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How I Torched in the Torchlight Parade:


During Desert Storm, Mother of All Wars against the evil villain, Saddam Hussein, patriotic fervor was being whipped up by a large militant march in Seattle's annual Torchlight Parade.  As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I felt it my patriotic duty to make a protest statement as 11 foot tall Uncle Sam.  I was leading a processional of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers wearing native garb and carrying the flags of the countries they served.  I wore a pair of very heavy wooden stilts, strapped to my feet and hips, with large rigid shoes.

LAD on old wooden stilts-3

 By lifting off my toes and swiveling my hips, I was able to avoid tripping on irregular ground, but I could only clear a rise of about a 3".  I had hoped to finish building my sleek new light-weight aluminum stilts, which solved this problem with articulated feet and slide extensions, but time ran out, and I figured city streets would present no insurmountable obstacles.

We set off under glaring streetlights between two military marching units, from the Seattle Center to Pioneer Square, a two mile walk, through packed crowds of revelers.  They loved us!  We were the only alternative to the cold surgical war machine.  We had served our country making Peace, not War.  At last we were getting public recognition and appreciation!

After awhile, I became rather giddy from the large cheering crowds, long walk and heavy stilts.  When I realized that we had fallen behind the troops ahead, I quickened my pace to catch up, leaning boldly forward, rocking swiftly off my toes in long goosestep strides.  Passing into a major intersection of several streets, I waved triumphantly to the huge crowd - it looked like thousands!  As a performer, as Uncle Sam representing the best of his country, I was intent on personally engaging every one of them, on replacing the "Ugly American" image with a Peaceful, Loving alternative.

Suddenly, my clumsy wooden feet, 10 1/2 feet below my preoccupied brain, slammed into the Mother of All Road Turtles in mid-stride......time went into slow-motion........I tried every recovery tactic I knew, but I was plummeting to the concrete at breakneck speed!  I couldn't bend at the knees, so I stretched to reach the ground with my hands, using my arms as recoil springs -- SPLAT!  The crowd was stunned..........but not as much as my arms and wrists, which were in major shock.  Medic-1 immediately came to the rescue and heroically whisked Uncle Sam off to the hospital, with siren wailing and long red-&-white striped legs sticking out the open ambulance door.  How ignoble I felt!  I had let down the Peace Corps; my bold Peace Offensive had flopped.  Isn't that just like politics - one day you're looming large and invincible, the next moment you crash and burn!

No matter how I protested that they should leave me alongside the road to recover, the surgically-efficient crew leaped into action.  They stifled my protests with an oxygen mask and plugged me into a bevy of monitors and quickly delivered a crestfallen Uncle Sam to the hospital emergency room, while curious nurses gawked at my extremely long legs protruding from the gurney.

After trying in vain to persuade the hospital to release me, while the befuddled nurse was away trying to find out what to do about Uncle Sam refusing to sign their forms, I  ripped off the mask & probes, grabbed my stilts & hat, and dashed for freedom.  After the shock wore off, I was left with a compression fracture in my left elbow, which totally healed in a couple of months.  I quickly finished my new stilts, but I was never invited to participate in the Torchlight Parade again.  Politics can be a downer.  Oh well, been there, done that.....but I'd sure like to know if anyone captured it on film!