Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fifth of July

I just love having another artcar out back! Josh acts like his truck is no big deal. He cut the metal to use as stencils on it. Well, maybe it's nothing compared to what he could do, but it's pretty impressive to me as is.

Furthermore, there are no wild parties, so far, from the eastern side of this bitty little duplex into which he just moved, so all is well. Still, I'm anxiously awaiting news on my new house ... "my" and "new" being euphemisms.

If you're also a Facebookie, you'll know that on Friday, July 3, I was the Featured Artist at the Industrial Arts Center. As is par for those events, I made about $5.50 per hour, not counting setup and teardown, but I had a lot of fun and made some good contacts.

Because I am fat and sedentary, and because I moved all my stuff three times on Friday (into the car, out of the car, and back into the car, where it remains two days later), I could barely walk on Saturday, the Fourth. That's fine with me. I rarely do anything on the Fourth. It's never meant much to me.

When I was in high school, it meant there'd be the big parade in Warsaw [NY], population 3,651 in 2009. I imagine it was about the same in, say, 1968, my senior year. The Attica State Prison riot trials took place there, since the prison is in Wyoming County, of which Warsaw is the seat, being the big city and all. It not only has traffic lights but a monument in the middle of an intersection. Until this exact moment, it never occurred to me to wonder what the monument is about. I've pretty much only viewed it from the eye level of a kid sitting in a car, going around it, feeling scared and excited because you really can't see anything from that perspective. Death could have come unseen.

My friend Jeri was once driving her three-year-old around the monument because she was making a left-hand turn. This was in the Olden Days when kids could clamber all over the vehicle and no one thought they were in danger. Well, as she executed the turn, she heard little Stevie giggling like crazy. She glanced over and saw him hanging by both hands from the bottom of the window well, swinging his feet out into the open air created by the door flying open on the turn.

Talk about excitement!

Well, okay, being in the marching band wasn't that exciting. On the other marching-band holiday, Memorial Day, we'd march in three little towns on Saturday and one other on Sunday, but on the Fourth of July, we'd march in the big parade in Warsaw, where there were actually three bands. That's pretty amazing, really. They were from Warsaw, Perry, and my school, Letchworth Central Junior-Senior High School. It was made up of five little villages and the surrounding farms, so we weren't as cohesive, perhaps, as the other bands. Or maybe we were. I have no idea.

I know that Perry had a girls' athletics department. A couple of times, Mrs. Dake, the girls' gym teacher at Letchworth, would pick out a team-load of us and tell us we were playing Perry in basketball that night. You didn't have to be athletic. You only had to be obedient. I know for a fact that knowledge of the rules of the game wasn't a factor. You had to be the kind of kid who said, "Okay." Those Perry girls actually had plays worked out that seemed to be announced by a special clap which their coach -- a coach! -- would make. I was just baffled and ashamed.

But good ol' LCS shone on the parade grounds. I'm pretty sure we did, because we were the only band to go all the way to Syracuse to compete in the statewide championships there. I remember almost nothing of those trips except my mother's excitement. If we won, if we placed anywhere, we were to call her -- collect! -- and she'd arrange a band made up of the parents of band members to welcome us home. I have no doubt she'd have done that, had there ever been a reason ...

The Fourth of July was Mom's favorite holiday, although I don't know why and now I never shall, and it's also Leone's favorite. She's the friend I just helped move into the Independent Living facility. We talked about it last night on the phone. She grew up when World War II was going on, and she was aware of the fact that we were losing. It was a big deal when the battle at Normandy took place, and the war started turning around. She was so proud to be an American.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the Vietnam Era, when Our Boys were coming home hooked on heroin, facing hippies who protested again the war and preached love and peace and marijuana instead. I grew up when our cops killed our teenagers at Kent State. What??! I still had a television when Watergate was happening, and even then, I remember thinking that I'd better not have kids because if their kids ever asked Grandma what it was like during Watergate, I wouldn't be able to tell them. I couldn't pay attention to stuff like that. It seemed too confusing and too ugly. Yes. I never had the head or heart or stomach for this sort of thing. I don't know why, at age fifty-eight, this is news to me. I can't read books or watch movies about "international espionage" because I just can't keep track of everything. I'm much better at forthrightness and transparency.

So unlike Leone, I grew up in an America that seemed pretty bad, really, where it seemed even the government was against The People. We had JFK and lost him, MLK and lost him (except in street names now), and Bobby, who never had initials, and lost him, too. If you were "proud to be an American," it meant you were a Republican and thought we should go forth and kill everyone except the white people (well, go ahead and kill the French), taking everyone's natural and unnatural resources, bringing them back for a few paunchy white men to share, and the price in blood be damned. It was either non-white blood or poor-white blood, so it hardly mattered. Its loss could be seen as a good thing.

If anyone can bring me back to being proud to be an American, it's President Barack Obama, although, really, being proud of a citizenship into which I was born is equal to being proud of my eye color. I had nothing to do with it.


xzentricity43 said...

I was born in '61, & I have no recollection of ever feeling proud to be an American. I believe the cult of nationalism is evidence of xenophobia at its worst.
And what about my species, humanity? Am I to be proud to be among that number? I mean, it's not like we're all a bunch of Saints to be celebrated by a marching New Orleans funeral procession.
We have no idea what in the hell were even doing. The purpose of life remains a mystery. What in the hell have we to be proud of when there's no way of knowing if we're even right one percent of the time.

Lorenzo di Calabria said...

I was born in '82. When I learned about the Kent State shootings, I lumped it in with the Fall of Rome, the Gettysburg Address, and even Tienanmen Square: interesting things from history, but I'd never meet anyone who was involved.

Now I live 20 minutes from Kent and have a few friends (and, in fact, my girlfriend) from Kent. It's interesting to hear how the younger ones are angry that Kent is still famous for that one day, but not for anything else. The ones old enough to remember tell some interesting stories, especially the one who was in the National Guard, and whose unit arrived at the scene about an hour later to help straighten everything out.
Apparently, the jerk who dipped the flag in the blood and waved it around is still in Kent, and is still a jerk.

It's amazing how my view of historical events can change when I talk to people who were there, instead of just reading about it in a textbook.