Saturday, January 2, 2010

Something New

New Year’s Eve had a blue moon which made it special and so was the way I spent it. Though technically since what I did began after midnight, it was New Year’s Day. After the west coast replay of the ball dropping in New York, we sped off into the night. Across the Valley on the 101, then onto the 5 to the old Pasadena freeway, which incidentally was the first freeway built in Southern California. It’s narrow and quaint with it’s arched overpasses.

We parked on a street with old trees and inviting houses that felt like they had a history. But everything changed when we walked up the quiet side street and turned on to Orange Grove.

Barricades across the wide street kept traffic out. Ahead traffic lights blinked red and the whole area was bathed in light brighter than daylight by temporary fixtures that towered over the trees.

We joined other people walking along the shadowy sidewalk as ahead we could see the street was no longer empty. This is where they line up the floats for the Rose parade.

Once we reached the first float, there was a buzz of activity. People in white coveralls with large roses on the back of them zoomed around on white motor scooters. Float workers were still adding final flowers, and other people stood behind the yellow tape, keeping a protective eye.

The crowd of people wandering with us along the street was a mixed bag. I saw a guy in a tuxedo with Mickey Mouse ears on. A bride and groom looked like they’d just stepped away from their reception. There were teens in shorts and sweatshirts, along with bundled up people with scarves over their faces (definite overkill since it was probably only in the low 50's). Other people appeared dressed for a party, while still others were in jeans like me. The mood was friendly as everyone checked out the floats. You could walk right up to the yellow tape - close enough to smell the roses.

The flowers were amazing in their perfection. Yellow tulips opened just the right amount, and pink roses without a blemished petal. All the decorations are made of some part of a plant or flower. It was amazing seeing the giant Chinese float up close, and the space shuttle on the side of the MacDonald’s float, though they are really meant to be viewed at a distance and it wasn’t until I watched the parade on TV that I appreciated them as a whole.

While we were checking out the floats, the floats were moved up and tested. There was something eerie about the blast of music that suddenly poured out of one. Orange Grove is a wide street, but is residential. On either side off in the shadows were large houses and elegant apartment buildings.

Some of the coverall wearing scooter riders were a little drunk with their day of power and delighted in ordering the crowd around.

When we passed the float for the rose queen and her court, we were in front of the Wrigley mansion which is also the parade headquarters. A tent was set up on the lawn for a TV crew and an RV parked on the street as headquarters for the float workers. The side streets were filled with rental trucks and other equipment. And then I began to notice bodies in sleeping bags on the thick lawn of the parkway. As we got closer to the beginning of the float line, the parkway got more and more crowded. Not only sleeping bags, but chairs, fires, coolers and coffee makers to keep the overnighters going until they could watch the parade go by. The biggest crowd was at the cross street where the bands line up and intersperse with the floats.

When we reached the first float we turned back. The crowd had thinned by now and then it got slightly sinister when I saw the woman boldly marked FBI standing with a sleek black dog. A clump of men in black uniforms (or maybe it was blue so dark it looked black) all with dogs. There were no smiles here or jovial eyes as they prepared to do their work. A sad reflection that someone might want to make a point by blowing up one of the flower covered floats.

Soon the color and activity gave way to just empty street bathed in bright white light as we headed back to the car. By the time we got home, the middle of the night was over, and I imagined all the parade people were already thinking of morning coffee and I climbed into bed.

I think we might have found a new tradition.


Camille Minichino said...

With that great scarf, you could pass for the Queen of the parade, Betty.

Hope the rest of the year is as much fun!

Terri Thayer said...

What a great tradition. Are you building a plot around that? What a great place for a mystery.

Thanks for sharing.

Betty Hechtman said...

Camille, thanks for the compliment on the scarf. I'm surprised you could make it out in the photo.

Yes, Terri, I am thinking of including it in my next book.

signlady217 said...

What fun! Sounds like a good time was had by all (well, maybe not the folks in the dark suits!) After seeing the floats up close, they're even better in the parade itself, I would think.

Betty Hechtman said...

You're right, Signlady. Seeing the floats up close defintely changed how I viewed the parade. The strange part was I didn't recognize a lot of the floats when I saw them on the parade because when you see them up close, you notice the details, but miss out on the big picture.

It's neat to see the floats both ways.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Way cool post! I actually marched in an Orange Bowl Parade back in high school. I remember the crowd!

Linda O. Johnston said...

What a wonderful way to start the year, Betty! I've gone to the Rose Parade in the past, but never visited the area pre-parade. Sounds like--mostly--fun!

Betty Hechtman said...

How cool that you marched in the Orange Bowl parade. It must have been an interesting perspective.

It was fun, Linda. There is just something about going out in the middle of the night that feels like an exciting adventure.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Betty, I clicked on your photo and I was able to see that glorious scarf in a full computer screen size. Does that work for the rest of you?

Monica Ferris said...

I have long thought it would be fun to set a mystery at the Tournament of Roses Parade! Some while back I made the acquaintance of a woman who helps put flowers on one of the floats, so I had an "in" to the preparations of the floats! But somehow it never came off.

Betty Hechtman said...

Jonna, after the fact, I realized you could click on the photo to make it larger.

Interesting that you thought of setting a mystery at the Rose Parade, Monica. Didn't you write something about a town called Ulm in Minnesota? I watched the DVD of a movie called New in Town that was supposed to take place there, though they actually shot it in Winnipeg.