taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

20,000 Shriners were in town this weekend for their annual convention, so of course I had to go down and see them parade across Pratt Street. There's something compelling about Shriners, and it's not just the multitude of vehicles they drive: at the parade we saw mini tractor-trailers, flying carpets, ATVs, customized motorcycles (including a recumbent motorcycle!), miniature antique cars, the "sidewinder" (a Jeep that drives sideways), a calliope, a giant fez, and many many more. No, there's something more to it, a kind of mystery about the whole thing that's simultaneously fascinating and amusing. They're like mini-Masons, only with a sense of humor about the whole thing.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the Boumis (Baltimore's version of Shriners) were on the verge of dying out. My dad told me once that they actually came to his company to see what they could do, marketing-wise, to prop up the organization. My dad wrote a proposal but they didn't want to spend the money, and then in the eighties they had to give up their elaborate temple on Charles Street, which was subsequently razed for a gym for Loyola. Somehow I think that the swimming and ab-toning that happens on the site now is far less interesting than whatever the Boumis used to do there. I do wonder where they moved, where they keep their fleet of parade vehicles, how any of it manages to make money for children's hospitals. I was heartened to see younger faces among the parading Shriners, though, and kind of hope for a resurgence of the whole thing. Hell, I'd join if they'd let me. I'd learn to play the calliope.

Baltimore has always been a hotbed of weird secret societies like this. The Masons have a gigantic temple in Guilford. And the first North American Oddfellows hall was here in Baltimore. The building I work in, as it turns out, was an Oddfellows hall, which might explain why the downstairs hallway gives me the creeps. At any rate, I've always thought there was something in the water here that led men to don fezzes and learn to do wheelies, risking hip-replacement surgery in the process. I hope that the Shriners never, ever go away.


At 8:12 PM, Blogger Blog World said...

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.
Stewart Alsop- Posters.


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