More than any other city that I know, Saint Louis loves a parade. It should be no surprise then that today, Saint Louis became the first major American city to hold a welcome home parade for our returning Iraq war veterans. The last American troops left Iraq, at the end of last year.
January is a risky month for parade weather, but other than a cold west wind, you couldn’t ask for a better day for a parade. After a week of rain and grey, today’s sky was brilliantly blue. Even at noontime, it was still cold enough for ice to linger on frozen rain puddles. Anne and I biked downtown. While, not as crowded, not even by half, as last fall’s Cardinal World Championship parade, there was still a respectable turnout.
We bounced around in the crowd, alternating to and fro, between the sun and the shade. Standing in the sun was much warmer, but there was better viewing in the shade. Go figure! Everyone was extra polite to everyone else. The crowd thanked the soldiers for their service and the soldiers thanked the crowd for turning out. In addition to the returning veterans, veterans of American wars dating back to WWII were also represented. There were some of the usual Saint Louisan paraders, like the Moolah go-kart guys, but not near as many as in most parades. I especially loved seeing the service people with their families. One of the largest demographic was bikers.
There was a large contingent of bicycle cops. There were also wounded veterans riding hand-cycles, with prosthetics proudly displayed. Most of the bikers though were riding Harley’s. Sporting American flags galore, there must have been literally hundreds of motorcyclists in the parade, and nary was a one wearing a helmet. In Illinois helmets are optional, but the parade was in Missouri where they are not. It was a parade though, so maybe the regular rules didn’t apply. Each wave of bikers would rev their engines for effect and in the meantime push their bikes forward, Fred Flintstone style with their feet. All this sound and fury, signifying nothing, was fine. It was part of the spectacle. All save one A-hole who had no muffler and delighted in creating an ear-splitting roar. Still, it was a parade, so none of the rules seemed to apply.
Sorry for this rant against bikers. I should be more conciliatory, because they are brother two-wheelers. It is just that I don’t see the connection between middle-age men, wearing leather and making a racket and military service. Maybe it is the demographic, or maybe it is just about the noise. Years ago, when I use to rub shoulders with the local National Guard pilots, Lindbergh’s Own, they would tell stories of Saint Louisans calling up to complain about the noise made whenever they flew their fighter jets, “The noise made by your airplane woke-up my baby!” Their answer was always the same, “That’s the sound of freedom, Mam.”
I agree regarding the sound of Harleys… just try being in a Miata in traffic on a gorgeous “top-down day”, and having a Harley pull up next to you, then blast off (that exhaust is at Miata-driver ear level). Around here, all Harleys have NO mufflers (and I wonder how they can do that, given we have noise ordinances), and I have had my ears actually in pain from their sound. Not sure what they are trying to prove, besides that they are obnoxious as hell….