Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

10477878_904819146196130_4564642921892257864_nPHOTOS BY ALEX ZUNIGA

You may remember, from last year’s 25 Days of Christmas posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25), that I am as obsessed with the holiday as it is possible for an atheist who possesses an arsenal of curse words to be.

I melt at the sight of a Christmas tree, know the exact height of my ceiling (8’ tall), and plan to one day buy a house with vaulted ceilings so I can get the largest tree I can find.

I know every Christmas carol by heart and sing along loudly whenever I hear them—even the ones with lyrics about Jesus the savior.

I’m generally done with my Christmas shopping and gift wrapping before December and wind up begging my boyfriend to let me do his share of the Christmas wrapping. I also spend hours making bows out of scraps of newspaper, which is especially insane because no one ever pauses to admire a bow before tearing into their package—at least no one that I know.

And I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas no fewer than a half a dozen times over the course of December.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is like my holiday patronus—an expression of everything I feel and love about the holidays, minus the religious proselytizing, of course.

For years I’ve dreamed of recreating the dance scene in which Schroeder plays his piano onstage and the Peanuts gang goes nuts dancing while Charlie Brown tries in vain to get their attention.

So when New Times decided to participate in the San Luis Obispo Downtown’s Association’s annual holiday parade, I immediately began petitioning loudly and forcefully for a Peanuts-themed float. And more specifically, a float based around that scene.

I was in Turkey when the voting took place, and returned to work expecting to discover that we’d be doing something ridiculous like Surfin’ Santa or Slutty Santa or god knows what else. But to my surprise and delight, I discovered that the staff had almost unanimously supported the Peanuts theme, even without me there to threaten and cajole.

The race was on. Our Marketing and Events Coordinator, Dora Mountain, drew up the plans for the float
10858434_904819062862805_5491077523700693036_nand they were far more elaborate than I thought possible.

To begin with, our boss’ truck, which would be pulling the trailer with the float, would be wrapped to resemble Snoopy’s face. Then we’d build Snoopy a giant red doghouse covered in holiday swag, to ride in the bed of the truck. The trailer contained the stage with a giant frame and banner bearing the words “Hau’oli Lanui” which means “Happy Holidays” in Hawaiian.

I should mention that the Downtown Association’s chosen theme was “Hula Holidays.” I should also mention that I absolutely hated the theme because the last thing I want to see in a holiday parade is even more palm trees and reminders that our seasons on California’s central coast are essentially nonexistent. I’m not really sure why a holiday parade even requires a theme; aren’t the holidays theme enough?

Nonetheless, Dora was getting a little competitive so we worked to incorporate tropical Hawaii into our
1507598_904819236196121_214119970596375672_nPeanuts float, without disrupting the message or sincerity of what we were doing. If you’ll recall Linus’ speech in the pumpkin patch, Peanuts places a great deal of emphasis on the concept of sincerity. All the characters wore leis—over their designated Peanuts outfit. Dora made tropical flowers for the float. We wrapped thatch around Lucy’s psychiatrist booth.

In fact, it was during the construction of this booth that I discovered an intense love for staple guns, after which I volunteered to do all the stapling throughout the construction process. I also added a staple gun to my Christmas list even though I know there’s a very good chance it will end badly.

We all played a character. I chose Violet based on the fact that her dance move is a punching gesture with 1456633_904819102862801_6237022281746953941_nher arms and I was pretty sure I could comfortably do that for a couple miles on the back of the trailer. Colin was Linus, right down to the blue blanket, which was really a towel.

It rained the day of the parade. Which was amazing because California desperately needs water. It was also sort of unpleasant though, trying to protect the float from water while building it in the parking lot in the pouring rain. And it was miserable wondering if all our work would be in vain, if the Downtown Association elected to cancel the parade. Thankfully they announced at 1 p.m. that they would proceed despite the rain and advising everyone to wear jackets and bring umbrellas. A few people complained insisting they couldn’t possibly bring their child outside in the rain, which I’ll admit baffled me a little. Yes, we live in an area with balmy temperatures and near-constant sunshine but have we really evolved into such dainty, faint-hearted creatures that a dusting of water renders us incapable of leaving the house? Apparently yes, in a few cases.

By the time we left the office and clambered aboard the float it was already in position behind a marching 10849797_904819006196144_4461495493037817693_nband. We were number 8 out of several dozen floats; I don’t know how many exactly, but we got lost and bumped into float number eighty-something so there were at least that many.

The wood floor of the trailer was slick because of the rain and there were a few too many people for us to move around comfortably. Schroeder’s piano was on the ground at the front of the trailer and our coworker Jenny would be pretending to play it. (We had an actual piano player lined up but he bailed a week before the parade.)

We were all set. The music was working. We’d practiced our dance moves just long enough to recognize 10849807_904818886196156_427583027612685709_nthat we should reserve our energy. The truck lurched forward; we had been warned that the driver couldn’t see much of what was going on because of the Snoopy wrap but we didn’t really have anything to hold on to anyway. Then, just as we were beginning to move, the music stopped working.

Giselle, who works as an executive assistant, leapt aboard the float and began tinkering with the sound system. I began coaching the rest of the dancers, insisting if we couldn’t get the music working we’d have to hum the song. They looked doubtful and I was just beginning to resign myself to the fact that I would probably be humming alone on the float when the music suddenly blared through the speakers, loud and blessedly recognizable as the Charlie Brown Christmas theme song. (Apparently one of the speakers wasn’t plugged in. Go figure.)

I think we made it about two blocks before the complaints began. It was hot dancing on the float, and none of us writers are in what you might call athletic shape. I go to the gym every day, but it was pretty much enthusiasm that was driving my dancing at that point.

I couldn’t stop smiling. It was perfect, even as Colin cried out “This is my Everest” as we approached what 10846413_904818919529486_453853040967367497_nlooked like the end of the Marsh Street course. No one had thought to ask how far we were traveling or how long the parade would last. People called out for Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Woodstock. Colin received a few compliments on his dance moves and towel, which he apparently whipped around his head at one point during our trip.

By the time we finally stopped, most of us were dripping with sweat. Steam was rising from Colin’s shirt, and the writers gaspingly insisted they couldn’t go on. My legs were tired—I’m a very bouncy dancer—but I would have been happy to take a second lap through downtown, I was so exhilarated. It was every bit as fun and ridiculous as I’d thought it would be.

In fact, I was so excited that even though I rarely drink, I finished my evening with the largest glass of hard cider I’ve ever seen. And that, kids, is how you kick off the holidays in style.

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