Well, it’s chocolate coating and marshmallow filling…so I suppose in a way the Moon Pie is at least as good an emblem of racial harmony as black & white piano keys. Anyway, that was the experience our family had last night at Mobile’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
For the past few years now, we’ve dropped a Moon Pie in Mobile to mark the transition from old year to new. It was councilman Fred Richardson’s idea. Fred is something of a character, and his idea didn’t sit well with lots of folks who felt that a Moon Pie was kinda tacky. You know, the whole toothless Southerner nourishing hisself and his chirren with Moon Pies and RC Cola thing. But we got the Moon Pie nonetheless, and some of us went downtown to watch it “drop.”
With a little help from David Bronner, this year the pie went from a pitiful plywood thing hoisted on a crane to a 12-foot glossy electric beauty atop Bronner’s latest local acquisition, the 34-story RSA BankTrust building. The city went all-out to plan a even bigger celebration, complete with a mini-Mardi Gras parade, two bandstands, crafts for the kiddies, and the O’Jays headlining at eleven pm.
Hotel rooms booked to capacity! Excitement abounds! Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and for a while there it looked like the whole show was going to be rained out. The crowd on the parade route was very scanty indeed and there were almost as many big band members as dancers at the “B list” bandstand (more room for us to make fools of ourselves when they struck up “In the Mood”).
But by eleven, the rain had just about decided to hold off, and we were packed shoulder to shoulder directly underneath that big ol’ pie, worrying about wind shear. That wind! There was trouble with their mikes, and the stage lights were swaying back and forth like drunken alums singing the Murphy High alma mater, but finally the O’Jays started playing.
And everybody got into it. The crowd was about half black/half white from what I could tell, everybody from babies to people our age and a bit older, and boy were they happy. The video at the link above doesn’t really capture it. “SMILE on their face, all the time they wanna take your place…BACKSTABBERS!” Okay, maybe that lyric isn’t quite right to express the optimism of a new year, a clean slate, “whatever you did wrong last year, now you get the chance to do it right,” as a man near me expressed it. But it was what they were playing, and hundreds of Mobilians sang along at the top of their lungs,
David Bronner’s fancy lights shimmered on the side of the building, the countdown began, the pie dropped, and the O’Jays, bless them, sang all the words they knew to “Auld Lang Syne,” which wasn’t all of them but was enough to give you the idea. We sang that too. Then we sang that money song. And perfect strangers were shaking hands and hugging and smiling and wishing each other a happy New Year. I’m telling you, it was a positive frenzy of interracial good will.
I feel such hope today, even though the rain has really settled in now. Maybe our city can grow and prosper and little by little erase this endless friction between black and white. Maybe my kids’ generation will do an even better job. Maybe we really do get the chance to do it right.
Happy New Year, Mobile!