Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Love America - And I Love This About America


As likely most of you around the world are aware, earlier this month we here in the USA celebrated our Independence Day with parades, cookouts, and fireworks.

Whoa! I just came THIS CLOSE “><” to accidentally phrasing that as “earlier this month we here in the USA had the Fourth of July…” before my brain kicked in and pointed out that the whole world had “a fourth of July”.   

The linguistic trap here is that at least where I’m from – nobody other than an occasional advertisement throwing a seasonal sale refers to July Fourth as “Independence Day”. 

NO, I’m not going to harp on that point (I’m quite fine with it, actually), and NO, we don’t all need to start/resume calling the holiday “Independence Day” as a reminder of how we won our freedom from England blah blah BLAH blah BLAH…

I mean no disrespect (at least to US - don't worry, I'll get there in other regards...), but we already know that. We all remember that. No, I almost tripped up there simply because I never hear someone ask “Hey, what’cha doin’ for Independence Day?”, instead it’s always like “What you guys doin’ for July Fourth?” 

Even moreso than the difference in names, the distinction between “what’cha doin’” and “what you guys doin’” is an important one, because the assumptions here are:
1) of course you’re going to be doing something, and
2) you’ll be doing whatever you’re going to be doing with a group – and likely a big one.

It’s our biggest holiday!



Wait! Wait!  I know what you’re saying – believe me, even though I’m not psychic, I just heard the lot of you loudly disagree in your heads with me saying it’s our biggest holiday.  “What about Christmas???” most of you said (although I heard a few wanks throw down “Festivus”).  

OK, yah, Christmas is big, there’s no denying that… And certainly its shopping season is FAR larger and WAY, WAY longer, I’ll grant you, but that’s just the run-up to the actual holiday.

Let me ask you a few questions - and please answer with either “Christmas” or “Fourth of July

“Which Holiday Has The Highest Likelihood Of Having… ?”

  • A family argument break out around the dining table
  • Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill
  • Snow
  • A pool party
  • The only choice of adult beverages being overly-sweet dessert wine, Eggnog, or whatever hard liquor you can sneak out of the cabinet when your in-laws aren’t watching
  • Plenty of Beer and Margaritas, possibly with complete strangers cheerfully offering to fetch you a refill while they’re over there getting one themselves
  • Some or most of your in-laws
  • Happy crowds numbering from below a dozen people to upwards of half a million or more
  • An argument over what the right name for the freakin’ holiday even IS 1
  • Parades
  • An office party you’ll probably always regret attending
  • Fireworks 2
  • A chance to lay in the grass of the Washington D.C. mall, surrounded by 600,000 of your closest friends, listening to Jimmy Page and the Beach Boys perform B.B. King’s “Lucille” live on stage (Hint: 9 days before Live Aid)
  • Zero chance of an ice storm stranding you at your least-favorite cousin’s house

So July 4th is the obvious winner here, right? We’re all agreed?


Good.

Anyways, like I was saying, the whole planet has a fourth day in the month of July, even if certain people don’t know it, like some of those hidden island tribes who have yet to discover clothing and who name their months after evil spirits and game animals, or of course a great many of those living in Islamic countries.

Speaking of which, the Islamic calendar is trippy.

OK, granted, our “July” is named after an ancient tyrant we wouldn’t have put up with for a moment in our pre-Obama days, but that was laid down LONG before we kicked out the Redcoats, and we hung on to it mainly because we had bigger fish to fry, as well as (obviously) a shared language with the Old Country, and (eventually) trade to foster and maintain with them. So “July” stays.  

Where was I? Oh yeah-

Speaking of a shared language, I really wish we used the English translation for a lot of things for which we instead just blithely adopt foreign terms – and often not only foreign terms, but abbreviations from their original versions!  

Some common examples:

“Baton Rouge”
Red Stick
“Montenegro”
Black Mountain
“Bharatavarsha”
Barret’s World
“El Pueblo de Nuestra Se├▒ora la Reina de los Angeles de Porci├║ncula”
The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion (River)
“Corpus Christi”


OK, so it turns out that was a really stupid idea. Nevermind. 

Still, it’s useful to know what all those foreign names actually mean.  Like I was saying, the Islamic calendar is deeply trippy, and I think it reveals a lot about their culture.   

It is an example of the kind that's known as "an attempt at a Lunar Calendar", as opposed to what we follow here in the West, which is a "Considerably More Accurate Calendar".  It contains 12 months, but that’s pretty much where its resemblance to ours ends.

I’ve taken a stab at rendering their names in modern American English:


1:    That's Forbidden Because It’s Sinful

This is considered a "holy month”, one of four, which means they start off their year steeped in a cognitive dissonance so deep and vast it is scarcely comprehendible by Western non-Marxist minds, especially since none of their non-holy months are called names like  “That’s Permitted - You're Now Free To Go Hog Wild”, although now that I think about it, even if that were the case, I seriously doubt they'd use the term "hog wild", because if they did it would reach a level of searing irony unbearable by the human psyche because, well, just look what they call their first month!

“That's Forbidden Because It’s Sinful” contains "Don't Forget to Beat Yourself with Knives Day", which is a “festival (?)” they hold because they're all distraught and completely beside themselves mourning the untimely death of a guy who was only famous because he was someone else's grandson. 

What? Don't think people still care about that sort of thing?  Well I guess you didn't watch or read any news this past week because - trust me - the media would just not shut up about a brand new “someone who just started off in life famous for being someone else's great-grandson”, and it is just totally overwhelmingly so so sad that he (the guy we were originally talking about, not the new British Royal Baby) was martyred in battle (yeah, I couldn't work that one out either – just roll with it).

I guess we should try to be understanding... after all, it was a great loss, and people need time to grieve. 

We all know that “time heals all wounds” – they'll eventually get over him, stand straight, square their shoulders, and with heads held high, while wiping away a final tear, get on with their lives, and with bringing their culture into a century a bit closer to ours. 

In the meantime we just need to be patient.  After all, it's only been 1333 years.


2:   We was Robbed!

Some scholars argue that this is the shortened form of the original name, which according to some sources in ancient days was apparently "We was robbed by some guys who were either White or Chinese, we're not sure which - the sun was too bright and the wind blew sand in our eyes!" There is still considerable dispute over this.


3:   Spring I

Time to start planting!


4:   Spring II

These people count like trolls. 3


5:   Dry Desolate Wasteland I

Note:  The months of this calendar go completely around the block every 33 years or so.  More importantly, prior to being driven to adopting a nomadic existence they were an agrarian culture and due to the way their calendar was structured, their planting season -  Springs I & II - only comes close to lining up with what actually is "Spring" for around six of those 33 years.

Given that at best they could have had only the barest awareness of "crop rotation", this goes a long way towards possibly explaining where all that desert came from. 4

Admittedly, it fails to explain the exposed fossil whale skeletons, but nobody is claiming they're contemporary or for that matter, even unique!


6:   Dry Desolate Wasteland II

In America, “Time Flies”.

In Mexico, “The Clock Walks”.

In Islamic cultures, “The Eons Just Lay There Sulking in Sackcloth and Ashes”, apparently. Torn sackcloth at that, and fresh ashes.

Always really, really fresh ashes.


7:   Honor

Also known as Forbidden II (Careful! Calling it “Nonelectric Boogaloo” will get you arrested by the religious police).  It’s important to note that in Islamic cultures, they don’t define “Honor” the same way our Marines do, but more like what you might assume from observing how they interact with other cultures and/or cope with the unending series of “setbacks” that define their daily lives, as in “Well, I lost everything while living for two months in a dry desolate wasteland, and for that I blame the Juice and America, but at least I still have my Honor!” 5


8:   Scattered and Dying of Thirst

In this month, everyone traditionally sprints in opposite directions, in search of water. Whoever finds it first gets to, well…, not to complicate things, but they get to not die of thirst. 

If you think about it, that’s actually quite a nice prize!


9:   Scorched

This is their holiest month, and I hope you’re at least beginning to detect a theme.  

In joyous celebration of their culture being rendered impervious to change, they fast like vampires during the daylight hours, all 29 or 30 days (it varies) of this month, then pig out eat once the sun sets.


10:   Hopefully The Camel is Pregnant By Now

As with pretty much everything else in the Islamic world, there seems to disagreement over whether their gigantic “Yay! We made it through ‘Scorched’ unscorched” festival takes up the first three days of the month, or just the first day, but regardless, everyone’s happy as pigs in slop, uh, happy as they can be they can finally sit down together and partake of what they like to call “Breakfast”.  It’s also called the “Sugar Feast” and the “Sweet Festival” and they insist that it’s all part of a balanced diet.

In fact, it’s one of the very few Arabic cultural artifacts that have survived, albeit greatly altered (we get to have bacon 6), in a recognizable form here in the West (the others, obviously, being hashish and the concept of assassination 7). 

The eating of “Breakfast” is required by religious law (something that always makes me think of NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg, and yes – I savor the irony), and is held in large gatherings, usually outdoors.  During prayer time, the crowd is led through a specialized set of particularly-excessive chanting by whoever is being the biggest microphone hog (BLAST IT KELN!  I DON’T THINK I CAN KEEP THIS UP!!!) has demonstrated a talent for the job.


11:   Cease Fire!

This is another of their holy months wherein the waging of war was banned.  In modern times, of course, the view most commonly held is that this refers to the “Inner Struggle” – taking some time off from the relentless soul-searching and quiet introspection that so completely dominates the rest of the Islamic year. 

You’re still allowed to carry out suicide bombing missions, of course, don’t be silly!


12:   Sorry! Can't Stay and Fight - I Gotta Go Walk In Circles Around a Meteor!

Do I really need to spell this out?


I think I'm actually doing justice to these names.  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest! I’m sure we’ll all now come together one day in the spirit of mutual trust and understanding.

Anyways, where were we?  Oh yeah, July 4th! 

I started this post many hours ago mainly because I wanted to show you a few pictures, but of course it spun out of control.  Now I know what you’re thinking8, but no, I’m not kidding, this really is about the Fourth of July.

When I was a kid I grew up in the part of Dallas, Texas, known as the “Lakewood Neighborhood”, or more simply just “Lakewood”.  We lived on Lakewood Blvd. I started school at Lakewood Elementary.

Just under a year before I was born, a couple of families and their kids (who would in a few years be the older siblings of some of my classmates) started a tradition that continues to this day: the Fourth of July Lakewood Parade.

Displaying a financial talent that sadly appears to be genetic and inheritable, my family sold my childhood home and we moved out of Lakewood the day after my 13th birthday – right before the property values skyrocketed to double, triple, and in some cases quadruple what they had been when we closed the deal.  But we still go back almost every year (I think I’ve missed a total of three) to decorate our bicycles and scooters and walk, run, or ride in the parade with our girls and their friends, or sit in our old neighbor’s yard and watch the parade go past, or both.

You see, it’s not a political parade. And it’s not a professional parade. It’s a neighborhood parade.

 A GIGANTIC one, no doubt, but still in all a neighborhood parade. Home-made floats, kids, dogs, confetti cannons, candy flying through the air tossed to the crowds, led by Boy Scouts and bands, with mounted police on their beautiful horses usually bringing up the rear.

Some people, when they think of “parades”, think of Red Square, long lines of military hardware, and huge numbers of goose-stepping soldiers bundled up in grey woolen uniforms, hammering out a bleak march before doleful onlookers required to attend, filling the stark bleachers, and all played out for the camera.

Others think of bright, cold, and windy downtown New York streets, with huge cartoon balloons being towed by dozens of strong men hauling cables.

Our oldest veterans may remember the air being filled with ticker tape, cheers, and relief.

But me?  I spent so much time in this post describing something else because words fail me when it comes to this. This (below) is what “a parade” means to me, and I count myself blessed that every year the old neighborhood hosts a sea of partiers young and old to roar out their loud celebration of our country’s birth. And they bring their dogs too!

Happy 237th Birthday, America!  And a Happy 50th Birthday to the Lakewood Parade!








 





















My pictures really don’t do the parade justice.  I’ve failed to capture the true grandeur – the army of red-white-and-blue-decked-out-kids that pack the streets – so I strongly urge you to spend at least a few minutes checking out the pictures at these links:

Rob Chickering’s photo series of the 2007 parade





Carol Hensley’s multiple photo series on the lakewoodparade.com website:







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1 Both holidays have multiple names. For one there’s “July Fourth”, “The Fourth of July”, and “Independence Day”.  For the other there’s “Christmas”, “Xmas”, “The Season” as in “Season’s Greetings”, a generic “Holiday” as in “The Holidays”, along with rarer variants like “Mid-Winter’s Feast”, and “Noel”. Don’t EVEN get me started on “Yule”. NOBODY* calls Christmas “Yule”! You’d never even HEAR the word were it not for being in the lyrics of a silly Christmas carol that at least has the good grace to have the proper term “Christmas” in the title, but even then “Yule” is only used as the base of an ADJECTIVE, and not a proper name. And don’t you DARE mention “Boxing Day”! That doesn’t take place until AFTER Christmas, and besides it is only celebrated by the peasants back in the Old Country, and the Snow Monsters up North.

* The daughter of a dear friend recently tried to correct me on this, because she’s at that know-it-all age (the teens) and is a bit of an absolutist, saying I couldn’t say “NOBODY calls Christmas ‘Yule’” because she knows Goths often do. “Goths?” I asked, “Goth kids?” Yeah. “Goth kids call Christmas ‘Yule’?” Some do, yeah. “Well,” I said dismissively, “they’re a complete bunch of nobodies. My point still stands.” She didn’t have a comeback for that, which I find is a rare and valuable talent in a teenager.

2 We’re talking about Christmas here, not “The Holiday Season”. You don’t get to include “New Year’s Eve”.

3 According to author Terry Pratchett, a troll's facility with numbers tends to be limited to "one, two, many, lots".

4 It’s actually something of a mystery.

5 “…which remains under constant threat of being totally destroyed forever by the natural and God-given drives and instincts of my teenage daughter.”

6 “MMMMmmmmmm Bacon!”

7 I’m not counting what used to be called the “Arabic Numeral System”, because we know it was devised by Indian mathematicians, and is now referred to as the “Hindu–Arabic Numeral System” or more appropriately the “Hindu Numeral System”.  Just because the Arabs happened to be in the path of knowledge heading Westward doesn’t mean they should have gotten away with stapling their own bogus coversheet onto it.  Besides, remember what I said about troll math? Well, in the month of Hopefully The Camel is Pregnant By Now, after Breakfast is over, it is customary for people to resume their Scorched schedule of vampire-fasting for another six days.  Why?  Well, in a perfect example of why we should all repeatedly fall to our knees and thank God that the IRS hasn’t adopted Islamic math, they believe that any good deed (in IRS terms, this would be the gracious and unselfish act of letting us keep the “net” part of our paychecks) will be rewarded back to them ten times over, so that their 30-ish days of Scorched plus the 6 days of Post-Breakfast vampire-fasting grants them an entire year’s worth of heavenly reward.  (Sidebar: As a kid, you wondered where the “Post” in “Post-Toasties” came from, didn’t you? Admit it.)

8 and I mean besides “OMG! Will he EVER SHUT UP??? I just want to get to the END already, and go to bed!!!”
Rest assured (when you finally can), that I appreciate your sacrifice.




5 comments:

  1. :) My my Hunter, do you ever sleep? :)

    What is today's date on the Islamic Calendar? I can't wait to wish someone a very happy 27th of That's Forbidden cuz it's Sinful :)

    We have a parade here that is similar on Memorial Day. It is hosted by a village (a teeny tiny city kinda inside a city) and it is full of boy scouts, dancing grannies, floats throwing candy and a whole bunch of bent, proud silver haired men in uniform carrying flags. The flag is carried by so often that you find yourself on your feet through a great deal of it. And when you're not on your feet honoring our country, you're chasing thrown candy. :) Fighter planes fly by in formation, bands of aging metal heads go by with 20 something half naked groupies. ??? But for the most part, it is delightful. I love that a big part of our Memorial Day Parade is spent remembering. Remembering our blessed country, remembering those who have fought for our freedoms, remembering how blessed WE are.

    Thanks for your post, my sweet Wordy. :) Were your girls in the parade?

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  2. i mostly hear people refer, not to July 4th, but "The 4th". no one ever misunderstands. "The 4th = Independence Day".

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  3. My favorite holiday Is Christmahanakwanzaakahmas.

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  4. Yes!! We need more neighborhood parades and less marching.

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  5. I say this with affection, but would somebody please get this guy an editor? That was fun, but I feel drained!

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