Urban Politics #110: Council Member Nick Licata As Himself, or, How I Was Busted For Riding A Bike, With Clothes On

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my Legislative Assistant Newell Aldrich on this issue.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.


Council Member Nick Licata As Himself,
Or, How I Was Busted For Riding A Bike, With Clothes On

I was busted for riding a bike in the Fremont Parade, with clothes on. It is not what you think, but it is a story that reminds me of that Boy Scout motto “Always be Prepared”. I wasn’t.

The upcoming Solstice Fremont Parade had caused a little buzz earlier in the year.There was some mention of arresting the nude bicyclists that annually crash the parade. The Parade Officials would cooperate as they had in the past by asking them not to appear. The police suggested that the Parade might be cancelled if they did not post large signs up and down the parade route warning the bicyclists of breaking the law and being subject to arrest.

I said publicly that the signs would only serve to attract more of them. In the end, the signs did not go up and the parade went on as scheduled to the enjoyment of the 30,000 plus crowd.

A week before the parade rumors had been circulating on the 11th floor that Council Members had been invited to march in the parade. We could not recall if politicians had ever appeared in the parade, it might be a precedent setting event.

What would we do? Dress up as clowns? Someone told me that there was going to be a float with us on it. I imagined a large two wheeled, wooden cart with CMs swaying on its planked floor. We could peer out, between wood slates, at the voters. Would they cheer or jeer? But then I heard the float had not been completed so I assumed the parade would go on without us. That was my first mistake.

Saturday morning arrived and by chance I talked to my LA Frank Video. I mentioned that I was glad that I didn’t have to be in the parade so I could just watch and enjoy it. “No you won’t.” He said. “You are in it”

Plans had again changed and I was to be there within an hour. I would go, not sure of exactly what I should be prepared for. I rode my bike rather than walk to make sure I got there in time for whatever awaited me.

I wandered around the chaos of the staging area until I found the registration table and introduced myself, “I was told to show up and be part of the parade.”

The registrar looked me over and didn’t say much. But I could tell that she was a bit bewildered. Everyone else was in a costume of some sort. I had on my vintage brown vest with matching brown cord shirt and jeans. It would fail the costume category, my second mistake.

After identifying myself as the CM Nick Licata she said, “You should talk to the person in charge.”

I set out to search through the cacophony around me until I found the Parade’s MC. He shook my hand and said good morning as he was being bombarded by requests coming in from folks standing around with wings on, huge heads on their shoulders or just painted from head to foot in some color of the rainbow. He then disappeared into the cornucopia of musicians, fairies, and monsters. That was it! I was now part of the parade?

I wandered back to the registration table where I met the Parade Marshal. He too shook my hand, thanked me for being there and gave me the once over. “Hmm, that’s it huh?”

I felt sheepish; maybe I should have worn my Panama hat rather than my Fremont Fair cap. Thinking fast, I said, “I’ve got my bike. I could be the un-naked bicyclist in the parade.”

“Well you can’t have a sign on you, so you’ll just have to yell out your name. Good luck.”

The first third of the parade didn’t go too badly. I did slow circles down the road waving in time with the Anarchist Band in front of me. It is true I was the only “regular” person in the parade and there were shouts of “take your clothesoff.” I figured politicians don’t want to appear too weird, so I kept mine on.

I kept telling myself, this will work out, I’m doing all right. That bubble burst when a Parade Monitor walked up to me. “You will have to get off your bike.”

I thought there goes my shtick, if I’m not on my bike, I’ll really look marginal walking beside my bike.

“I’m part of the parade.” I told him with some level of confidence.

“Yeh? Well we don’t have bikes in the parade.”

“But I’m in the program.” Surely that would establish my creditability.

“Yeh? We still don’t have bike riding in the parade. If one person rides then others will and then the whole parade will have bikes riding all over the place.”

I admitted he had a good point, although it did remind me of the logic that my 3rd grade teacher used in explaining that I couldn’t use the restroom during recess because if I did, everyone would want to and there wouldn’t be enough room in the bathroom for all of us.

I agreed not to “ride” the bike. As he walked away, I figured I could just sort of coast down the road standing on it without peddling: my third mistake. He spotted me one minute later and strode over wearing a firm look on his face. That was it. I was in deep trouble in the Fremont Parade.

“I told you to get off the bike.”

I had used up all my arguments. So I pleaded. “Look I just showed up. They told me to be in the parade. See the program says “CM Nick Licata As Himself.” I don’t want to cause any problems. I’d be happy not to be in the parade. But I’m in the program and people might think I flaked out if they saw it and I wasn’t here.”

He was not moved by these pleadings. “I don’t even know why you are in the Parade. Look at yourself.You’re not even in costume, you’re not playing an instrument, you’re just not in the spirit of the parade, and so you are not part of the parade. You can just leave.”

Gawd he was right. I felt horrible.I felt like a cheap political harlot who had slipped into the Elysian Fields selling snake oil cures. “OK, OK, I’ll leave,” I muttered to myself as he walked off.

I looked around. Thousands of faces were looking at me. Actually they were looking past me at the half naked woman painted entirely in purple who was doing a sort of belly dancing routine as she sauntered down the road.

I walked on a little further not wanting the people who had seen my little tte-ˆ-tte with the parade monitor to get the idea that CM Licata had been banished from the Fremont Parade. As I walked I noticed that the entire route of the parade was lined with people, numbering at least 4 to 6 deep. It looked as penetrable as the Maginot Line. I found what looked like a promising weak spot and nudged my bike wheel between two bystanders. The first row gave way, the second wavered, but the third and fourth held firm.

I thought I could loose a lot of votes here if I ran over some. I pulled back, waved at the crowd and continued walking in the parade, bike at my side. An unbroken line of parade watchers stretched as far as the eye could see. Whether the Parade Monitor or I liked it or not, I was trapped in the Solstice Fremont Parade. There was no escape.

I furtively looked behind me. The Parade Monitor was nowhere insight. I got back on my bike and again began waving to the crowd. An old friend waved back. My heart leaped from this shot of affirmation. Excitedly I waved to her and unconsciously tightened my grip on my hand brakes. The bike stopped abruptly, throwing me off balance and to the ground. One moment I was looking at smiling faces and the next I was eye level with the pavement looking up at their legs.

As the anarchists played on and the fairies danced around my sprayed out body, I thought this parade was turning out to be much more of a challenge than I had been prepared for. I stood up, bowed and tipped my cap to the crowd. They loved it. They burst into applause.The largest I had received till then. Hmm, I thought maybe I could duplicate this routine every few hundred feet.

Once again I climbed back on and started down the parade route. Things were going fine, although I felt like the wanted man in the movie The Fugitive with Tommy Lee Jones on his trail. I was on the run, any moment I could be spotted by that Parade Monitor.

As I neared the end of the parade I felt a sense of relief. Things had worked out pretty well. I had avoided any major embarrassments and it would all be forgotten in time.

About a hundred paces ahead of me I spotted a Seattle Times photographer aiming his camera right up the road in my direction. I thought to myself, well this is a neat ending. Maybe the paper will run a photo of me with the caption “CM Nick Licata rides his bike in the Fremont Parade – with his clothes on.”

I waved at him as I caught out of the corner of my eye a flurry of colored objects moving past me. I was waving to the photographer from smack in the middle of a pack of painted naked bicyclists.

Keep in touch…

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