Saturday, June 06, 2009

No pity in the Rose City...

Big fun today at the annual Rose Festival. It must have something to do with having kids...

"Rose Festival" is one of those Portland things that identifies you as a real Portlander (as opposed to some freaking yahoo from somewhere southeast of Gresham) by the degree of total disregard you have for it. I think that before this year it must have been almost a decade since I "did" a Rose Festival event. This isn't a Cool Thing in Portland like the Rose City Rollers or the Adult Soap Box Derby. This is Portland's "official" springtime whoopdey-doo, a grab-bag of crap ranging from parades (at least three) to an airshow, rubber duck races (not nearly as cool as it sounds, believe it or not), and a visit from various flavors of warship.

The only reasonable approach to most of this stuff is to ignore it; it's fairly ridiculous, corporate "fun", the parades the usual bagatelle of bands, floats, princesses and clowns set amid a seething mass of underclothed, overfed white people from places like Roselawn and Happy Valley and everything else is overpriced and overpopulated. You get a pass if your participation has something to do with a sport or sport-like enthusiasm, like running or paddling in the dragon boat races.

But for the most part I desperately try and avoid the mess that is the Rose Fest downtown. In the Nineties it was worse than just bohick, it was downright dangerous; the combination of beer sales and packs of urban gangsters made the "Fun Center" (as the Festival committee insisted on calling the nasty little carny that takes over Waterfront Park) like Dodge City without the four fingers of Ol' Red-eye. Our local alt-weekly ran a pithy little essay entitled "Facedown in the Fun Center" or something to that effect, detailing the disaster that was this wretched carny.

Well, time, death, and the jails cleaned out the gangsters, the beer sales were curtailed and the place is now less skanky, but generally we still try and avoid the mess that is downtown during "Fleet Week". But this time Uncle Brent was holding the steering oar for Team Macpaddle, and the Peeper wanted to go see his hero steer to glory, so bright and early we got on the Maxine Train (as little Miss and I decided it should be called) and rode down with the crowds to the waterfront.

We walked - Little Miss rode her little umbrella stroller - down past the massively fenced, gated and securitized U.S. Navy DDG and the Canadian corvettes (you can't tour the things unless you want to stand in line for hours, and what with the fences and gates you can't really see them all that well, I don't see the PR value for the USN or the RCN and why they still send them is beyond me...) and the open, friendly and businesslike Coast Guard cutters, past the carnival, under the Hawthorne bridge, and there we were, amidst thousands of dragon boaters and an acre of goose shit.We met Brent and had a nice coze before he had to go with his team to get ready to race. The kids and I went down to the riverside to throw rocks in the water, play with sticks and lost goose feathers, watch the people, the geese and the boats, and wait for Uncle Brent to race.

Well, Brent steered very well - the Macpaddle boat went straight as a die - and the team paddled...mmm...a lot. But...just not very fast.

Brent was very manly about it, and it didn't seem to diminish his friend Heidi's respect for him any.

So, having duly cheered him, we walked back, past the ships, past the carnival..."the strong man Sampson lifts the midget little Tiny Tim way up on his shoulders, way up, and carries him on down the midway, past the kids, past the sailors, and the ferris wheel turns and turns like it ain't ever gonna stop..."

On the way we stopped for the Peeper to ride some of the rides, and eat a cookie at Saturday Market, and then back on the train again and up to North, and Bob the Subaru, and home and naps and TV and lunches.No crying. No meltdowns. No bickering, snapping, tantrums, or fussing. Just two sweet kids and a happy daddy. Nice."And the highway's haunted by the carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind"

Update 6/8: Like a good Hollywood story, the Macpaddles (whose Saturday was one of those montages where the hero boxer staggers and ducks, trying to stay upright as the evil heavyweight smacks him around as the flashbulbs pop and the hero's adoring girl and fight-film eye candy [that'd be you, Heidi] wrings her handkerchief in anguish...) came roaring back, paddles flashing, on Sunday, took two second-places in the heats and then won in a frantic sprint to the line to take their division, with Uncle Brent filling in for an injured paddler (OK, he just had to bail at the last minute) to power the team to victory. You know the script: "Cinderella story, former groundskeeper...about to be...the Master's champion."Yay, Uncle Brent!

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