “Maybe there IS something to this illuminati thing.”

Anyway, they have a “ball” that goes along with this Veiled Prophet thing called the Veiled Prophet Ball, and only the richest families get invited to it.

This is like a “coming out” of the rich daughters of the city. And the man who pays the most money, you guessed it… his daughter gets to be queen.

Kind of like our “election” of the United States President.

And then the rich boys get to meet the rich girls, and then they hopefully get married and become lawyers, politicians, or judges. So lots of money is raised and goes to the parade…which is to celebrate…July the Fourth, except it’s really for the lodge.

Got it?

This makes one wonder if Skull and Bones has a parade, or if it just has “balls??”

Yes, the secret Masonic lodges are still very much alive, even if they are a real puzzlement.

In fact, my grandfather belonged to the Masonic here, and his business made millions during the depression. My suspicions are that because he was a mason, he had the connections he needed to make money.

My grandfather never even learned to dial a telephone, and had an eight grade education. But back then, you could start up a business…and if you knew the right people in town, you would prosper.

So, I’m not knocking the Masons…it’s just, it’s all so secret, isn’t it?

Well, anyway, we did see a Statue of Liberty balloon, and an Uncle Sam balloon, and librarians walking book carts in military precision, and clowns, and guys having a great time speeding around in go-carts, throwing candy to all the great little kids.

We even saw some high school bands, from small Midwestern towns. And every single one of these kids were standing so proud, and some fool had made them do Michael Jackson’s moon walk and try to play at the same time…unbelievable.

And it was also the first time I was up close to the drummers (remember I was a drummer for years) echoing through the shells of the old city’s buildings.

These kids…from the small towns of America have brothers and sisters proudly serving in Iraq now. I was proud of every one of them. They gave me hope…and that’s not easy.

It was like I felt I was witnessing the preservation of something very precious.

Of course, I completely embarrassed every adult in the rich crowd (including my not really rich husband) by yelling and whistling and saying as loud as I could, “You guys are great!” to the drum solo one band did in front of us. I was, sadly, the ONLY one in the crowd applauding.

It was not something rich people do.

But, frankly, I really don’t care. Those kids did not make one mistake.

After the parade, we walked around under the Arch, and the place was practically deserted. Everyone must have gone home after the parade. In face, most people stayed home here. Money is tight…and the weatherman made it sound like Zeus himself was going to come out and strike each and every single person dead if they dared to come out to any firework display.

So we climbed up on the roof, and watched from afar…it was a perfect night, it was perfect weather…Of course it was.

And even though fireworks are outlawed here…I’ve never heard so many being blasted off in our neighborhood….

Guess there aren’t many mason’s in my neighborhood. And that’s okay with me.

But I’m not holding that against them, they put on a great parade. Next year I plan to go, sit in the same place, and yell, “Hey take off your mask!”

You can only pretend to be something you’re not for so long.

Nobody’s Perfect: I quit the Rainbow Girls a long time ago. It was so secretive--- I couldn’t for the life of me see the point. I mean, they don’t actually tell young girls that the only purpose of them going to meetings too look at silly pictures of rainbows..is to be looked over for possible future brides for rich sons.

I don’t think my grandfather ever forgave me.

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