The bus driver didn’t have a beer. At least that’s what I’d say if you asked me on the record.
It was just after 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day 2011, and I was squeezed between two other fellas dressed in black sharing a vinyl bench on a yellow school bus that was careening above Center City Philadelphia by way of I-676. The bus was full, half with other mostly 20-somethings in black and an older crowd in flamboyant and flowery costumes. Every inch of the bus that wasn’t stuffed with human was reserved for coolers of canned beer and, judging by the frequency of offerings, either a dozen or one-well-circled bottle of liquor.
I’m sure most of that made its way up to the bus driver, flashes of yellow street lights and a city skyline coloring his face in his wide bus rear view mirror, otherwise darkened by the cold, black winter night. I just can’t say what happened when it got there or what happened to all the bottles I had to turn away.
One was a blackberry rum.
I can’t remember the others because the singing was just too loud. I’d never sung along to so many songs I didn’t know. Their words, their meaning, their origins.
This was halftime of the 2011 Mummers Day Parade from the eyes of someone who was in it. Or, in my case, someone who was temporarily welcomed into the century-old Philadelphia tradition. A tradition so outrageous and beloved that only Philly could keep it so well unknown (despite small attempts to spread).