Tuesday, July 19, 2005
"Kerry, are you aware of the remarkable similarity between our names -- Kerry Prendergast and Kelly Pendergrast? If you were to say my name with a bad faux-Chinese accent it would sound like your own! I feel a kinship, Kerry, I really do!
I never got to ask her about it, though, because she was running off to attend a parade. Of course.
What city parades with more aplomb, or frequency, than the fair city of Wellington? Parades and marches, constantly. Two weeks ago I was working on Lambton Quay and I swear there were people parading noisily down the street four days out of the five. One lot of them even had drummers and ambulances with sirens. I mean, notwithstanding the fact it was the week of the All Blacks/Lions test and there were probably 5 zillion parades in honour of rugby, Wellington still has an abnormally high ratio of parades-per-capita.
Unfortunately, these parades are almost invariably boring like death. One day, as I sat in the library in the bit overlooking Civic Square, I was distracted from whatever old magazine I was reading by a small group of people assembled on the steps outside, arranging microphones and looking variously official and/or ready to break out in a powhiri.
An ominous sound could be heard in the distance. Was it a war-like enemy tribe? A belligerent army of percussionists? I was actually kind of excited.
The thunder approached, and into the square marched some faux-Carribean steel-drum-tapping fuckers with tinsel wigs lead by a man with an air horn. Bummer. Next came an army of bored looking people wearing SONY t-shirts, then a bunch of capoeira types doing their jumpy-flippy thing (it seems that some recent bylaw has decreed capoeira a compulsory part of all parades), then some photographers, then people carrying a Norwegian flag, and then a group of septuagenarians with green balloons and placards. It was a parade. I had no idea what was going on, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t like the look of it.
If you believe people like Mikhail Bakhtin (and everybody believes Russians), parades and carnivals were historically a site where the social hierarchy of the day could be overturned, urban spaces could be overrun, and the distinction between performer and audience was virtually nil. I’m sure a few contemporary parades live up to this anarchic ideal, as far as I can see mostly it’s more about being pushed onto footpath by a policemen so Santa’s float doesn’t run you over, or shouting tenuously-rhyming anti-war slogans at uncaring pedestrians. Either way, there’s not much in the way of social disorder or dancing in the street.
So what are these incessant parades for? I guess they’re for raising awareness (for good causes, for a new product), celebrating something (rugby, Christmas, being gay), or showing off your skills (usually capoiera). The whole thing’s kind of a drag, though. And who invited the people wearing SONY shirts? They pissed me off, they looked pissed off, and it would just be nice if they could be left to sell consumer electronics in peace and I could be left read back issues of trashy music magazines.