Nothing says the longest day of the year quite like the Summer Solstice Parade in the Freemont neighborhood of Seattle. This is where, in part, a procession of cyclers take to the streets wearing nothing but a kaleidoscope of body-paint and shit-eating grins. Look, there goes Dick Johnson. It’s a great day to be a bicycle seat in Feemont, or not, depending on which way one swings.
History suggests that the gala all started when one courageous, slightly whacked person bared his naked soul and streaked through the parade route on a bicycle and a dare. This event was so embraced by the community of Freemonsters that it swelled to the mass of naked giggling human flesh and body paint that some see today.
The police were encouraged to look the other way, but honestly, how could they. Seattle has a lot of police on bicycles, and if they were to participate they would at the very least have to wear their guns.
Some riders choose to wear shoes because of the whole “no shoes, no service” thing in case they have to stop and go to the bathroom. The no shirt thing is always forgiven in Freemont. Earth, wind and fire were painted on three women, the elements, not the band.
There are clown bicycles, mock Harleys, rickshaw’s with naked pullers and passengers and unicycles. If I weren’t a prude and decided to participate, I would opt for the unicycle seeing as how I lost one of my testicles in a prison accident.
Instead, I took it all in from the sidelines.
I was once invited out to dinner and a show with the word naked in the title. Performance art.
“What did you think?” our host asked.
“The dinner was fantastic,” I said.
I was traumatized. Never before have I been so intimate with the tips of my shoes and generic ceiling tile. I was confused and had a hard time accessing words. Speech therapy may have been in order. I felt as though I would be arrested at any moment and have to change my name to John. Believe me when I tell you I know the feeling of pre-arrest anxiety.
This was also in Freemont.
The next performance art I go to will have the word “Layers” in the title, but that too could be construed as devious.
Naked in a crowd has not really appealed to me since I was eighteen and had to spread my cheeks to get sprayed with some kind of insect repellant at the old King County jail with a row of other miserable ass cheeks.
I’m not a total prude though. I’m considering buying a unicycle and some paint so I can ride around my bedroom.
The body paintings are so real often it’s hard to tell if the riders are wearing clothes or not. On a non-parade day when I see a regular rider, I think, you might as well be naked with your skin-tight spandex advertisement body suit.
And then I yell out the window of my car, “Lance Armstrong is a doper.”
There are some rules for the Solstice ride:
- no creepy shit, (who judges that?)
- no wagging your junk in someone else’s face
- no advertising
I take issue with the third rule. It cuts off creativity if you ask me. I’d like to see what the ad men would come up with for this event. Trojan would be an obvious choice, popsicle, fudgescicle or anything else with scicle in it. Or maybe some kind of weight-loss contraption.
My first experience with the parade was just after I got back from a ten-year men’s retreat. I was out for a run, minding my own business when I was engulfed in painted flesh. I barely made it out alive. With my head spinning I caught my breath and asked a passerby “Did you see that?”
“Solstice” she said nonchalantly, returning to her copy of The Stranger.
Prison was weird, but this?