The Parade and the KKK- (Circa 1972)

Port Summerville was as white as rice; meaning, hardly any folks of color lived there. Sure, we had our fair share of Mexicans and Vietnamese, but if you were a colored fellow in town, it was assumed you must of either been lost or passing through.

It was a strange year. Disco was coming alive, Nixon ended the Vietnam war, then we ended him. Blazing Saddles was a box office hit, and our youngest son was born. It was also the year that my dearest friend graduated. Jody was a few years younger than me and was like a little brother. We met when Darlene and I played bridge with his parents. We caught up with him a few years later and reminisced about his high school days. We attended his graduation, and after he received his diploma, told me that high school was the best six years of his life. Currently, he is serving his fifth term as a U.S. Senator.

I’m wasn’t particularly proud of this, but we had a local KKK chapter — sort of. It began when the founding club members, all of them friends or acquaintances, decided they wanted to start a club, which was more of an excuse to drink than socialize. Leslie was the first to bring up the KKK because he had a great-uncle who used to be a member.

As a kid, Leslie filtered out what he wanted to, and kept the memories of what he remembered was the fun stuff. I don’t think any of the organizers really understood who or what the KKK was or what they represented. What the group did know —  they didn’t want to be Rotarians, and the Masons didn’t allow blacks or Jews. He said when he was about eight-years-old, his uncle Chuck told the youngins’ stories about his club. Leslie told the other founders what he recalled. The other members surrounded him like kids at a campfire. With clear and focused eyes fixed on Leslie, he told them of his memories. Those fellows weren’t Rhodes Scholars, but a far cry from being complete fools, but on the other hand…

Leslie paced around with his arms wrapped around his chest, then he stopped and said, “I’ve been thinking and studying on this for a while. We need a club instead of hanging around every Friday night, not to mention the women folk are fed up too. We need a cause, and I think this is the one.” As eager as beavers, everyone sat on metal folding chairs in a semi-circle and zeroed in on every word Leslie spoke.

Hector, a Mexican national, stood up, and in his broken English, he asked Leslie, “What gives?”

Leslie continued to pace around, then stopped in place. “Well, boys, its’ called the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK for short, and call themselves a fraternal order, sounds sort of like a college deal, and we’d be like frat brothers.” Someone asked what a frat brother was. Leslie narrowly edged out the others as far as intelligence went; he made it to the tenth grade. So, with his over achievement, he used it to his advantage and improvised. “Those college boys use a lot of foreign words, I think frat is Latin for ‘frattis,’ meaning to drink and enjoy.” Most of these guys where shrimpers and deckhands on oyster boats, and I none of them had ever been to college, I doubted any of them could spell KKK, but that didn’t keep them from continuing the conversation.

Travis jumped out of his seat and said, “I like the sound of that!”

Hector said, “But don’t those frat boys grow up to be assholes? Tyler Smithfield went to college, and he was in a frat club, it was something like, I Felta Delta. A few of us know him, and he sure turned out to be an asshole.”

“I think Tyler went to one of those snooty colleges,” —  then Leslie tried his best Bostonian accent — “up in Baaston. We’ll worry about that later; I don’t think any of us can afford to be a snob.” Everyone laughed out loud, then Leslie told them how he thought the club worked and what they did. “These fellows get together all the time and hold meetings and such. My uncle invited my brothers and me to one of their family events. They share picnics with their families, march in parades, and you ready for this, Travis?”

Travis, the only black member, about fell out of his chair, and asked, “What is it, Leslie?”

Leslie threw both arms in the air with excitement. “They make home visits to black folks!”

“So, Leslie, what you’re telling us if you can’t come to the meeting, they’ll take the meeting to you?”

“Travis, it’s a whole lot bigger than that. I think more like a community outreach program. Guess what else? They call themselves ‘knights’”

Travis lowered and shook his head, almost in tears. “Just knights? More like knights in shining armor.”

Tuye, a Vietnamese refugee added, “What a bunch of neat guys, pardon me, Leslie, — I mean gentlemen.”

Adolf, the only Jew, said, “More like men among men. These are my kind of guys.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, then Tuye told Leslie he was worried they weren’t good enough. He told them they’ll just need to wait and see, then assured the others they’d be fair because that’s just the way they are. Leslie continued in a concerned tone. “And guys, we need to watch our language, they’re pretty religious and big into crosses.”

Travis commented, “They’re not only knights but saints too? This is too good to be true!”

Hector said, “Man-oh-man, Leslie. Travis is right. They sound like a bunch of nice fellows. I’m in.”

Tuye said he read somewhere they started a lot of their meetings with a bonfire. “Probably like a campfire to roast marshmallows and weenies for the kids.”

Leslie told them they also had a mascot. Not a lion or a bear either, but a dragon and not just any old dragon, — it was a grand dragon.

As giddy as school girls on prom night, they talked and giggled among themselves, then discussed the plans if they joined. Those fellows had no clue what they were getting mixed up with. Travis departed from the others and wandered to the other side of the room. After a few minutes of solitude, he returned and had a confession. He was worried about something, and the others asked him what the problem was. Travis clutched his hands together, and beads of sweat poured from his darkened brow. “I’ll just announce it to the world and be done with it. I don’t think the KKK will let me in.”

Hector asked Travis why? “I dropped out of high school. There, I said it.”

Leslie assured him they wouldn’t single him out because of that, because the KKK was bigger than that. With continued assurance from Leslie, he added, “I doubt any of this motley crew graduated Summa Cumma Lumma.” Again, everyone got a big laugh, and whatever concerns Travis had, was soon forgotten.

“If they let us join, we should invite them to Port Summerville. I’ll get Pearl to whip up a delicious meal.” Travis paused for a moment — “God I hope they let us in.” Leslie told the group more and more stories of his youth and all he could remember his uncle had told them. He recalled one evening his uncle had to leave and go to a blanket party.

Stanley, the only gay member, said, “Like a slumber party?”

“Not really, Stanley —  more of a get together for other members who are having problems.”

Leslie said he heard it too. I’ve met most of these fellows, but they didn’t have the brains God gave a gnat. A blanket party is a form of corporal punishment usually used in the military on other members for misdeeds or rule violations; the KKK used it too.

“But boys, this is the best part, you guys ready?”

Tuye said, “Come on Leslie. What is it? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

Leslie continued to taunt them, then asked again, “You really ready?”

“Yes, Leslie, tell us!” Leslie stood up, paused for a moment, threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “They have costume parties all the time! Now Fellows, this is the one downside. They’re not creative as far as their attire goes. They always wear the same getup. It’s like a ghost outfit with a cone-looking hat. But who cares? They dress up for Halloween all year long.”

“I’ve heard enough! Let’s contact the national organization to see if they’ll approve us.”

“Good idea, Hector. I’ll get Wilma to write a letter right away. Boys, we’re on our way to getting some respect in this town.” Wilma, Leslie’s wife, filled out the paperwork, including a handwritten letter and provided the list of founding members as required. About a month later, the three got together to open a letter from national. The group met at Travis’s house and took a seat at his kitchen table.

“Well, fellows, this is it.” Leslie opened the letter. It was written on formal letterhead and was from the Imperial Klan’s of America. Their exuberance was deafened as Leslie read out loud.

Dear Sirs;

We regret to inform you that your membership has been denied. The founding organizers of your proposed chapter appear to be of questionable national origin. Because of our decision, you must discontinue using the initials KKK, its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.

Yours truly,

  1. Gordon Smith, attorney-at-law

All in attendance sat in shock, and not a word was spoken; Travis was spotted shedding a tear. The others shook their heads in disbelief. Hector was the first to break the silence. “Well guys, that’s that.”

“What a bunch of snobs,” Adolf said as he banged his head on the table.

Hector added, “We don’t need them anyway. We’ll continue on like we never heard of the stupid KKK.”

The sadness was so overwhelming, and Travis left the room telling the others he needed to be by himself, Adolf tagged along. Travis told Adolf that Leslie was probably to blame for the denial because he had a girl name. Adolf knew how upset Travis was, put his arm around him and promised him they will build an even bigger and better club. “We need to get back to the others. Stanley has been bawling for over an hour. I think the others are about to lynch him.” Adolf agreed, then the two went back to be with the others and worked on plan B.

***

Despite their rejection, the club roster grew, and membership expanded. The club included four more white guys, another Mexican, and one more Vietnamese. Buster, a friend of Stanley’s, and who is Canadian, wanted to be a member too. Leslie informed him that foreigners weren’t allowed. Tuye, the Vietnamese, took exception. “Leslie, where in the hell do you think me and Hector are from, — Maine?”

“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting.” and agreed with the consensus of the other members.

Buster’s membership was voted on and approved. Leslie performed a brief swearing-in ceremony. Buster was assigned to the finance committee. He had the duty of overseeing fifteen dollars and twenty-seven cents in the treasury, secured in the club safe; a coffee can. Stanley, a known fruit, congratulated Buster and gave him a hug and a kiss. Adolf whispered to Leslie, “That’s all we need; Canadian fruit.”

And last, but not least, to round off the club roster, was old man Steinberg’s oldest son, Adolf. I asked Mr. Steinberg why he named his son after such a madman? “John, did you ever read about Charles Manson?”

“Why, yes Ben, I have. Wasn’t he the one who had all those people hacked up including a lady movie star?”

Slightly irritated, he replied, “Yes John, that one. Now, should everyone who named his kid Charles to take it back because someone with the same name happens to be a crazed psychopath?”

“I guess not, Ben.”

“Besides, John, I named him after Adolf Hurwitz, the famous Jewish mathematician not that lunatic Hitler.”

Besides, John, I named him Adolphus, meaning ‘noble, majestic wolf,’ and nothing to do with that lunatic, Hitler. Those lamebrains he hangs out with shortened it, and now that is how he introduces himself. He’s as dumb as they are.

“Sorry Ben, I didn’t mean to offend.”

“None taken, John. Do you care for a bagel with schmear?”

“No thanks, Ben, I just ate, thank you, though.” I had no idea what a schmear was, and I wasn’t going to take any chances either. I couldn’t trust a man who won’t (doesn’t) eat bacon.

Back to the club. The first order of business was the club needed to figure out a new club name. They discussed several ideas, and nothing appealed to them, but they’ve got a new motto; If you can afford beer, you can join. No one in town took them in earnest. They were harmless, and the meeting was a gathering every Friday night at the Vietnamese church.

The meeting always began with a prayer and a shot of whiskey. After the prayer, usually led by Leslie, the clubs self-proclaimed leader, and always ended the prayer with, “We ask all of this in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Adolf was the only Jewish member of the club, and always objected to the Jesus Christ part, and every time he brought it up, Leslie apologized that included a hint of sarcasm and a touch of reverence. “Sorry Adolf, I keep forgetting you Jews are still waiting around for your Jesus.”

“Our Messiah, Leslie. The Messiah.”

Leslie rolled his eyes and whispered to himself, “Messiah, my ass,” then said, “You need to face the facts, Adolf, and get down on your hands and knees and accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior.” After the prayer and debate, they began the ritualistic drinking and playing, and I use the term loosely — music — all night long. When I said all night long, I mean all night long.

The band knew two songs, and the more they drank, the drunker they got, and the more intoxicated they became, the music turned deafening. Adolf played lead tambourine and the bongos, Stanley, the piccolo. No one thought a piccolo worked, but to keep him happy, they let him join in. Everyone else played guitar. Later in the evening while the others laid around passed out, and when you thought the music was over, whoever oversaw the bass guitar performed a solo that lasted about an hour. After the others regained consciousness, they played the whole thing again from the top. Now that’s entertainment.

The town leaders stood proud of their minority statistics, and furthest down the list were Jews, and fewer of them lived in Port Summerville than any other group. They kept to themselves and stayed out of sight, — by choice. The tourist bureau considered them a novelty, and in their words, “an important contribution to the tourism industry in Port Summerville.” They owned a few of the gift shops, and another had the only jewelry store.

The closest thing to a synagogue in Port Summerville was Ben Steinberg’s back porch. Every week on the Sabbath, a few of the town Jew’s gathered, told stories and prayed. They ate a kosher barbecue dinner, got smashed, shouted out a couple of Shaloms’, and that was the worship scene of our Jewish community. I was proud to be part Jew, not much, but enough to get my feathers ruffled when told a Jew jokes, but not enough to go to Ben’s synagogue.  — besides, I think I’m a Presbyterian.

To keep up with the times and be more progressive, Port Summerville extended the hand of friendship to both the gay and black communities. No one could explain this, not even the Chamber of Commerce, but Port Summerville was a “fruit basket magnet,” and they usually showed up in pairs. The black population, though small, continued to expand in numbers. They came here to find work at the shipyard or laborers in the surrounding cities and suburbs, or as I stated before, — either lost or just passing through.

Bill, watch for continuity between the different meeting places, there is some back and forth movement, from a meeting room to the hall, etc.

Darlene served on the parade organizing committee. They’re not an official city government committee, just a group of busybodies that had nothing better to do. Their task was limited to the organizing of the annual parades every year, such as the Christmas and Shrimp Festival parade, and a handful of others. The parade organizing committee met once a quarter by the same crowd of attendees and the same agenda. Every year the organizers got their parades rubber-stamped by the committee, afterward passed on for final approval from the permits department at City Hall. Blacks organized events all over the country, mostly Juneteenth celebrations and equal rights marches. So, a few self-appointed black leaders thought Port Summerville needed a parade too. The gay community got wind of this and wanted one also. I had my version of what a gay parade might look like, but taking Darlene’s advice, kept my mouth shut.

Perhaps a coincidence, but when the committee got together for their quarterly meeting, the two groups showed up at the same time with their representatives; Travis and Stanley. Now things got complicated. As you already know, Travis, was a black guy and a founding member of the club along with Leslie and the others but had his loyalties challenged by other black leaders. Stanley, also a founding member, but despite his club affiliation with his fellow comrades, felt he needed to represent the gay community.

Though still club brothers, both realigned their loyalties temporarily for the sake of their respective constituency. The two leaders did their research, and made their pitch to the committee, but knew of the limited resources Port Summerville had for parades. Travis and Stanley knew they were virtual outcasts, and decided it would be best to be as one. They joined forces and shared their limited funds for a parade, but still needed approval from the committee.

Collectively, they had enough money for a permit and a banner, then volunteers did the rest. Since both groups shared a similar rainbow design in their logo, the idea for a banner was easy. All they needed was a parade name. I told you it was complicated, then things got ridiculous. Adolf Steinberg busted into the meeting and said his group, the original club, wanted a parade too. The problem was, his group had no money, except whatever was in the safe. He insisted meeting the other two and see if they could work together making this the country’s first; a pseudo-KKK group, blacks, and gays coming together for a single parade event. Darlene, who was chairman of the committee, threw her hands up in the air and asked Adolf if he was aware of what the KKK was and what it stood for. “Leslie’s uncle said they were a fraternal order. We figured it was sort of a college deal —  like a fraternity.”

Darlene added, “Have you boys been living under a rock all your life?”

Travis defended Adolf and said, “What gives, Darlene? What are you trying to say?”

“Travis, you of all people should know.”

“Know what, Darlene?” Travis got his feathers ruffled, and as he put it, about to go all Negro on Darlene.

“You must think I’m just some dumb ole’ colored boy, don’t you Miss Darlene?”

“Travis, how long have we been friends?”

Travis, slightly taken aback said, “A few years, I suppose.”

In a scolding tone, she said, “Travis, I want you to take this in the spirit in which it is intended —  shut up.”

“Yes ma’am, I mean Darlene.”

Darlene continued, “All I was trying to say is that the KKK and all that it represents…” she paused for a moment, then conceded, and replied, “Never mind Travis. I must be thinking of something else.” Travis explained to the committee they had been denied membership but decided they would continue to follow, and I quote: “The KKK’s guiding principles.”

“Very sweet, Travis,” then she whispered to another committee member. “How can a group of adult men be so naïve?”

The other whispered back, “Or stupid. I don’t think this bunch is aware we’ve been to the moon.” Then she silently exclaimed, “Hell, Adolf thinks it’s a planet.”

Darlene responded with another whisper, “Or that a microwave isn’t just a coffee warmer.”

The other replied, “Or what one is.” Both snickered. Darlene called for a recess so the committee members could meet for a brief conference about the matter.

Adolf, Stanley, and Travis headed out to the hall and sat on a nearby bench. Travis stood beside the bench where Stanley and Travis sat. “Stanley, I’ve been doing some checking. I didn’t want to bring it up in the meeting, but I think Darlene may be on to something about the KKK.”

“What’s wrong Travis?”

In a serious tone, Travis said, “I think maybe it’s because of you they denied our membership in the KKK.”

A bit irritated, Stanley countered. “Is it because I’m white?” Adolf and Travis looked at each other in amazement.

“No, Stanley, not because you are white.”

Now concerned, Stanley said, “Oh my God, — is it because I’m a Unitarian! They’re afraid that my religious beliefs will influence them.”

“No Stanley, that isn’t it.”

Stanley paused and said, “Then, what is it, sweetie?”

Again, Adolf and Travis just looked at each other. Travis didn’t want to tell him what he thought the real reason was and hurt Stanley’s feelings. To end the conversation, Travis thought on his feet and said, “You need to be at least twenty-four to join. You’re too young.”

That was satisfactory enough for Stanley. The meeting was called back to order, and Darlene invited the three back inside. Darlene told them if they could work out the details, she and the committee sent the paperwork along for approval. Travis let Darlene know that he and the others wouldn’t let them down. Darlene’s final comment was, “I don’t know how you could. Good luck.”

I told you Port Summerville was weird, and as the saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” and necessity applied here, and a lot of it.

The committee had other business to attend to and asked Travis, Stanley, and Adolf to discuss their plans for the parade in a room across the hall. During the meeting, Travis, the representative for the black delegation, told Adolf they’ve got a lot to cover. Although Travis was still loyal to the club, he knew they needed to tone down anything that looked or smelled like the KKK. “I’m not sure why, but the committee seems to have a problem with it, so try to come up with something else.”

Adolf replied, “We’ll think of something Travis, you’ve got my word.” Adolf was still reeling because of the denial from national, and said in a pout, “Besides, we can’t use those letters anyways. Ya’ll remember?” Then doing air-quotes, said, “And its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.”

It was much too early in their meeting for emotions to flare, but they did. Stanley, who represented the gay community, was almost in tears and silently yelled, “And for God’s sakes, no hoods or those pajama things either! Their outfits are tacky!”

Adolf, a little put off replied, “Their outfits? What happened to ‘our’ outfits, Stanley? And when did you get so hoity-toity? They are costumes, and you know it. What gives Stanley, you’re a member too.”

“Not anymore, Travis said I’m too young. Anyway, my new friends need help with the parade —”, then he stuck out his tongue and said — “so there.”

Travis tried to get both of them back on track.  “Adolf, are we clear about the getup?”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson.”

“Shut up, Adolf. Can’t we all just get along?”

In a pout, Stanley said, “If we don’t figure something out, they’ll ruin the parade for everyone!”

In a hushed voice, Adolf said, aimed in the direction of the committee, “And they’d never forgive us.”

Stanley was crying and said he was upset and needed a hug. Adolf patted him on the back. “There, there.” Adolf continued to do his best to comfort Stanley and told him they’d figure something out. Adolf also assured the two; no hoods or robes either. It didn’t matter —  they couldn’t afford them. They decided to wear blue jeans and a nice shirt.

Stanley added, “With a scarf?” Adolf turned to Travis, and silently told him he thought the scarf should be reserved for his bunch. Keep in mind, the committee members gathered across the hall about twenty feet away and heard most of the conversation, — in astonishment.

The committee members adjourned, and left the room, except our three organizers. Towards the end of their meeting, they discussed the menu for the picnic. “My group will bring the fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Stanley, the gay rep, jumped to his feet and said, “Isn’t that a bit stereotypical, Travis?”

“What do you mean, Stanley?”

Stanley leaned in toward Travis, and in a whisper, said, “You know….”

“Know what?”

Stanley responded, “Fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Travis asked, “Don’t you like fried chicken, Stanley?”

And in a huff, Stanley said, “Well yes, I do, but I prefer mine baked with sautéed mushrooms in a cream sherry sauce.”

Travis ignored him and asked Adolf, “What will you and your bunch be bringing to the picnic?”

“We’ll get our old ladies to whip up some hot dogs and Collard greens.”

“Travis, did you hear him? He said collard greens!”

“Stanley, what’s your beef? My people don’t control all the food groups.”

“Travis, those idiots don’t eat Collard greens. He’s making fun of you.”

“Stanley, don’t go getting yourself all in an uproar. Honkies like collard greens too. I don’t, and Wilma says they stink up the house.”

Then, Adolf jumped to his feet and headed toward Travis. Tension filled the air as these two exchanged insults. “Honkies? Since when did you go all black on us?” Adolf exclaimed.

“Gee whiz, Adolf, I don’t know, maybe because I’m black.”

“Sorry Travis, I forgot.” Back to the fight. The two were eyeball-to-eyeball, both sets of fists raised and ready to brawl.

Stanley jumped in between the two and pushed them apart, then said, “Now Travis, you apologize to Adolf for calling him that name.”

Travis gave a reluctant apology. Adolf not too accepting of the apology, replied, “No prob, cuz.” That was the best Travis could muster for an apology. Sure was a lot of apologizing going on during the meeting, but it had to be expected. The two returned to their respective corners.

Stanley briefly took sides with Travis and whispered, “He is such a male.”

Adolf overheard his comment and said, “OK, fruit pants, what will you girls be bringing?”

“Adolf, I’ll sashay me and my fruit pants over there and slap the shit out of you.” Now Travis had to intervene with these two.

“It’s time for you boys to settle down. This bickering will get us nowhere. Adolf, now it’s your turn —  apologize to Stanley.”

Stanley has worked his way into a full-blown tizzy. “I won’t accept an apology from that baboon.” Stanley crossed his arms and turned his back away and said, “Travis you tell him, I’m not speaking to that cretin.” Stanley kept his arms crossed in protest followed by more pouting, and a foot stomp.

Adolf tried his best for a sincere apology and said, “Come on Stanley, I was kidding around. I’m soooo sorry. Let’s start over. Now, what will you and your friends be bringing to the picnic?”

Stanley rebounded from his fit, and with giddiness in his voice, said, “Thank you, Adolf. Well, my friends and I will be serving delicious, individual quiche tarts with a fresh rose petal salad.” Adolf and Travis looked at each other with a confused look on their faces.

Travis asked, “Stanley — I’m dying to know, what beverages you will bring?”

“Pink Ladies and Daiquiris, you silly.” Again, Adolf and Travis looked at each other, but this time instead of amazement, it was more like shock. They were speechless.

Adolf aware of his sensitive nature, gently asked, “Stanley, now what exactly is a Pink Lady? I know what a Daiquiri is, I’m just not too familiar with the other one.”

Stanley got all excited and gave the ingredients for a Pink Lady. “It has a little of this, and a little of that, with an egg white, all shaken up, all topped with a sweet red cherry. Yummy!”

Adolf turned to Travis and whispered, “Sounds more like fruit punch.”

Travis warned him in a low tone and said, “I’d be careful, Adolf, that ‘slap-the-shit-out-of- you’ was only a starter; he’s a black belt in karate.”

Stanley overheard the conversation and again said in a huff, “We don’t have to be such barbarians. Someone must add some civility to this event. You two are such simpletons.”

Travis turned to Adolf, and in an uppity tone said, “Why, my dear Adolf, I do believe we’ve been insulted.”

Adolf, in a similar tone, said, “I concur, Travis, there does appear to be a bit of an attitude.” Stanley smiled. The three tried to be as quiet as they could in their little piece of the meeting room. The committee members heard them laughing when they entered and rejoined the meeting. Everything was peaceful once again. The other members reconvened, and after about an hour-long discussion, Travis, Adolf, and Stanley stood and announced they had an idea to incorporate the three groups and align their collaborative efforts.

No one thought it could ever happen, but Adolf and his group, stood side-by-side in complete solidarity with the black and gay community, and together they created Port Summerville’s first annual TripleK-Blayday Parade. Triple K for apparent reasons, then black and gay shortened to form the word, Blay. Darlene comment was short. “This ought to be interesting.”

Another benefit of the meeting, Adolf, and his organization came up with a name and proudly introduced the newest club in Port Summerville; the TripleK Klub. Club was spelled using a K instead of a C because Stanley thought switching them would be cute. The one detail to work out was incorporating the three groups’ logos onto the same banner. Travis told the committee, “We’re way ahead of you.”

The three sketched out a design they agreed on and decided the banner. It included a rainbow design on the left, another one on the right, and a Confederate flag in the middle. Stanley and his new friend, Buster, the gay Canadian, volunteered to embroider a flower and peace symbol in the center of the Confederate flag. They flipped a coin to see who would carry the banner and lead the parade. A few days later, a permit was issued, and the parade date was set, then sent the invitations out to other participants. The two holdouts were the mayor and the sheriff, at least for the time being.

***

The mayor and the sheriff had a private meeting to discuss the matter, then after a brief conversation on other city matters and idle chit-chat, the mayor said, “Sheriff, I’ve got a real problem with this parade thing.”

Miles, the Sheriff, agreed. “I know what you mean. You’re in quite a pickle. If you don’t go, the blacks will think you’re a bigot.”

“I know what you mean, but if I go, the anti-gay bunch will crawl up my ass.”

The sheriff, a bit shocked, looked at him and said, “They’ll do what?”

“You know what I mean. What in the hell goes on in that head of yours?”

“Sorry, your Excellency.”

Not amused, the mayor continued. “My sister should’ve cut your balls off years ago. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Another group to worry about if I don’t go, are those knuckleheads. They’ll think I’m anti-white.”

“But you are white.”

“I know that, dumb-ass.” The mayor fidgeted in his chair and tapped his pencil on the table. He lit up a Camel, then continued. “I’m in one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenarios.” The mayor got up from his chair and paced around, taking several back-to-back puffs of his cigarette. “You don’t have to go. You can use that,” then using air-quotes, said, “I’m too busy upholding the law bullshit.” He paused again, then said in a panic, “I’ve got nothing!”

“Don’t worry Mayor, we’ll think of something.” Then the sheriff threw both arms in the air and said, “I’ve got it! Send a representative from your office.”

“What are you talking about? There isn’t anyone. This is the kind of shit I’m supposed to do.” The mayor sat back down and took a few more drags from his cigarette. He tapped his pen on his desk then said, “Maybe if I sit on the float with the queen…”

The sheriff interrupted, exclaimed and said, “Are you crazy? They’ll think you’re a queer.”

“Not their queen, dumb shit. The black queen. They elected their own queen for the parade, you moron.” He got back up from his chair and continued to pace again. The mayor stopped his pacing and said, “That’s it! I’ll sit on the float with her. That’s my best bet and will neutralize my position and show the community how open-minded I am. It will also distance me from the you-know-whos without seeming too obvious. That should soften the blow.” The sheriff took a step back and stared at him. The mayor saw the stupid look on the sheriff’s face after the “soften the blow” comment. “Miles, get your head out of the gutter.”

“You’re the one talking dirty.” They both laughed, even though the mayor was feeling pressured. “Mayor, I think you’ve got a handle on the situation. This will demonstrate real political strength. You’re a real problem solver, Harry. I guess that’s why they elected you mayor.”

“Damn straight. Call me ‘Mayor Fix It’; ‘The problemater.’ Miles, go tell Bertha to notify the press.” Miles left the room, and the mayor sat back down, then kicked his feet up on his desk. Feeling slightly relieved at his decision, he took a final couple of drags off his cigarette, then stomped the remaining butt on the floor, then though, “All in a day’s work.” He left the building and got a massage.

The invitations went out, and the Shriner’s headed the list. Shriner’s only needed to hear the word parade and gladly accepted the offer to participate. They could care-a-less about the theme. The only criteria were to have plenty of beer for them and gasoline for their mini-bikes.

Seizing the opportunity for votes, every politician in Port Summerville and the surrounding county took part as well. Not wanting to be left out of this historical event, Miss Shrimp showed up too, along with her entourage of ladies-in-waiting. You’d think Miss Shrimp would have been a knockout, — not in this case. You got the title of Miss Shrimp by winning the shrimp eating contest. She was fat and obnoxious and chain-smoked. The ladies-in-waiting were well-known town sluts.

The mayor, satisfied with his tactical decision, attended the parade, but in a last-minute mix-up, he rode in the I’m Queer, and I’m Here float and sat by their queen. She was a six foot, four-inch transvestite named Kelsey. They’ve been secretly dating ever since.

***

There was this one Port Summerville cop, I won’t name any names, but his initials were Officer Kent Dorf. It was rumored Officer Dorf was a fruit, and everything pointed in that direction and had been chasing around after Brad for years. Too bad, Brad was straight as an arrow, but he still dreamed someday the two would be in each other’s arms. Fat chance, cream puff. Dorf begged the parade committee to let him oversee crowd control and security. I think he wanted to be a parade participant with Stanley’s bunch but didn’t want to get found out, — in other words, he wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Coming out of the closet was a new term cupcakes used when they wanted to tell the world of their fruitiness. I was still bugged that all the special groups hijacked words and phrases, like coming out of the closet. It did nothing but complicate my life. Because Darlene was way ahead of her time, knew what the expression meant and selfishly kept it to herself, and reserved that knowledge to screw with me. One day I was getting a pair of jeans out of the closet. She knew damn well where I was, but choose to taunt me instead. She seized the opportunity, asked where I was, and I yelled, “I’m in the closet!” She laughed, and I hollered back, “What’s so funny? I’m just in the closet.”

Still laughing, “When will you be coming out of the closet?” Now, she’s being perverted.

“I’ll be out of the closet in a minute.” She fell to the floor with laughter and rolled all around, and continued laughing all the while. I never went into or came out of the closet again. She’s was such a jerk, and so, if I needed anything, she had to get it. I guess her humor backfired.

After the news of the parade hit the papers, the story spread like wildfire and went nationwide. The day of the event, everyone was excited. The parade route filled, mostly spectators and curiosity seekers. Then the media showed up that included all the major television news organizations; ABC, NBC, and CBS, plus a few newspaper reporters and magazine writers. Life Magazine’s photographer was going through rolls of film as fast as he could reload his camera.

Before the parade, we had opening speeches by the mayor, a couple of city councilmen, and a statement by Miss Shrimp welcoming everyone. A few weeks after the parade, Miss Shrimp will surrender her crown but already had a new one by winning the belching contest at the VFW. We wished her well in her continued conquest for excellence.

Everyone that worked the fairgrounds made final preparations for the picnic, and that is when the trouble began to brew. The parade received national media attention. Others noticed as well, including The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and another uninvited guest was a new group of nuts; The National Alliance. They got word the Klan wasn’t going to attend, and because they were a new organization, thought an opportunity to get in front of the camera would help spread their message, and it did. A few were arrested for public intoxication; most arrived drunk. The KKK didn’t show up for reasons still unknown. The scuttlebutt was they thought the climate was too hot, and I quote, “The town itself smelled of fish.”

The first two organizations, as a rule, remained peaceful and promoted their own causes. This new bunch of idiots only hated. They made the KKK look like a church choir. None of the planners or participants knew why the parade got the attention of the outsiders but threw it all, Travis… a black guy, Stanley… a gay guy, and Adolf… a Jew, all with the combined IQ of a brick, pulled it off. They had the tenacity to organize a function like the TripleK-BlayDay parade despite their perceived differences and was reason enough for those outsiders to come and stir things up.

The parade completed its route and reached the fairgrounds. The kids played on the beach and their parents along with other adults socialized and mingled. Color of skin and other stereotypes got tossed out the window, and everyone was having fun until a bullhorn blasted by the leader of the National Alliance. “White Power! We’re white, and we’re right!”

It wasn’t their usual style of doing things, but a needed response came from the NAACP representative. He took the bullhorn away from him and yelled, “Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!”

Not wanting to be left out, the ADL, the Jewish representative grabbed the bullhorn and yelled out an enthusiastic, “Go Jews!” He only said it once. No one heard that chant before, but he got caught up in the moment, and wanted to come up with something clever, but couldn’t think of a word that rhymed with Jew.

Our three heroes had heard enough, then jumped on the stage. Travis took the bullhorn and invited everyone to sing, “We Shall Overcome.” The crowd held their arms up and outstretched and sang along. Some swayed back and forth with the rhythm of the song. Then it was Adolf’s turn to sing his selection; “Die Fahne Hoch,” which meant, “The Flag on High.” Like a rock star, held fast to the bullhorn, and invited everyone to sing along, then blasted through the bullhorn, “Everyone, sing with me!” Adolf started to sing, but no one knew the words, so he wound up doing a solo. After he finished the song, and as a sign of support, Travis went up to Adolf with his right hand held high. Adolf had a confused look on his face but did the same, and both gave each other a loud clap for Adolf’s performance, and it was at that moment the high-five was invented. The two left the stage, then Stanley and his troupe ran on the platform and belted out a rendition of West Side Story’s, I feel Pretty.

After the performances, and in a show of solidarity between the three, all in attendance held hands and sang God Bless America. It was a picture-perfect moment. During the hand holding part, instead of the usual boy/girl, girl/boy set up, it was more like black guy/white girl, gay guy/ black girl, white guy/gay guy. You get my drift. They used an occasional Mexican and a few Vietnamese to fill in the gaps. When the hand holding was completed, they made a full human circle around the entire fairgrounds. Disgusted, the three groups of intruders got back on their buses and left. The media was not far behind. The Life Magazine photographer passed out, and in a statement from the magazine, they claimed the photographer was overcome with heat exhaustion. The truth was, he had one too many Pink Ladies.

After all the festivities came to an end, Travis, Adolf, and Stanley had a few moments alone and congratulated each other for a job well done. Adolf said to the other two, “We still on for Friday night down at the church?”

Travis replied, “Damn straight. We’re still brothers in the Triple K Klub.”

Stanley stepped in, “Goodie! This is my week to bring snacks. It’ll be a surprise. Can I come, Adolf?”

“Stanley, you’re a brother and always will be. Of course, you can come, we’ll give you an age waiver to stay a member.”

“Yippee!” Then he kissed Adolf right on the mouth.

After Adolf got over the shock, Travis was overheard saying, “Can’t wait for the surprise. Probably more Quiche.” Travis crossed his arms and grinned and asked Adolf if Stanley was a good kisser? “Shut up, Travis, and don’t tell the other guys.”

“I won’t, I promise.” The two parted ways to mingle with the crowd. As Travis walked away, Adolf heard him chanting something. “Stanley and Adolf sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes…,”

“Cut it out, Travis! I’ll get you!”

As it turned out, the TripleK-BlayDay parade was the most celebrated parade Port Summerville had ever hosted. Though a success, it was the first and last TripleK-BlayDay parade.

I can’t get enough of this.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *