Every so often, as I bemoan living in a red state filled with wingnuts and Jesus freaks, something happens that lifts my mood, makes me smile, quashes the “How did this happen?!” blues, and, once again, I’m filled with joy. Saturday’s Little Five Points Parade was such a moment for me.
Little Five Points is Atlanta’s bohemian neighborhood. Close to downtown, it’s filled with head shops, vintage clothing ships, offbeat clothing shops, bars, clubs, funky restaurants, derelicts, panhandlers and self-defined millennial hippies. So far, the area has done a pretty good job of resisting the gentrification that moves into such places like a rash. So far.
This was the best parade I’ve been to yet. Atlanta stalwarts The Abomnidable Feed and Seed Marching Band, leading off a twisted conga line of zombies and aging majorettes still twirling like it’s 1965! Floats full of horror-movie beauty Queens (girls too), pelting the crowd with Tootsie Rolls! Rock and roll and bluegrass bands on flatbed trucks driven by zombie aliens! And a whole troupe full of dancing, air-guitar playing, gender-bending Angus Youngs! (See photo - those of you who aren’t familiar with such things should know that Angus Young is the elder of AC/DC, still rocking in his schoolboy uniform.)
So we’re about half-way through the parade and suddenly I become aware of the foulest -- stench -- a smell hell itself could hardly produce -- you know sometimes you’ll be walking down the street in an old section of an old city on a hot day and will step over a sewer grate and there’s this...miasma? The Swamp Gas of Hades? It was like that. Only worse.
All around me people were holding their noses, eyes tearing up, choking. I see this white van coming down the street, and on the side, it says “Marty The Plumber.”
I’m thinking, oh, no. They wouldn’t.
Well, they would. The van passes us. It’s a stealth olfactory attack. People are reeling from the awful stench. Both of the van’s back doors are open, and inside is...a toilet. Not just any toilet, though. An unspeakable toilet, filled with facsimiles (I hope) of what you’d expect to find in an unspeakable toilet, overflowing, on the floor, everywhere, topped with a grinning death’s head spewing noxious vapor.
This was more than a float. It was an installation. It was Olfactory Art.
How did they do it? How did they produce that stench, in such quantity, with such strength, and such authenticity? Is Marty a chemist? Or is he simply so intimately familiar with such things that he can recreate them from common industrial gases?
People gripe about what plumbers cost. I never do. I figure that we can’t pay them enough. But to celebrate it...to mount a rolling tribute to sewer gases...oh, I was so impressed.
(I also felt sorry for the float that was behind the van -- rather a long distance behind -- but maybe the gas masks helped.)
Turns out that Marty the Plumber is one of the parade’s sponsors. Next time my plumbing backs up, I’ll know who to call.
Marty, we salute you!
I didn’t have my camera, and haven’t been able to find a photo of Marty the Plumber’s van. My guess is that no one could handle being close enough to it to take one.
Above photo of the Angus Youngs by Jamie Gumbrect for ajc.com. For more of Gumbrect’s great Little 5 Points Parade photos, go here.