I didn't think I needed to see the Rose Parade again, after having gone last year and the year before. But I was wrong.
After just five hours of sleep, and after having been bedridden for four days, I found myself awake the morning of January 1, 2018 at 5:30 a.m.—with no chance of falling back to sleep, no plans for the day, and no desire to spend yet another day in bed.
So, to Pasadena I went—having had plenty of time and enough experience with going in the past to drive my car, find a free parking spot, and scout out a good viewing location from the street, no overnight camping necessary.
In the year that had passed since the last time I watched the Rose Parade live and in person, I'd somehow convinced myself that it was just about the flower-festooned floats, which I could just go see at the Post-Parade Viewing like I did back in 2015...
...forgetting, of course, about all the classic cars (like George Bailey's black 1919 Dodge Brothers Touring Car from It's a Wonderful Life, with Grand Marshall Gary Sinese in the back).
And every year, the Rose Parade isn't just a visual experience—you also listen to it, the marching bands with their horns and drums and chants and footsteps.
Why settle for a static display, when the procession is alive?
The motorcycle cops kick things off with their fancy formations, and then all manner of equine, canine, and human follow suit—and even if I'd watched it on TV, it wouldn't have been the same (or, quite frankly, satisfying).
The really grasp the enormity of the scale, I had to stand there along Sierra Madre Boulevard...
...the sun beating down on my back, and blue sky ahead interrupted only by the tableau of the San Gabriel Mountains.
In fact, some of these creations were so tall that they had to stop just a short distance from where I was standing and lower their upper reaches in order to make it through the last leg of their journey—under the 210 Freeway overpass.
I know that some of these floats could move and spin and toggle, but I had no idea how modular they had to be just to get around Pasadena (and get to Pasadena from such far-flung locales as Irwindale and Downey).
I love that I could learn something new, despite having already experienced it twice. And yet I also love the familiarity of seeing some of the annual participants (like the Norco Cowgirls) which comes about as closest as anything feeling like a tradition since I first moved to LA seven years ago.
And as far as traditions go, I could do a lot worse than getting up at the crack of dawn to admire the artistry, musicality, and horticultural wonders of the Rose Parade, which is now in its 129th year.
What else can I do in LA, just as it was done back in the late 1880s?
Whatever it is, sign me up.
This year, as we have every year for the last century, we crowned our Rose Queen (our 100th!) and feted her royal court.
We cheered for the two college football teams who'd come to battle it out at the Rose Bowl, like the Sooners with their Oklahoma prairie pride...
...and this year's victors, the Bulldogs representing the University of Georgia...
...as they have since the team played its first season in 1892.
We celebrated our local landmarks far and wide, from Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign to LAX and the Fabulous Forum.
Though, as the members of Earth, Wind, and Fire wouldn't safely clear the freeway overpass, they'd already moved their performance off the "roof" of the float by the time it got to the northeastern reaches of the parade route.
By the time each float arrived to our viewing spot, its drivers, handlers, and walkers had already been parading for over an hour and a half.
Arms were waving just a bit lower than at the beginning, a couple of miles ago.
Pushers were pushing just a little more slowly.
And I bet the bicyclists were wondering if they had to pretend to pedal anymore.
But everybody managed to keep their smiles intact, with genuine wishes for a happy new year.
Bands from as far as Africa played "California Dreamin'" like they meant it (and, in one case, a rousing rendition of "California Girls").
The marchers lifted their knees dutifully, and we cheered, "You're almost there! You got this!"
Doggos on parade continued to be very good boys and girls...
...and even seemed to be enjoying the ride.
We spectators managed to escape the wrath of the Diablico Sucio of Banda De Música Herberto López from Chitré, Panama...
...while the flags of the color guard swirled before our eyes.
Some of the giants were already sleeping, having gone down for a little nap...
...and towers had fallen...
...soon to awake and rise again for those spectators who wanted to see them up close later in the afternoon.
I turned out to be one of them, once again.
This year, the choice between going to the parade and going to the Post-Parade Viewing wasn't either/or. Going to one wasn't mutually exclusive of the other.
If I was already in Pasadena—out of bed, and out among the living—then I might as well do the whole thing.
Stay tuned for dispatches from the float showcase and some more detailed images of the flowers, fruits, and other natural materials that went into their creation.
Photo Essay: The Rose Parade, Never on a Sunday Edition
Photo Essay: New Year's Day at the Rose Parade
Photo Essay: The Floats of the Rose Parade, 2015
Photo Essay: Rose Parade 2014 Floats, In Progress
Photo Essay: The Marching Bands of the Rose Parade, 2016
Photo Essay: The Horses of the Rose Parade
Photo Essay: The House of Chewing Gum and Roses
Photo Essay: Rose Bowl Stadium, Renovated Again, and Open for Tours!