a tribute to Walter Chandler
This isn’t a good reason to miss the Christmas parade.
After all, floats are anchored to their numbered spots
in blocks of east and west feeder streets.
In the past, our sea of folks was split by marchers, trucks,
and bands before the ruckus, its raised eyebrows as Walter,
the gray-haired Afro strutter swished past all of us.
He’d been his own drum major, had led his Batonettes, aged
five to twenty-five, in fuchsia colored elastic shorts. Eyes stuck
to his swagger, often prompted mimics to strut alongside,
exaggerating his exaggeration. One reporter described Walter
as an X-rated Mummer without the feathers. Walter had a theory
about parades: parades were for showing it all.
For years, he’d done just that. No one else had provoked editorials,
had rattled do-gooders long after Santa’s waves. Masses swore, vowed
not to attend again, blocked their children’s cable access.
Still, that dread Sunday parade came and went. Crowds were thinner,
less awed. There were more skimpy-dressed majorettes on TV
at a Redskins’ game than in all of the parade.
Because this year Walter was a Hall of Famer, not a flame but a rider,
a celebrity in white, but for his red sash, a match to his hat and the shoes
no one saw. His seat, a kitchen chair in the back of the pick up truck
just didn’t sit him high enough.
B. Koplen original 12/11/97