Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paths not taken

Not that I’ve done a rigorously scientific survey or anything, but I tend to believe that at least a slight majority of people have, at some point or another, thought about owning their own business. Maybe it’s the liberating fantasy of being your own boss and answering to no one, maybe it’s the simple allure of doing something you truly love, or maybe it’s the attraction of becoming known as a true pillar of the community, a downtown fixture, a local employer and philanthropist and renowned expert on, I don’t know, Japanese fishing lures or somesuch. Of course those are just the superficial daydream facades, and in reality most businesses fail and even the ones that succeed take years and years of bonecrushing labor and mind-numbing promotion to start to break even. But hey, pleasant superficial illusions are what daydreams are for.

Please brace yourself for what I’m sure will be a senses-shattering shock, but more than once in my life I’ve envisioned myself running a comic book store. Never even so far as a “well, huh, maybe someday …” kind of quasi-plan, more of a “wouldn’t it be interesting if this opposite-of-reality scenario were happening” thing, but still. I’ve daydreamed ever so idly. And, granted, every time I’ve begun following yet another blog written by yet another actual comic book store owner (or even longtime employee), I’ve been humbly thankful for my assimilation into the droneforce under the Big Gray’s sway.

This past weekend, though, I had a moment where I once again briefly pined for the life of a smalltown comics retailer, albeit for a ludicrous reason which could in no way withstand rational pro/con analysis. The occasion was our town’s annual Christmas Parade (and, please note as I did, that it seems a pretty clear sign that I live in Real America when the parade is not called a Holiday Parade or any other all-inclusive non-specific abstraction) which constituted the morning’s entertainment for myself and the little guy on Saturday. The parade was impressively robust, with ninety-something different organizations marching, dancing, or motorcading in it, culminating in a very credible Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting on matching green thrones on a trailer float. The lead-up included multiple rescue squad’s worth of fire engines, several different marching bands, no less than three local dance companies, two different classic car clubs, and various rolling displays sponsored and/or manned by area businesses.

The little guy had enough fun to hang in there for the two hours required to see the whole show, and he was especially enchanted by the Jeep-enthusiasts’ group who all dressed up their vehicles with windscreens decorated to look like the eyes of the characters from Pixar’s Cars (more on that movie tomorrow, but needless to say the little guy is a huge fan) – in particular the last Jeep in the procession had not just the eyes but the buck-toothed mouth across the grill and towing apparatus out the back to complete a respectable Mater, the little guy’s favorite. I had fun, too, because I like a good parade and this definitely qualified. But I couldn’t deny that I was a little jealous of how much fun some of the local businesses seemed to be having as participants, and I naturally fell into old woolgathering grooves, designing hypothetical Christmas/comic book crossover floats and wondering which of my friends I could get to dress up as characters for it. (I will say I don’t think that last part would be particularly hard at all. I run in some fairly hammy and up-for-anything crowds.)

But of course that’s all just crazy inner secret life stuff. Besides, even if strange unforeseen circumstances (involving the implosion of the government contracting market and possibly me inheriting some commercial real estate?) pushed my life in that particular direction, I don’t know if my own contributions to the Christmas Parade could ever surpass what was far and away my favorite element this year: a local Cajun restaurant’s entry, which consisted of the following:

- A pickup truck, which was towing a trailer that carried
- A large speedboat, festooned with banners bearing the restaurant’s name, and carrying
- Various people dressed in Mardi Gras costumes including beads, colored wigs and crowns, etc. … and also towing
- A guy in a gorilla suit riding a skateboard as if he were waterskiing behind the boat

What this has to do with Christmas as it is generally celebrated around here I really couldn’t tell you. I think it is possible someone pulled a fast one and snuck a Saturnalia float into the Christmas Parade, and I say WELL-PLAYED.

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