A handful of weeks ago, Shawn Matte, of Mattes Remodeling LLC of Auburn, mounted a big Happy Birthday placard in the back of his pickup truck.
He wanted to help fellow Auburn resident Stephanie Brown Murphy give her daughter, Mia, a surprise drive-by parade through their neighborhood — a quickly trending way for people to celebrate milestones from a safe distance.
It was meant as a one-time thing for Matte, but ever since that day he’s become an unofficial parade marshal in Auburn, building up a side job that pays it forward with smiles.
“I decided to put up a post saying I had this (birthday) sign and if anyone else had a child’s birthday coming up to let me know and we could get something together, and then it just kept going from there,” said Matte, who with his wife, Amy, have two school-age children — Gia and Anthony. “Now I have a calendar and scheduled events. LOL. It’s just a great feeling when everyone is stuck in the house to be able to see the kids’ smiling faces in all the negativity.”
This week alone, Matte has five birthday parades on the books, and there are more in coming weeks.
Times and lineup locations are announced via the community’s Facebook page (and by word of mouth), giving people time to make signs, decorate a vehicle, plan festive attire or come up with a cheer, if they so choose. You can also just drive by, honk and yell out, “Happy Birthday.” (The only rule is that people need to stay in their vehicles, and avoid tossing presents or treats out the windows.)
This past Monday at 5:30 p.m., it was Zoe Wood’s turn for a grin as she turned 6, accompanied at the end of her driveway by Stephen Wood and Julia Houghtaling, and their dog, Applejacks. Familiar faces in this ongoing, feel-good gig included Tom Zapora, in his Tom’s Moving Service of Auburn truck, and Mort Alling behind the wheel of the fire truck.
“It’s a great feeling to see smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Matte.
Judging from the expressions on his face and those of parade participants, it’s reciprocal.
Meanwhile, here are some tips for more entertaining distractions.
SERIOUS AND SILLY: Professional funny man and NBC “Late Night” host Seth Meyers has been inviting visitors into more than his living room — specifically the garage, the hallway and the attic — in an attempt to find the most suitable at-home setting for his viral dissections of the day’s social and political news. Meyers, who spent much of his childhood in Bedford, is among a slate of talk-show big names serving up jokes and interviews with fellow celebrities, along with updates on the fight against the coronavirus and thank-you’s to people making a difference on the front lines and at home.
These segments aren’t close to the polished bits we’re used to seeing on TV, but watching Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, Trevor Noah, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel address the mundane (everything from DeGeneres’ frustration with missing puzzle pieces to Fallon’s chat with his golden retriever, whose voice sounds a lot like Drew Barrymore) to the serious — how to cope in very trying times — is a comforting presence and reminder that we’re all in this together.
BINGE-WATCHING TV: “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is a Netflix phenomenon with a cult-like following. It’s a bizarrely intriguing documentary series about Joe Maldonado-Passage — otherwise known as Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed gay, mullet-sporting, gun-carrying “redneck” and showman of a roadside zoo in Oklahoma. The saga involves a mounting rivalry, leading to murder-for-hire plot, against animal rights activist Carole Baskin. The documentary is a circus of eccentric figures spiraling out of control, and that’s what makes it hard to look away even as you’re thinking for the umpteenth time, “Really? I mean, who are these people?”
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