Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chopadero Doo Dah

So What owns your brain time? What fills your head in that rare hour alone with your thoughts? Like when you're driving, for example. Long list of movies? Long list of books? The TV networks? The newspapers? The internet? The War? The End of the World as We Know It? Lots of foolishness masquerades as serious stuff out there, and if you pay too much attention it can just make you sick. What is important? What are you going to- well, do?
Sometimes the best choice is to allow yourself to relinquish your hold on the events of the world. If the Apocalypse comes on our watch, we won't be able to postpone it. We may as well enjoy the last days of the finest thing that ever happened on Planet Earth-

The miracle of Western Civilization.
Which is- slack.

That is- time on your hands, and the means to enjoy it.

Slack well done is a power plant that generates joy. It charges up the spirit, lightens the soul, and fills you with enough silly to laugh for days afterward. It heals you up from the abrasions caused by the media's daily assault on your sanity. Having fun makes you a happier person, and I believe that God wants us to be happy. But we still have to choose.

Small gestures are the seeds of great trends in our lives. The most casual decision spins out events in a vast web of coincidence that catches us up and connects us with others in ways we never dreamed possible.
But, once again-you have to choose. You have to make that casual decision, and extend the small gesture. Waiting for life to find you means sitting around and waiting forever. Television is dying to devour your slack.

In the meantime- what kind of stuff are you going to fold into your resume? When you see your life flash before your eyes in that last few seconds before The End- what kind of stuff will be on the screen? Your choice.
There is always the choice of either doing some thing, or doing no thing: Always choose Life, right? Even when it means asking yourself- just how much fun do I want to have here? It's like surfing- sometimes you don't realize how big the waves are until you paddle out to sea. And once you're out there, "I don't want to deal with this" is not an option. But I'm past the rash behaviors of my youth. Mostly. I mean, risking life and limb is out, but that still leaves a lot of cool stuff to do.

I'm on the Freeway heading for Pasadena.
And I can't shake the odd feeling that I'm paddling out into some big swell.
It's just a parade.
Yeah, but...

I've been hearing about the Doo-Dah Parade for years. It was originally a send up of the Rose Parade, but now any connection between the two events is a total accident. Still, it's a chance to put on a yearly freak show, and who in California can resist the opportunity? It's one of those events that gives Southern California its well-deserved reputation for kookiness. It's also one of those things like the Renaissance Faire- You say to yourself, "Yeah- some day I'll have to go see it," and then you never really go. But, as I noted earlier-Small gestures are often the seeds...

Browse around on the computer. Hit the 'gotta' have it' button.
And I'm getting off the 210 Freeway on Sierra Madre Boulevard heading south- hooking a left on Colorado Boulevard, East Pasadena. I pull off Colorado on Altadena, and there's a free parking place less than a block down. I pull the truck over, and I've got that deep water feeling again. I start unloading the Spoiler. I'm not just going to the Doo-Dah Parade. I'm gonna' ride in it with The Chopaderos.
And as always, I'm early.
The first truck of bikes pulls into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn right around when they said they would. Chuck, from Cyclone Coasters pulls around the corner. Here we go. The morning comes alive as bikes are unloaded, wrenches twisted, tires checked, greetings exchanged. Tada and his film crew are back. They rode along on the Cyclavia trip, and will be filming us again today. I got acquainted with a few of the Chopaderos from the Cyclavia ride, and a few other 'Deros come out for the monthly Cyclone Coasters ride in Long Beach. So I'm feeling less like a total stranger, which helps ease this recurring case of the willies- Just how much fun do you want to have? I've already paddled out.

Below- Bikes in the truck. All pictures click to enlarge

Below-Make unloading a brand new chrome plated cruiser

Just like Christmas

Everyone is saddled up. We get the signal, and a moment later the bikes in front of me are rolling. The Chopaderos get ready to make the plunge into the Do Dah. My feet are on the pedals, and there are no second thoughts. Just pay attention, and go. The pack rolls out of the parking lot, down Colorado, left at a side street, right at another, and we're there. Sort of. That is, we're in the staging area- the alleys, and small parking lots behind the storefronts on Colorado Boulevard. We jostle the dozens of choppers into our spot in line.

Southern California earns it's reputation for craziness. And I'm here with the Chopaderos getting ready to add to that reputation. We're right behind the Whistling Diva in her unrestored convertible 1970-something Volkswagen Thing, and right in front of a rock band dressed as Mormon missionaries- white shirts, ties, blacks slacks, bicycle helmets, and electric guitars. A spot or two behind them the Hare Krishnas are drumming, and chanting (with loudspeakers) while pulling along their circus colored juggernaut. There are women floating around in all manner of curious costume. There are folks in dog suits, stilt walkers, mask wearers, clowns, and queens of all genre and gender. And the Chopaderos outlaw bicycle club. Everyone waiting in the warm April sun.
Below- Welcome to RidiculousBelow- Mask wearers

Below- Women floating around in all sorts of curious costume

Below-And the Chopaderos Outlaw Bicycle Club

Below- Smog beast of the Whistling Diva

Below- Tada (plaid shirt) and crew never stop

Below-Queens of all genres

Compare and Contrast

Below- And Queens of all genders

Below- Last minute adjustment
And soon enough we hear air horns. The show is starting; the entries roll slowly forward. Remember the Whistling Diva, and her 1970-something Volkswagen? The last tune-up on that car called for new breaker points, spark plugs, and condenser. My guess is that the car was still under warranty when they did it. We inch forward engulfed in the cloud of toxic yellow exhaust belching out of those ancient pipes. This ain't good. The shirt and tie and helmet kids are rocking out behind us. We're getting close to Colorado. T hands out tortillas, and announces a quick change of plan. We're going to ride circles around the rock and roll helmet kids. Genius. This will extend our street time, and get us out from behind the smoggy Diva. Suddenly we're rolling, hooking a right on Colorado Boulevard, springing forward so we can heel a hard tight U-turn and loop back behind the rock band. I've done parade riding. It's a little tricky to ride a circle that progresses along a straight line, even with a regular bike, and the full width of a four lane street. Here all we get are the right two lanes. Some of these bikes (like mine) have a turning radius larger than a car's. Easy Rider this is not. This route is half a block down the right side of the street, a U-turn, a straight ride for a block before U-turning again, half a block more, then turn right to exit by the same street we enter from. The crowd spots the chopper gang on their bad ass bicycles. At this point everything sort of compresses into a blur. Tortillas and marshmallows are flying everywhere. We're crankin' on it, then going slow, coming to a full stop frequently, reach down and gather a couple stray tortillas, a marshmallow beans me back of the head, I'm riding again trying to get the Spoiler heeled around, zinging the tortillas Frisbee style, taking hits from marshmallows, getting all the way back to where the Hare Krishnas are pulling their float, and there's T off his bike leading the crowd in shouts to the laborers HEAVE HO, HEAVE, HO...,

Below- In the middle of the Madness
Below- Cutting back in front of the Hare Krishnas

Below- T off his bike directing the crowd. "HEAVE HO"

... and we're around the last U turn, stop to toss marshmallows at some kid, sling another tortilla, and the next thing, we're going right off of Colorado, back up the side street, around to the parking lot, and it's over.
Holy cow, what was that?

I have absolutely no sense of time right now- How long were we out there? What the hell just happened? Everyone's tires are full of marshmallows; how did we end up here? There is still a long line of parade entries inching toward the starting point. One by one they dive into the mosh pit. So when you see your life flash before your eyes in that last few seconds before The End- what kind of stuff will be on the screen?

The bike gang regroups. We pause for some picture taking, and then hit the street for a cruise down to a local watering hole. All the way down Colorado, people drive by honking their horns, shouting, giving the Chopaderos a thumb's up. We decompress for about an hour, and then head to the Dog Haus gourmet hot dog place for lunch.

Slack well done. It was all very good.