“We have to go to the Summer Solstice Parade,” my friend EcoWoman said as soon as I arrived at her house. I’d just flown across the country. She lives in a city on the west coast that’s famous for coffeehouses, the Space Needle, and the bluest skies that Bobby Sherman has ever seen.
I didn’t know what to expect from the parade. The only parade I’ve really ever attended is the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Snowstorm City, held during March which is still winter where I live. I associate parades with marching bands in full uniforms, bagpipe players in kilts, Irish dancers shivering in their kneesocks, and big floats where people wear long underwear under their costumes.
This parade began with hundreds of people on bicycles, most of them completely naked. They’d painted their bodies — with stripes, with patterns, with bright colors, with dark colors. Some wore accessories, like tutus or capes or butterfly wings. Their bodies were painted to match superheroes and characters from kids’ books. There were mermaids and elves. I got the impression that they’d all come from a big party where artists had gone wild using all these bodies as blank palettes. The result was spectacular.
Ecowoman and I sat on the curb, with crowds of people behind us, the sun shining down on the body paint of the naked bike riders as they coasted past. We saw bikers painted red and wearing Santa hats. We saw naked Batman and naked Robin. We saw Waldo and Elmo and the Cat in the Hat, plus all five of the Power Rangers. We saw nipples painted into flowers and penises that had clearly been dunked into a paint bucket. The artists had left no body part bare: many of the bikers were covered from ankle to scalp in blue or green or fluorescent pink.
The bikers all seemed to be having a great time — whooping and calling out to friends and reaching out to slap palms with people sitting at the curb. A few of the men had a sock or puppet head strategically placed, just to be silly. Many of the bikers made us smile, but I was also struck just how beautiful some of them were — especially the women whose bodies had become silhouettes in swirling shades of green, purple, or blue. They weren’t all on bikes. Some went by on rollerblades or danced along with hula hoops, moving to the music that was blaring from a band down the street.
I turned to EcoWoman, who was laughing and saying, “I knew you’d love this.” “Next year, we need to be in the parade,” I said. I was already planning what colours I’d choose for the body paint. She nodded. “I’ve got a bicycle.”