Torment of Roses 2012

On Sunday night, I received an invitation to see the Rose Parade. From the front row. For free. As a parent of a three-year-old little girl and disciple of Huell Howser, how could I say no? So on Monday morning Wendy and I woke up at six, dragged Eloise out of bed, and drove as close to my friend Lawrence’s place as possible. We hiked over in time for some hot coffee and homemade scones before walking out to folding chairs on the divider of Sierra Madre.

The night before, our benefactor had staked out our primo spot. As we waited for the parade to reach us, Boy Scouts sold programs, entrepreneurs offered refreshments, and hippie evangelists tried to save our souls. Finally, a fleet of CHiPs heralded the 123rd procession of the Rose Parade. The motorcycle cops rode in formation and refrained from ousting our section’s lone Occupier.

One of the very first floats featured Kenny G. He shared the flowery and moving stage with a Honda robot, sparking fiery debates among the spectators as to which of the two had more soul.

The new Rose Parade Queen and her court distracted the crowds from chemtrails. Other airborne offenders included a Stealth Bomber, the Farmers Insurance zeppelin, and Geico skywriting.

Sadly, George Takei was not invited to sit under the Starship Enterprise (circa 2009) on the Paramount Pictures float. I still don’t know who was wearing the Federation outfit, but there was one marching band that was dressed a lot like Picard and Number One from TNG.

A high school in Japan sent an almost all-girl marching band and drill team. I must watch too many Sushi Typhoon movies, because all I could think was that they were secretly trained to fight zombie ninjas.

Sadly, no miniature Frankenchrist cars for the Shriners this time around.

The California Clock Company’s theme of “Timeless Fun for Everybody” was contrived but actually pretty cool. The float featured a banked curve where skaters could do a Bert slide before dropping onto the pavement and cruising around to get back on and do it all over again. In keeping with a retro theme, the participants were equipped with plastic Penny boards!

To balance out the cowboys and cowgirls, the Rose Parade always has vaqueros and Native Americans. I’m sure the latter were legit or they would totally catch hell for the face paint.

By the time the paraders  reached us, they were already 5 miles into the route and the sun was blazing. I saw plenty of fatigued band members as well as a few who tapped out and were walking behind their groups while being held up by parade attendants. In the background of the above image, you can see a guy in a red jacket and black hat who was running up and down each row misting marchers in the face with a water bottle to keep them fresh.

Southeast Asia was well-represented by Thailand, Indonesia, and South Sumatera (clockwise from top). Other notable Asian participants included Taiwan, Torrance, Arcadia, and Alhambra.

The finale had a Roy Rogers float with a band that included a son and grandson of the Singing Cowboy performing “Happy Trails.” Shortly afterward, the follow-up parades began as mobs of spectators began walking back to their cars and jamming the freeways.

The Rose Parade is one of the many unique and interesting things that all Los Angelenos should do at least once. The only thing missing for me was KROQ’s old “Torment of Roses” simulcast in which they’d freestyle coverage while flipping through various TV stations’ broadcasts, but it wouldn’t have made sense from where we were sitting anyway. By the end Eloise was freaking out from being dragged out of bed so early, my forgetting to bring the gummy candy that I bribed her with, and exposure to the sun, but she had told me earlier that she LOVED it. Of course, so did I.