'Round the Clock on the Parade Route

Times Staff Writer

Jan. 2, 2006, 10:20 a.m.

One of the scenes that rarely makes it on television is how the parade ends.

Remember the cartoon characters Peabody and Sherman, the very bright dog and the all so average human that the animal is trying to teach about life? They use the Wayback Machine to go back in time and learn about the wry nature of history. I'm sure their adventures are somewhere on the more than 500 channels of television available. If not, there is probably a DVD.

The cartoon had a sequence of historical figures marching by, marked by a garbage man cleaning up the waste at the end.

After horses, floats and marching bands, the Rose Parade ends with people pouring out of the stands and joining in. They are usually led by a person carrying an enormous sign proclaiming religious fervor.

The rain didn't stop the outpouring as hundreds of people joined the parade. The idea of a Wayback Machine seems pleasing somehow because most of the traits of the parade are likewise throwbacks. Discipline, hard work and stick-to-itiveness were this year's real theme, and that's what made it magical.

Jan. 2, 2006, 10:01 a.m.

The city of Alhambra's float featured a reclining hippo and the motto Floating Down the River. It did. And no one laughed.

Jan. 2, 2006, 9:42 a.m.

You would have to have less heart than a box of rocks not to be touched by the effort of the marchers. The Pickerington (Ohio) High School band came by with the conductors dressed in formal tails, walking backward. For these people, the parade is just beginning, and they still have miles to go. If there's anything worse than walking in the rain, it's walking backward in the rain. You may not be able to see the water coming, but you will certainly see it flowing away.

Despite the drawback, the band kicked it while they played "Easing Down the Road."As is increasingly becoming clear, the crowd is cheering every effort because the effort matters more than the performance at this point.

Jan. 2, 2006, 9:25 a.m.

Many of the marching bands have worked for this moment with the national exposure for the better part of a year and they weren't about to let the rain stop their moment of glory.

The drum majors of the Southwest Dekalb marching band from Decatur, Ga., defiantly took off their raincoats and put them in their guardsmen hats as they began strutting and stepping to the uplifting music. The crowd, which needed a boost, responded to the burst of high energy.

The stands were beginning to thin a bit, resembling middle-age-pattern balding. An increasing number of bare spots were visible among what had started as well-filled bleachers.

One of the floats that went by featured Aladdin with the slogan, Your Wish is My Command. "He should command it to stop raining," said one person in the stands.

If there were any creatures that looked happy, it was the horses. After all, they didn't have to worry about raincoats and they're use to standing out in the rain. The most unhappy looking person was the vendor trying to sell cotton candy.

Jan. 2, 2006, 8:59 a.m.

It was raining so heavily that the streets were unable to deal with the overflow, which meant that some of the marchers were wading through the water as they were doing their routines.

The crowd remained appreciative of the sacrifice and few people left as the rain came down heavier. When a few did seek drier climes, those on the floats tactfully looked away. "What are we going to do?" said someone in the bleachers. "We're already wet."

Jan. 2, 2006, 8:50 a.m.

The USC Trojan band marches by wearing sunglasses as the rain intensifies.

It is hard to tell whether the bands are picking up the crowd or it's the other way around. The crowd waves their hands, raising the first two fingers in the USC salute. There are oohs and ahhs, but it may be for the limb from a palm tree that has blown off the tree.

Jan. 2, 2006, 8:40 a.m.

"You should come to my house later for dinner," one of my bleacher buddies tells me as I dictate a description back to the office. "I'm really enjoying the play by play." However, the real play-by-play folks are up in the booth dry. My fingers are swelling like sausages as I try to type on the Blackberry.

Jan. 2, 2006, 8:28 a.m.

I don't know much about football, but when it comes to game faces, the Allen High School marching band from Texas came to play. You couldn't tell that it was raining or cold as the pompom girls, dressed in short skirts and cowboy hats, were accompanied by more horns than any herd of cattle.

The crowd for a moment were all Texas fans as hands jumped into the sky amid shouts of "Hook 'em Horns."

The flag girls, who must have been cold in their jumpers, were equally game as they pirouetted to the music.

Jan. 2, 2006, 8:10 a.m.

The parade got off to a rocky start without the usual presence of the B-2 flyover. The floats and marching bands were moving past in what seemed like record time. Most of the players on the floats were wearing raincoats, but were cheering loudly in an effort to bolster the crowd.

The biggest cheers from the stands were for the bands, who tried to maintain military precision as the rain continued to fall. The crowd was most appreciative for the music, but especially for the effort. Even the flag girls seemed to ignore the rain as they went through their routine and were cheered.

Jan. 2, 2006, 7:55 a.m.

The magical music machine, the float from the city of Cerritos, is parked in front of our section. It seems like every piece of the exhibit is in motion. There are wheels and drums, a calliope and a huge hand waving an American flag. All are made out of flowers, which means it won't rust as the rain does it work.

Jan. 2, 2006, 7:40 a.m.

It is the pause that refreshes. The rain hasn't stopped, but it sure has slowed. In barely seconds, the crowd has surged forward, carrying towels to wipe down metal seats that are like ponds.

Maybe the late arrivals were caused by security — packages had to be opened and people inspected. More likely, people have been taking shelter under the stands and the start-up of the Alabama A&M University marching band has sent them to their seats.

Jan. 2, 2006, 7:35 a.m.

Who knew there was such diversity among umbrellas? For what it's worth, the Disney umbrellas far outnumber the ones for Universal Studios. There is even one umbrella with mouse ears. I can't see the person, but I doubt it's Brittney Spears or any other Mouseketeer.

Jan. 2, 2006, 7:20 a.m.

Our section is very ecumenical, at least when it comes to football.

I admit that football is not exactly my thing, but I have always been impressed by anything that excites so much passion in what is increasingly a cynical and world-weary society. Football touches many souls.

USC supporters seem to have an edge. One guy is wearing a Santa cap over a sweatshirt with the school logo. But there is no shortage of Texas ponchos, orange and black with a white stripe.

"You can buy them at the bookstore," said alumnus Cayce Coburn, a human relations specialist. "This is the first time I've used it. I had to come to sunny California to use it."

Jan. 2, 2006, 7:05 a.m.

After about 15 minutes of blissful dry, the skies opened up and umbrellas bloomed in our little section like weeds polluting a Rose Parade float. It seems like even Jove nods.

Jan. 2, 2006, 6:45 a.m.

The first people in section 150 Orange Grove, Aisle 2 are a party of 10 and they are ready to cope.

They look like a bouquet of, well, roses. Each wears a different color slicker as they huddle under a large sheet of plastic.

"I bought them yesterday at WalMart," said Kathy Bendokaitis of lake Forest.

"There is no place I'd rather be at 5:45 in the morning."

Jan. 2, 2006, 6:12 a.m.

I understand how a wet kitten must feel.

I am completely shrouded in Gore-Tex -- hat, coat, pants, boots, gloves. Didn't Al Gore invent Gore-Tex? Nope, he invented the Internet, which is the reason I've been given this opportunity to swim upstream, like a salmon. At least I'm all in red in case they need to ID me.

It could be worse. I could be one of the people carrying boxes of inexpensive photo supplies. They look like drowned kittens.

Jan. 2, 2006, 6:00 a.m.

A hopeful deal lies within the soul of Pasadena. Keep the Sabbath holy by never allowing the Rose Parade to sully the streets on a Sunday and God will follow through on that child's rhyme, "Rain, rain go away, come again another day."

Of all of the deals people claim to have made with God, (remember Faust? Or was it Buffy?), this one seems like one of the most harmless. After all, who doesn't love a parade?

Pasadena has changed over the years, no longer the place where patricians go to find safety from the plebes. Now the greater L.A. polyglot infuses the city, mingling with the cliched blue-haired matrons on their way to lunch. Despite those demographic shifts, only the most crass would want it to rain on someone else's parade.

Today's 117th edition of the Rose Parade would be the 10th time since the flower-bedecked floats began to roll down Pasadena's streets that rain has fallen, but the first time since 1955.

Nothing will dampen the spirits of those who braved the night outdoors. As James Brown (the Godfather of Soul, not the industrialist) noted: "I feel good."

It is still early, I think, as I watch the water puddle on my coat and listen to the wind. And there is a sense of optimism. The initial heavy rain was giving way to scattered showers and even moments of relative dryness. Maybe God will hold up his end of the bargain after all.

Jan. 2, 2006, 4:30 a.m.

The best novel about newspapers is the delightful "Scoop," the sendup of British journalism that, if anything, is more trenchant today than last century. If you trust the media, and especially if you despise it, this is the novel for you.

In the work, a garden writer, Booth, mistakenly gets sent to cover a war for a tabloid newspaper. Every journalistic sin from hype to fraud to incompetence is cruelly dissected in the witty kind of way for which the Brits are famous. Among the delicious scenes is Booth's kit, including cleft sticks, to send back his dispatches.

This morning I wake up and feel like Booth. I have my version of cleft sticks, a laptop set with a wi-fi card, a Blackberry handheld and a second cell phone. We're not sure if there will be a wi-fi network available and cells, well, sometimes you never know.

I don my rain outfit, complete with Gore-Tex pants and dorky hat with a wide brim. I bring no umbrella because it would obscure the view of others in the stands and after all, polls show that most people already hate the media enough.

If people knew how journalism was done, they might be more sympathetic. Then again, probably not.

Jan. 1, 2006, 11:05 p.m.

Some wag (was it Disraeli? Bismarck? Or maybe Twain?) once cautioned that if you enjoy something, say a sausage (or laws or politics), you should never see how it is made.

But they never got a chance to see the night before the Rose Parade, when floats are being brought in and primped.

The air is heavy, barely able to contain the moisture. It is like the very molecules of oxygen are sweating, creating a dense mist that hangs over Orange Grove Boulevard.

Daniel Haskell, of Fiesta, one of the primary float builders, examines the Kaiser Permanente float for damage. He is an observer, and will be the float's navigator during the parade — which could be the best job. While some people get to ride on top of floats, he will be inside the float where it should be dry, watching the 6.1 miles of road ahead.

He is pleased that there has been so little damage from the rain, which fell all afternoon. He finds a clump of missing flowers over one of the front wheels. It is like a huge divot dug up by a giant playing golf.

A bit of glue, a little new foliage and all will be well, he says.

"Back when in rained in '55, they didn't have waterproof glue," said Kevin Moore, the tournament liaison. "Now we have waterproof glue."

You can almost hear the footsteps of scientific progress in his voice.

Jan. 1, 2006, 11 p.m.

The feeling along Orange Grove is similar to the tension at the West Side staging area the night before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. When I lived in New York, we always went to large blocks around the Museum of Natural History, where the massive balloons would lie on the ground like fallen warriors. During the night, crews worked frantically to inflate the comic book heroes and heroines so they could march to the department store, bringing customers in the wake.

The Rose Parade floats carry their own smell of commercialism, but somehow it is less flagrant. Sure, there are the flower-related companies, chemicals, fertilizer, irrigation, but they vie for attention with cities, towns, schools and cultural institutions.

The two parades illustrate some of the differences between the coasts, one more frenzied, the other calmer. In Manhattan, the viewers are bunched up and herded along the sidewalks. As for the rain tonight, well, it isn't like you have to shovel the water off your car.

But the crowd is light, says Al Mora, 57, one of the 936 members of the tournament. He will work through the night until breakfast at 3 a.m. Then he will change into the famed white suit that is the badge of his authority. He said he expects to have to put his rain gear on over the suit.

The gawkers are in the hundreds.

"The reason that it is not more crowded," he says, "is that it isn't New Year's. If it were New Year's, there would be 4,000 to 5,000 people right now."

Jan 1, 2006, 10 p.m.

The crowd may be small, but it is hardy.

Wearing a USC cap, Anna Codoner sits on Orange Grove and spoons soup from a paper bowl that she got from one of the neighbors. She said she is unworried about the likely rain.

"I did it as a kid," she said. "Now I'm doing it with my daughter."

Jan,. 1, 2006, 9:30 p.m.

"Be Prepared" is their motto and they certainly are.

"You can do anything with duct tape and plastic," said Lori Wright, who is working with Boy Scout Troop 1 of Altadena. They share the site with a Girl Scout group chaperoned by Ruth McLaughlin.

The group is huddled over a fire (built inside a grate) that keeps everyone warm. Nearby are tents protected by the plastic and tape, worth its weight in flowers.

They have been here for three days staking claim to their spot. "Orange Grove is prime real estate," Wright said.

McLaughlin said the rain would not be a problem. She said she wanted to be able to tell her friends: "Remember the year it poured."

Besides, they could always dry out after the parade. And warm beds awaited them within an hour after the floats go by.

"It's only one day," McLaughlin said. "It's not like it's five days in the woods."

Jan. 1, 2:15 p.m.

John Howard of Simi Valley has found a good sideline that caters to his love of people and his sense of humor.

The food cart his charity runs supplies hot dogs, chili and drinks for the workers rushing to finish decorating the floats inside the Rosemont Pavilion, across from the Rose Bowl. But those outside are also hungry, so Howard shuffles food from the truck to the patrons, or gets his youthful assistants to do it.

"How much would it cost to get me inside?" asks Doug Abrahamson, of Pasadena, the on-set prop master for the television series "The Office."

"A hundred dollars," Howard says, getting into the spirit of charitable receiving.

"I'll take one of those hot dogs then," Abrahamson says.

"I usually charge a buck for each hot dog," Howard said. "But if I feel good, I'll only charge 'em 50 cents. I don't feel that good right now, so it is a dollar."

Jan. 1, 1:30 p.m.

The floats are lined up along Seco as the judges make their way from one to the next. The Ivory Soap entry (so pure, it floats!) is a riot of pinks and purples. Who knew that lavender had so many relatives?

The rumor is that the judging is being accelerated because of the threat of poor weather. Usually, the last judging is early in the morning, hours before the first parader steps off. This year, officials are trying to get as much of the judging out of the way while the floats remain undamaged from the rain.

Sound wimpy? Perhaps. But the drops from sky start to fall faster and it doesn't seem quite so bad a decision.

Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m.

It usually takes me about 28 minutes or so to run the 3.1 miles around the Rose Bowl and less than half that long to bicycle the loop. That is, if I don't fall off and break my arm.

Today, I would be lucky if I could do it in an hour.

The area around the Rosemont Pavilion, at Rosemont and Seco, is packed with float workers, cars, vendors and gawkers. They are easily outnumbered by the flowers on the floats.

Even in this crowd of fans displaying their allegiance on shirts, pants and sweats, Peggy Wareing of Blackfoot, Idaho, stands out. She is wearing (no pun intended) a tall red-and-white Dr. Seuss hat as she sells programs. Amid the Texas partisans and the USC backers, it seems appropriate that the retired first-grade teacher has her own team.

"I've been coming here 12 to 15 years," she explained. "The clientele keeps bringing me back. Some people come up to me every year to buy a program and tell me they recognize me because of the hat."

Wareing, who has three children and six grandchildren, stays each year with relatives, who are in the program-selling business. She said she makes enough money to pay for her trip from southeast Idaho. But it isn't travel, family or even the floats that bring her back and back and … well, you get the idea.

"It is so great to able to talk to adults instead of children," she says, and adjusts her hat.

_ _ _

Jan. 1, 11 a.m.

A string of vintage cars is moving slowly (well, even in ideal conditions they never move quickly) up Colorado Boulevard to Orange Grove. At the intersection, they move south to parade headquarters. This parade before the parade is a tradition.

Everyone knows Southern California is car crazy, and traffic is far busier than usual for a Sunday, but there still aren't enough people around to make up a football team. Still, one onlooker, standing in front of a fancy car dealership, cheers as the vehicles go by.

Jan. 1, 7:15 a.m.

On a typical Sunday morning, Colorado Boulevard from Orange Grove to Marengo is often a ghost town. At this time of year, a person is sometimes huddled at the bus stop, wearing a blanket or sleeping bag as protection from the morning chill. I am ashamed to say I don't stop to find out if it is a homeless person or a would-be passenger. One of my New Year's resolutions is to correct this.

But today is the day before the Rose Parade and workers are putting their final touches on television locations. Wooden boards are being installed to protect store display windows. There are a few knots of people holding coffee cups watching the work.

Near Marengo, three people have established a beachhead with all of the determination that marked the Allied invasion of Normandy Beach during World War II. The trio, Robert Wilson, 44, Diane Woods, 49, and her 17-year-old daughter, Katherine, are the first drops of what will become a flood of people, staking out territory to watch the parade.

It is an annual tradition, said Diane Woods, an educator. "You meet the greatest people overnight. We all love the parade and we don't want to spend $75 for seats."

The trio are the advance guard of a party that this year will grow to 16 people, though in the past it has been as large as 40. Woods said she has been to every parade for nearly a half-century. Her daughter, a student and an employee in an ice cream store, can boast of attending each of the 17 parades during her life.

Woods, from Monrovia, and Wilson, from Altadena, met on the route and their families look forward to the annual outing at the same spot. "Don't tell anyone exactly where," Woods says, "because this is the best place."

They are prepared to do battle with the elements. The women wear woolen caps pulled down over their ears. Wilson sports a trekking hat with a wide brim, boasting an REI logo. It is the same logo on his forest-grade backpack and frame. In addition to the sleeping bags, the propane stove, fuel cylinder and black plastic bags with supplies standing sentry along the chain-link fence, there are two boxes with rolls of 4-millimeter-thick polystyrene to deal with the expected rain. Oh yeah, there is also the cribbage board and the deck of cards to help fill the more than 24 hours before the first float passes.

By noon, they plan on moving to the curb to claim their real place.

"This area is so great because you can smell the flowers," Wilson said. "It's the one time of the year you get to sleep in the gutter."

Diane Woods smiled in agreement. "I've spent my life trying to stay out of the streets," she said.

Jan. 1, 6:45 a.m.

The day is dawning full of promise, and thankfully it's dry. Yesterday's misery of rain is gone. If you didn't know better, you would think the parade was safe from being rained on.

Alas, I fear this is the lull between storms, the pause that often betrays. The next big storm is still on its way.

Jan. 1, 12:01 a.m.

Since coming to Southern California, I usually greet the new year with a reverse twist on the First Step tradition. I leave my guests and walk onto the deck, carrying a glass of champagne to toast the mountains and watch the illuminated Rose Bowl.

Not even the threat of more rain can stop me. Despite a day of often heavy, pelting rain, the night is moist, but without precipitation.

I get a New Year's kiss, salty from caviar, for luck, and step out with my flute of champagne.

I heard a radio report recently that said there were 57 million bubbles in every bottle of champagne. How could anyone possibly know that?

I take a sip.

For those keeping score (and after all, isn't the Rose Bowl all about scores), that works out to just slightly more than five bottles of champagne needed to give every U.S. man, woman and child their own bubble. You would need more than 100 bottles to given a bubble to every person on Earth.

Boy oh boy, could we all use one of those bubbles, I think as I take another sip. It has been a trying year of ups and downs — tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, war and threats of epidemic. The new year is shaping up to be more of the same, not to mention the heavy dose of local and national politics.

I remember thinking similar thoughts last year. I shrug and take a sip. Life is always like a big wheel; sometimes you are on top of it and sometimes it is on top of you.

I can see the tops of the large tents around the Rose Bowl, each peak like a bobbing whitecap set in a sea of fog that is flowing from the east. Off in the distance an occasional fireworks display lights up the sky. A ragged "Happy New Year" echoes across the arroyo from the parking lots that have begun to fill with trailers and campers.

I take a look at the mountains, have a last sip from my glass and cross the threshold, hoping it will bring everyone luck in the new year. I feel we are owed.

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