Saturday, February 9, 2008

Doo Dah

Since 1976, Pasadena has been home to the Doo Dah Parade, a counter-cultural alternative to the pomp and circumstance of the Rose Parade. I hadn't heard of the Doo Dah until my friend Stacey suggested that we at CFI-LA (The Center for Inquiry Los Angeles) be involved. She formed a committee, and we eventually settled on the theme of Science vs. Nonsense. Our "float" ended up as a chain gang of scientists, scholars, upright apes and intellectuals being harassed and harangued by a rag-tag cadre of religious fundamentalists, a Scientologist, a psychic, and other proponents of illogic. We passed out Red Hots candies and copious amounts of CFI bookmarks.

I was dressed as a television evangelist, replete with full suit, slicked back hair and a Bible to thump. Originally I was going to be a priest, but my outfit was pretty crummy and we already had a pope (Jay) and my friend John had a great priest/Creflo Dollar getup. This turned out to be fortuitous, as who should I see at the pancake breakfast but Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping! You may have read my previous coverage of his media campaign. I saddled up to the pompadoured man and he agreed to take a picture with me!

My friend Charles was recruited to be our Muslim cleric. I must take the blame for this, as I imagined early on that his long beard, dyed black, would be perfect for the part. He took care of dying (the beard), and I visited a couple websites to learn how to wrap a turban. I had no idea how involved this would be! First of all, there is no one standard way to make a turban. I was expecting something akin to the "Windsor knot" of turban-wrapping. Instead, I found it to be quite the art form that is a very individualized expression of the person wearing it. Turban-making also requires an extremely long piece of cloth. I was able to get a large white sheet from the thrift store, cut it into strips, and then sew two strips together to make a 17 by 2 foot cloth that was folded length-wise and then wrapped around Charles' head. All things considered, I'd say it turned out pretty darn well for my second attempt!

After our breakfast, we headed out to stand in line for the parade to begin. And stand in line we did - for nearly two hours! Though we had plenty of visual oddities to see, and people to meet from other floats, the sun was blazing and we got so uncomfortable that one of our marchers had to get a ride home. At least I had God's word to stand on, but this will certainly be a lesson to us in the future.

Another lesson we learned was to bring amplifiers if there's any intention of playing music. We had a boom box all set to play Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", but the sound was drowned out by the general crowd noise and the Raelians in front of us who were blasting Edwin Starr's equally-catchy "War". I had always liked "Superstition", but was never aware of the great lyrics. Here are some of the highlights:

Very superstitious, writings on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.
Very superstitious, nothin more to say,
Very superstitious, the devils on his way,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin strong,
You dont wanna save me, sad is my song.
When you believe in things that you dont understand,
Then you suffer.... Superstition ain't the way.
Once we got started up, the parade itself was only about five blocks long. This was still enough to prove quite tiring, though, what with my running about, waving a Bible, passing out bookmarks, getting into balloon-sword fights with the other cast members, and shouting things like, "Praise Jesus!" and, "It's easier to change the Constitution than to change the Word of the living God!" (a little reference to Huckabee). All of this in a suit jacket. Suffice it to say, afterward I was very sweaty, tired, and ready to go home.

See more of my DooDah pictures on Flickr, or the set posted by Paula (who played our Scientologist). She also posted video here.

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