In 1980, my high school decided to replace homecoming parade floats with murals. I was senior who never could be called Mister School Spirit. I was on the stage crew and the newspaper staff. I never considered myself political or an activist. I never helped build a homecoming parade float before as a junior or sophomore. The idea of the homecoming floats being replaced with murals struck a chord with me. That is significant as most of my high school years I was in a malaise with the only respite being keg parties. I remember feeling a sense of moral indignation like we lived in France and not the United States of America. I could not seem to let it go as others in the school also shared their frustration with this new twist of art culture.
I put my frustration to use by deciding to build my own float as a form of political protest. I shared my idea of building an illegal Homecoming Parade float to my friends and fraternity brothers, who immediately thought I was insane. I was fully committed to the project as I began building scale models, sketching plans, and drafting designs. The movie, Animal House had recently come out so the image of the famous eat me cake was still vividly in my mind.
My old friend David used his Mother’s station wagon to help me transport the stack theater sets to my house to be used as the superstructure for the float. The cake would have three layers. The base layer was 24 feet in length, 8 feet wide and 4 feet high. The second layer of the cake was 6 feet long, four feet wide, and 2 feet tall with a rooftop hatch cover and a section cut out for the driver to see out of. The sets were made of heavily painted canvas over thin wood slats, so they worked perfect for building a parade float.
We painted the sets white to get the bright white effect of a giant cake. I was a novice float builder, but I was a contractor’s son and had seen Animal House 12 times, so I had a good idea of the design I was visualizing. The float began taking shape in my yard over the next week. We used red spray paint to make the cake trim and for the “EAT ME” painted on the side of the cake just below our fraternity symbols for delta zeta chi. My friend Tracey owned a Chevy Blazer with a removable cap, so he was volunteered to be the float driver. Tracey came over and we took measurements for sitting the float on top of Tracey’s blazer. My parents never questioned what we were doing as it appeared to be a legitimate homecoming float.
We topped off the fake cake with cardboard candles. The night of the homecoming parade, we stormed the school parking lot with our rogue float amidst the one dimensional lame murals. One of the school principals came out and blocked our path to the school athletic stadium threatening expulsion. I had been suspended previously for being drunk at school, so this expulsion was not looking so appealing as the vice principal identified me by name. Sometimes you don't want to be so well known. School was not very challenging to me, but it was a lot more rewarding than reform school. So, I chose to not run over the school vice principal and drove around the parking lot instead doing donuts for all to see and hear.
The night ended with a trip to the liquor store in our float for the required celebratory drink before the float would be torched that night in my field an effigy memorializing a situation that required a really futile and stupid gesture be done on our part.