I forgot about the Mummers Parade yesterday, as I do every New Year’s, until I literally ran into it while jogging at midday. A dense crowd on the sidewalks at Broad and Washington was cheering, sort of, for a string band that was marching, sort of, toward City Hall. The band had stopped playing and come to a halt, and was waiting until its floats and other motorized props passed it and were in place, like an infantry squad waiting for the tanks to get in front.
It’s the same every year. The string bands stand around, march for a bit, stand around again. What they don’t do much of is parade, not until they get to City Hall, where the judges are waiting to assess their performances and choose the prizewinning bands.
I’m not badmouthing the event. Sax-and-banjo music is not my bag, it sounds like a blizzard of hornets, but the Mummers are hard-working, they’re trying to keep alive a primitive tradition.
One minute you’re in gray Philly and the next in some pagan outpost where wenches — young men in skirts and fools’ caps and face paint, with beers and parasols — are walking in broad daylight on a balmy winter day toward the post-parade party on “Two Street,” where there would be more beer and brawling and puking into the wee hours.
The balmy weather held last night, so Two Street must have looked like a bizarro world. I stayed in my own ‘hood after dark and saw trails of streamers and cardboard hats discarded by Mummers fans who’d marched through. It rained a little and there was a sheen on the streets that reminded me of the film noir Pushover. I half-expected to see Kim Novak in a black fur coat, standing on a streetcorner, waiting for her partner in treachery.
The Mummers have their bizarro world, I have mine.