Thursday, March 12, 2015

THE GREAT TRADITION


The downtown streets are packed, festive; On the gazebo the oompah band flurries into its third, bouncing, beerhall-cum-Souza number while towheaded boys, all Dennis the Menace lookalikes, and brightly dressed, ribbon-adorned, pigtailed girls frollick together, pell mell, waving sparklers, playing cowboy, playing soldier, playing ninja, playing damsel. They rampage 'round adult legs, chalking up those Sunday playkid ground-in grass stains.
All around the atmosphere screams Holiday, shouts triumph and it's as if the whole town has united as a colossal family. Sad heroes sit apart in chaise lounges, toasting weenies and reveling amongst their own gritty, rusting fraternity, in their past glories, deeds and misdeeds (with a bitter snicker and an elbow to the ribs)--those of rural and urban persuasion roll in by the carload, tying up the roads for miles---they're all bubbly, patient, high-spirited in their Sunday patriotic celebration roaring Norman Rockwell slick, streamlined post-Eisenhower wide-eyed cartoon futurism best—te cars are polished flawless, like new, like nouveau-riche immaculate and everyone's putting on a showy show, giving it their all.
In front of the bank, a hawker brandishes his wares---fried dough, soft pretzels, funnel cakes, corn dogs, ceremoniously overpriced---children jump and run and play fetch with their dogs in the rubble of the old newspaper building. The grass isn't green here; it runs the gamut from greener to greenest, always---over by the municipal center the parade floats that rolled through that morning are parked, in wait of reverent disassembly.
On slanted sidestreets the high school's cream posture and rage atop their proud, waxed, mighty, dadbought pickup trucks and the anthem pumping their heroics is the bawdy, gang's-all-here-let's-do-some-good-boys sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd—what was yore name, little girl---the virile young futurehopes show their mettle, strutting their stuff, waving their banners and dishing out their brand of civic-minded justice by kicking the shit out of anyone who doesn't look right...from the ramparts, the parade-used judges' stand and the kissing booths, their heaven-complexioned, next door sweethearts bat their eyelashes and applaud along with the frumping, wizened town fathers, who gloat and beam with approval as they relish victory...
In the center, in the sights of old city hall, around the gazebo, the fountain and the foothills in the park, the population thickens...the coming event looms heavy in the air with the mosquitoes, the smells of char-burnt meats and various liniments, all clashing in a sensory quarrel. In the nearby field, calloused civic backbreakers labor and sweat feverishly as they push to erect the gallows stands in time to begin the second day of festivities...in the oaks near the clearing a resistant, thrashing, malcontented few are quietly hauled off to the vans and a great cheer goes up as the night's main event begins—bold streaks rain from the sky with incredible screeches---incandescent reds, greens, blues, whites, pinks...they spiral and blaze and explode before they can reach the ground. The children, bug eyed and gleamy of tooth, point upward with nervous glee, piggyback on their shoulderpadded, drycleaned patriarchs---”Mommy! Daddy! Look,” they delight, “the angels are dying! The angels are dying!”

Published 1993 in FAIRY TALES FROM THE URBAN UNDERGROUND (Yorkville Press)


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