I walked to the gathering area at 7th and Madison NW, after attending Sunday Mass at Old St Mary's in Chinatown. About 24 hours earlier, I had finalized my assignment at Council headquarters. I was to be a "pacer" (or whatever they called it) for "Element #68," a group of over two hundred Scouts and Scouters from California and Ohio, including the contingent from my old Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati. The various elements were spread out among the floats and grand marshals, which were grouped by historic decade. Ours was to march behind the "1940s" exhibit.
We waited for over an hour, listened as one parade staffer after another gave us vague instructions, until we got someone who had command of things. My cohort was an Assistant Scoutmaster from Denver by the name of Andreas Wisemann. He got our instructions from the parade managers, and we were set: ten lines, evenly spaced, behind our lineup of flags. I was already worn out from barking instructions to a bunch of guys who had to find it hard to pay attention amidst the excitement. But once we were queued up along Madison, and inserted behind one of the cars, we were good to go.
There is something about the camaraderie of a parade. The banter between Ohioans and Californians, the shouts of “B-S-A! ... B-S-A! ...” between them and the crowd, humoring a middle-aged Scouter when approaching the review stand: “Eyes ... LEFT!” “Scout salute ... ONE!” “Ready ... TWO!” And so on. The guys in California were trying to come up with a pop song to march to. I forget to consider the one from the movie Stripes with Bill Murray: “There she goes just a-walkin' down the street ...”
I'd be lying if I said the one-hundred-degree heat wasn't getting to me. And although I wasn't all that hungry all day, I really should have eaten more. But my cane was enough to get my arthritic knee through the event, and I had just enough water in the bottle. Fortunately, I know just how many streets to go before we reached the end. Going down Constitution Avenue from 7th Street to 18th Street. Arriving at the right job starting up Virginia Avenue, we stopped. “Gentlemen, it has been an honor and a privilege to lead you. Go Bearcats! You are dismissed!” And off they went, toward either the hundreds of water bottles along the curb to their left, or the "misting station" tent set up by the DC Fire Department.
I opted for the former, and found refuge beneath a shady tree. Lying there minding my own business, I was approached by three or four Scouters, who asked me if I was okay. I assured them that I was, and that I only needed another bottled water, which they brought. Finally, an EMT from the DCFD came along and asked the same thing, as well as for any medical conditions I had. That was when I relented and told him I would appreciate having my blood pressure checked. I got more than I bargained for, as they had me in an air-conditioned EMS van, on a gurney, with an O2 tube in my nose, and a BP of 160/72. After more than an hour of ripping open my shirt and pouring water on it, and making me eat something, I finally went down to 110/80, which for me is good.
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The rest of the day was anticlimactic. The storm clouds were moving in from the west very quickly, and I made it up the street to the lobby of my office building, just as it was starting to come down hard. The guards knew me, so staying there wasn't a problem, so after the rain stopped, I went home.
In closing, I want to thank George Crittenden, Director of the Centennial Parade, my comrade-in-arms Andreas Wisemann, and of course, the District of Columbia Fire Department. Finally, when I visit the National Jamboree this Wednesday, I hope I run into the guys from Element 68, including the contingent of Dan Beard Council, and Jamboree Troop 803 from the City of Angels.
All still images are by Jahi Chikwendiu for The Washington Post, and are used here without permission or shame.