Memorial Day. The day dedicated to U.S. citizens who lost their lives during their military service. My dad was his usual understated self on this holiday, often sporting one of those poppies handed out by the American Legion. He was a WW2 veteran, surviving the Battle of The Bulge. He lost some friends there, but never talked about it much. His observance never went beyond the flower display and maybe a little flag attached to his car antenna. I suppose some memories are better left in the Ardennes.
This weekend is also the "official" beginning of summer. People will load up their vehicles and take to the roads. Me, I like to stay home. Maybe toss something on the grill (Dad always liked me to make him a burnt hot dog)…have a cold one or two. As I get older and less political (I hesitate to to use the word "apolitical" but I'm getting very close), the start of summer has moved to the front of my attention. As usual, this has everything to do with memories.
It would be nice if all of the memories were positive but that isn't the case. Two years ago at this time my mom was very sick and had about a month to go. I would love it if that memory didn't cloud the transition into summer. On the other hand, I don't want to wish myself into my later years, with a failing memory. Swapping a more positive reflection of early summer with a mind that makes me forget to zip my fly? Maybe that's a trade I don't want to make.
Ah, but after that it's all uphill. Family cookouts. Potato salad. Nights at the drive inn (and those danged mosquitoes). Hot weekends after college, with food cooking on one of those cheapo hibachi grills, all of us in the pool. Endless beers and wine coolers. Somehow, Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. became attached to all of this. "Glory Days," in particular, brings me right back to that time. This record is often cited as the fans' least favorite. I guess I can understand that. Heck, it's not my favorite either. But for some reason, there's a whole lot of memory glue in it. The more I listen, the more stuff I remember.
The title track has been involved in a certain amount of controversy over the years, mostly due to people misunderstanding its meaning. More than a few thought it was a flag-waver kind of thing. When the true meaning came forth, Springsteen was branded by some as anti-American. I'm sorry, but there's nothing more American than the act of voicing your opinion. That includes Glenn Beck's recent denouncement of the song (Some people want to think that Beck is crazy. Naw, he's just an attention-whore, weeping & spewing all the way to the bank).
A more recently-acquired summer association is of a huge American flag that is draped over the front of a local farm house. By "huge," I mean that it covers the entire side of the house, all the way up to the roof. It goes up this weekend and will remain there until the 4th of July. I drive by the house every morning on the way to work and it's quite a sight. I've just finished reading Garrison Keilor's Lake Wobegon Days. That house would have easily fit into that small town cast of people and places: an old house, some broken-down outbuildings, a collection of tractors, and the big 'ole flag.
So let the summer begin. I give you this video of Bruce and Miami Steve, hamming it up and having a good 'ole time. That's what I'll be doing this weekend. Maybe I'll even cook myself a burnt hot dog.