This will be the third year running that I’ve written about an amazing Seattle tradition. (Here’s last year’s post.) I can think of no better way to celebrate the advent of summer than the Fremont Solstice Parade. There’s such a feeling of joy that comes from this event.
In true Fremont style, everyone who participates in the parade does so in his/her/their own unique way. There are, for the most part, no politics involved. Signage is discouraged. There’s certainly no advertising. It’s just a two-hour-long orgy of self expression.
To me, this parade is the epitome of Seattle. I bear witness not only to celebrate summer, but also to celebrate the fact that I’m here, now, in this place. And I can’t imagine any place I’d rather be.
I try to picture such a freewheeling event happening in hyper-conservative, stodgy, judgmental Jacksonville, Florida, where I used to live, and I have to laugh. There’s no way on earth that would ever come to pass. So this is also a celebration of the fact that I’m no longer in a place that tried to make my choices for me, tried to squash my opinions, tried to tell me how to live my life. No, I’m now in a place where once a year, people come together and ride through the streets wearing nothing but smiles and body paint, and the whole city turns out to cheer.
I go to Fremont Solstice Parade every year to remind myself that I am finally free.
It had been a wonderful evening spent with my husband and a dear friend. Christmas lights, music, delightful conversation. Warm fuzzies all around.
Afterward we were driving my friend home. At least that was the plan. I was a snuggled down contentedly in the car, knowing my husband knew where he was going much better than I did. (I’m a bit geographically challenged at the best of times.)
We were in the midst of a surreal wind storm that had caused power outages all over town. The neighborhood we were in was pitch black, except for the headlights of cars. Everyone was being very cautious and taking turns. It was our turn. Really. It was.
And then, just like that, we were spinning around in an intersection. It all happened in slow motion. I remember thinking, “Oh. I’m spinning. I’ve never spun before.”
It’s funny where your mind goes in these situations.
The idiot, an arrogant 33 year old man fresh from a Christmas Party where he most likely indulged in too much holiday cheer, had blown right through the intersection. Luckily my husband saw what was about to happen and was able to accelerate enough so that the stupid punk hit the rear quarter panel, rather than hitting us broadside and most likely killing us all.
Then comes the standard stuff in these situations. Is everyone all right? Yes, considering. Neck and back discomfort. Nothing broken. No blood. The calling of the cops, who refuse to come out because there were no injuries, and we had managed to roll our car off the road. (If I had a dollar for every time a Seattle cop had refused to come when I called, I could retire now. I’m not impressed. If you live in this town, you’re on your freakin’ own.)
The arrogant punk said he wasn’t speeding. It took everything in me not to launch myself at his throat. Dude, you spun our car around. In an unlit intersection, where every other car was stopped. “Oh, was the power out?” Jesus. Seriously?
And then, as further proof that this was not his first rodeo, he said, “I’m not going to admit to any fault.” You learn to say that at driver’s school, and you usually only go there if you’re trying to avoid points on your license. Thank goodness a witness came forward.
The exchange of information. The calling of a tow truck. The calling of the insurance agency. The calling in sick to work the next day. The gradual realization that our car is most likely toast. The nausea from the adrenaline dump. Fighting the desire to cry so as not to freak out one’s spouse. Getting home 4 hours later than you originally intended. Feeling changed.
I was afraid to go to bed. I figured I had whiplash, and I was going to wake up in agony, and that pain would be with me for weeks, maybe months. Finally, at 2 am, I had no choice.
Lying there, waiting for sleep to take us, we engaged in the useless game of what ifs. What if we had taken another route, as suggested? What if I hadn’t asked for that detour to take pictures of the Lenin Statue, all decked out for the holidays? What if our passenger hadn’t put on her seatbelt? What if her son, one of my favorite kids in the entire world, had been in the car with us? Worst of all, what if my husband hadn’t had the presence of mind to accelerate, and the car had hit him directly in the shoulder and he had been killed, when we’ve only been married for three months? That is how my luck tends to run…
I’ve written about this before, how everything can change in an instant. It was all so surreal. It still is. If we humans kept the fact that the world is entirely arbitrary in the forefront of our minds, I don’t think any one of us could remain sane for long. The sands of life are just a little too shifty to allow us to remain upright.
So it’s official. My song for the season is, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth… to Remain in My Head as We Spin Out in This Intersection.”
Update: No injuries on our side, and our car was, indeed, totalled. I hope the little punk’s d*** fell off, but at the very least I can comfort myself with the fact that his insurance rates will rise.
God, but I love Seattle. And of all the unique neighborhoods that make up this city, my very favorite is Fremont. If houses went for something less than a half million dollars and actually came with parking spaces and decent sized yards, I’d live there. I do believe that this quirky, artsy neighborhood may in fact be the center of the universe, as its residents claim.
And right in the center of that center, so to speak, is a 16-foot communist-era bronze statue of Lenin, straight out of Czechoslovakia. The first time I saw it, I almost drove off the road. (I bet he gets that a lot.)
Needless to say, this statue is more than a little controversial. Lenin was the architect of destruction for millions of people. An indescribable amount of evil was done in his name. This is not a man that should be glorified by anyone. At a time when this nation is struggling with whether to keep or tear down its confederate monuments (Get rid of ‘em, I say. Check out my blog post here.) why would anyone even consider letting a statue of Lenin stand?
Context, I say. Confederate statues are still revered by many in the areas in which they were erected. More and more, they are becoming rallying points for hate rallies. Many of them were put up with an agenda, during the era of Jim Crow. They say, “Never forget who’s boss here, boy.”
Fremont’s Lenin, on the other hand, is mocked. People like to sit on his head during parades. His hands are often painted blood red, which I think should be a permanent change. He’s been dressed in drag during Pride week, and has been known to sport a clown nose. People pose in front of him, making funny faces. If that statue says anything at all, it’s, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” And thank goodness for that.
Unfortunately, this statue is a source of pain for some. That does make me sad. I hope the fact that in this case he is depicted in front of flames and guns, and the idea that no sane person looks upon it longing for that point in history, as many of the viewers of the monuments of the confederacy are wont to do, will bring people some level of comfort.
So, as long as the current context remains, I hope that this Lenin will remain standing. Lenin, with a clown nose and a tutu and blood on his hands, has much to teach us about the follies of the past.
It’s been for sale for years, by the way. $250,000, or best offer. So if you’re looking for a 16 foot communist lawn ornament (although I can’t imagine why you would be), there’s one available in Seattle.
Yesterday I had the quintessential Seattle, Washington day. It was the kind of day that really highlighted the fact that I’m not in Jacksonville, Florida anymore, baby, and I’m sooooooo glad of it! I could never have had a day like this in Florida. Not in a million years.
It’s an annual tradition here, on the Saturday closest to the longest day of the year, that there is a parade that wends its way through the Fremont neighborhood. But this isn’t just any parade. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all! This is a parade in which hundreds of people ride bicycles, and are wearing nothing but body paint.
My friends Paula and Jackson and I were amazed at how creative people were. Naked tigers. Naked Wonder Women. Some people were just flat out naked. I swear I saw more nudity in the space of an hour than I had in the rest of my 52 years.
The artistry and the confidence and pure joy of these people was liberating to me. And I loved that these were everyday people, complete with beer guts and wrinkles and back hair and curves and scars and sags and pregnant bellies. I love that people brought their kids. I love that anyone could participate.
I just freakin’ love Seattle!
After the bicyclists came some amazing floats, including a few very unflattering Trump parodies, and several bands and drum corps dressed in beautifully outlandish costumes. There were also a couple miles of vendors, anything from food to jewelry to hippie clothes to art to face painting and henna tattoos. And best of all, in that crowd of thousands, it was a peaceful and loving atmosphere.
I’ll leave you with some of the photos my friend Paula and I took of the event, and I’ll say it again:
I don’t know how I managed to overlook this Seattle tradition for so long (probably has something to do with the fact that I work every Sunday), but in the quirky Fremont neighborhood here in Seattle there is a street market every Sunday from 10 to 4. It’s only about two short blocks from the Fremont Drawbridge, and it’s a lot of fun. The first time I went was with friends Deborah and Dan.
You can shop for vintage clothing and jewelry, yard sale antiques, flowers, and all manner of international clothing, arts and crafts. Just feasting your eyes on the colorful wares is a delight. I also enjoy watching people walk their dogs. (My dog Quagmire would never tolerate crowds of this size.) And it’s a great way to just celebrate being out of doors.
There are some food trucks every Sunday, but once a month, the Mobile Food Rodeo descends on the area as well, and the crowds swell. The rodeo includes food from all over the globe: Greek, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Native American, all manner of Asian cuisine, as well as seafood, burgers, donuts and hot dogs.
When the weather is mild, after you’ve braved the long lines and gotten your food, you can sit along the banks of the ship canal and watch the boats go by, just as I did with my friends Paula and Kevin. It’s just the quintessential Seattle way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
I hope I see you there, but if you are planning to go, I highly recommend you carpool, bike, or take public transportation, or you’ll experience another Seattle tradition: the utter lack of parking.
Seattle really knows how to let its hair down. This neon image of Rapunzel on the Fremont Bridge is a neighborhood icon. Her hair used to be much longer but the bottom half of the neon isn’t there anymore for some reason. Now more than one person has said it kind of looks like an advertisement for a brothel, but hey, it’s art. What are you gonna do?
Across the street from Rapunzel on the same bridge is more neon art. This one is of an elephant battling an alligator. I know not why. But it’s interesting that the bridge is being painted blue and orange, which are the team colors for the Florida Gators. But then I’m told they’re also the colors for the Denver Broncos. Go figure.
You can’t sling a dead cat around here without hitting public art. That’s a refreshing change after living in uptight Jacksonville, Florida for 30 years. Public art is way too radical for that town. People might get ideas.
Here it’s almost a traffic hazard. I keep coming across unexpected delights and taking my foot off the gas. People tend to get a bit testy when I do that.
Here’s a sculpture that I came across when I was visiting the Ballard Locks.
And one can never forget the grumpy old Fremont Troll, clutching an actual volkswagon.
Here’s some more Seattle art that I’ve found on line that I’m looking forward to stumbling upon in person as I explore the city:
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love Google Doodles. They show that Google has a sense of humor and the confidence to mess with their own logo without thinking the world will come to an end. That almost makes me feel that corporations are human beings after all, as the Supreme Court ruled. Almost.
Other large entities would do well to take note of this. I’ve noticed that this type of bureaucratic humor is common here in Seattle. That “we’re all in this together” mentality makes me feel very warm toward this community.
Take, for example, the Seattle Department of Transportation. Yes, they’re my boss, but even if they weren’t, I’d be impressed by them. We are currently in the midst of a year-long painting project of the Fremont Bridge. This is causing obstructions and inconvenience for the residents of this neighborhood, but it has to be done. Now, they could have been rigid and humorless about the situation, and created an us vs. them mindset in the public, but instead they have posted these signs:
This really makes me feel good about being a part of this organization.
Maybe if AT&T and the US Post Office and the IRS adopted a sense of humor and humanity they wouldn’t be so universally disliked. But it takes courage. To do it, you have to take a step away from your safe, conservative little hidey-hole and take a risk. You have to be creative. We can’t have that, now, can we?