Saturday, June 21, 2014

Eggs, Stories, Parades, and Who's Gonna Clean up This Mess?

Santa Barbara, where you have lived for the better part of forty years, rejoices in celebrations of its cultural heritages with extravagant and energetic festivals held in the larger city parks.  Today, the day of Summer Solstice, Santa Barbara offers one of its two major parades,and the inspiration for this essay.

The Solstice Parade is a gallimaufry of whimsical floats, individuals with Druidic body pain, marching bands, and ad hoc groups, in and out of uniform, in and out of synchronized step, traversing the main drag, State Street, from Cota Street, which you could call way, way downtown, northward to Micheltorena Street, which is by most local accounts, mid, mid downtown.

You'd want a final point of reference for what would be uptown, or, as the locals call it, Upper State Street.  That reference point would be one of  the major arteries intersecting State Street, thus Mission Street, which, true to its name, would lead you to Mission Santa Barbara, with, among other more positive things, its shameful history of doing despicable things to the indigenous Chumash people.  The other major artery, farther north of Mission, is Las Positas Road.

Parades in Santa Barbara tend not to go much beyond Micheltoerena Street, probably because they are often held during the warmer months of June and August, suggesting the potential for the participants' flagging energy, but you have to consider as well the potential for boredom.

In mitigation, Las Positas Road includes the Earl Warren Show Grounds, which is a major venue for visiting circuses, a cat show, a gem show, a horse show, an enormous used-book sale, and the other major parade-oriented yearly venture, Fiesta Santa Barbara, or Old Spanish Days, an opportunity for gringo Republicans, enthused by the lure of too many margaritas, to wear costumes from those old 1780s days, and drunkenly fall off of horses. 

State Street begins to widen and take on non-downtown aspects beyond Micheltorena Street.  You would not want parades much beyond Micheltorena Street; if you had them offered to you, there's every chance you would claim a prior commitment.  

Living where you do now, the Solstice Parade has a direct effect on you relative to traffic, your ability to park near where you live, and your need to plan to stay in or venture out for much of the day.  Eager to preserve your customary parking place, you walked to The French Press on State and Figueroa, where you were to meet a friend for coffee.

Morning coffee has long been a ritual, best taken in slow, appreciative sips.  As you were sipping, there about you, street vendors were setting up their wares in anticipation of what the official Santa Barbara Solstice Parade web site refers to as an "influx of over a hundred thousand, from all parts of the world."

When you live in a city that relies on potential visitors, you become inured to tourists being called influxes, noting the frequent irony in references to panhandlers, street people, and buskers as influxes.  What you were impressed by today, for block after block, was the enormous number of vendors selling the confetti-filled egg known here by its Spanish--Mexican, really--name, cascarone.  In Spanish, cascara is eggshell.

Wherever there is a large Latino population in North America, you will find the cascarone, which has been variously used as a part of a courtship ritual, a convenient way of throwing confetti, a game, and a gesture of extending wishes for good luck to another.  

In some parades, the marchers throw cascarones at the bystanders; in yet other parades, the audience showers cascarones on the participants.  To live among such cultural riches without once having a cascarone broken over your head is to have lived in a severe bubble.  For one thing, it may mean no one you know likes you.  For another, it may indicate you are a neatness freak

Recipe:  Take one egg, puncture the end or cut off the tip.  Drain the contents of the egg.  Wash the insides of the egg.  Allow it to dry thoroughly.  Stuff the egg with confetti.  Seal the hole with wax or a patch of plastic cling wrap.

After coffee, you and your friend strolled down toward Cota Street.  You noted dozens of sites where cascarones were on sale, a harbinger of the confetti-filled streets to come.  You were also taken with the connection between a cascarone and a story, in particular if you are hit over the head with either, surprised, covered for a few moments with bright bits of paper.

What a splendid way to describe story:  something that hits you over the head, then covers you with a celebration, parts of which may linger for some time to come.

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