Just minutes before, Frank had entered the steel labyrinth through its belly. The small opening that the mammoth skeleton of rebar, angle iron and metal tube offered was a stark contrast to its immense proportions. Imagining that this gargantuan framework of iron could move from the confines of the warehouse where it rested took effort. Yet Frank was responsible for doing just that. When he entered the great work, he crawled to his cockpit that rested at the front of the huge structure. There he found a small fiberglass seat. The throw pillow he brought along was the only creature comfort he would enjoy on his brief journey on this early Tuesday morning.
From the small rectangular opening just inches in front of Frank’s face, he saw the first smile. It was his only view of the outside world from inside the dark cavernous cab he occupied. The young boy was no more than 8 years old. His face, sandwiched between a wool scarf and cap, was beaming. From his grandpa’s lap the little lad pointed his finger and with awe;“wow” fell softly from his lips. Nothing captured this moment more powerfully then the look of pure amazement on a child’s face. The boy’s eyes grew as big as pie plates when the pump behind Frank shot its first blast of water high 60 feet into the air. This time the “wow” did not fall from the boy’s lips; it shot with as much intensity as the blast of water that solicited such a reaction.
He climbed into position and gave his rudimentary controls a test. He twisted the wheel from side to side. He depressed the accelerator and then the brake. Then for a brief moment, he sat and took in the fantastic frame around him. Everywhere he looked was steel and cable. Over the last few years, these great beasts had even been given brains. Circuit boards and wiring were becoming as prominent as nuts and bolts. “Sure doesn’t look like a whale from in its belly,” Frank laughed to himself. “I wonder if this is how Jonah felt?” The same thought occurred to him every year. Rarely did these steel webbed monoliths give a hint as to what they would become once in full bloom. “It’s true balance,” Frank thought. For without the stark, cold mass of steel, there could be no platform for the brilliant beauty of flowers that adorned her sides. The flowers gave her beauty but the massive frame gave her life.
As Frank completed the turn on to Colorado Boulevard the rectangular opening found them one by one, each portrait as rich as the next. Of the thousands who came to marvel, Frank would see just a few. But it was those few that made his annual journey so cathartic. It was the few single snapshots, among the thousands of potential pictures, which made this short trip so profound. His rectangular opening became more than an opening to navigate his course; it was a frame to the singular pictures that depicted the essence of the parade. The parade had a spirit, a spirit born from the shared joy of all those who came to see. It was a young and innocent spirit. The reaction of the eight year old boy seeing the parade for the first time was as inspired as his grandpa who had seen the parade countless times.
This year the float that Frank piloted depicted two humpback whales, a fact Frank was continually reminded of by the sound of the pump blowing their spouts into the air. He’d driven floats of all shapes and sizes: from space shuttles to Disney characters. Each was unique and as beautiful as the next. But for Frank, the true beauty of the Rose Parade was found in a child’s face framed by a small rectangular opening six inches in front of his face. It was truly the best view of the parade.
© Copyright 2011 John Pagliassotti. All rights reserved.
John Pagliassotti born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, and now lives in Newport Beach, California. He is married and has two sons in their teens. He works in the commercial real estate industry. One of his hobbies is writing short stories.