Shorebilly's Swill: On Road Trips and Independence
Happy Fourth of July to one and all. I try not to let a holiday slip by without writing something about it. This week our great nation celebrates its independence as we do every year with a variety of traditions and rituals. As far as the holidays go, I do actually enjoy and celebrate this one, and also believe it is necessary. It is one of the few amongst the plethora of holidays that is intended to celebrate and recognize an actual historical event and its significance. Most of the traditions and rituals associated with this holiday are both appropriate, and germane to the actual event we are celebrating. It also always falls on the same date regardless of the day of the week, lending it further credence.
Independence Day is not one of the many holidays which we celebrate annually because it is loosely based upon twelfth hand accounts of a story that allegedly took place a couple of thousand years ago. It is not one which we alter the date of each year to accommodate our schedules and lifestyles. It is not a day whose traditions and rituals have been altered periodically through time in bizarre ways to sugar coat and comfort us forcing it to snowball into a juggernaut of overly commercialized crap.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound like some cynical, blasphemous heathen. I enjoy and celebrate all of the other holidays just as much as the next guy. In fact, I’ve been known to hide colored eggs, hang stockings over my fireplace, give candy in a heart shaped box, and even perhaps drink a green beer. My hypocrisies manifest themselves in many ways. I just like to point out from time to time the true meanings of these celebratory days as a reminder. Any day that gives me an excuse to celebrate and spend time with family, count me in. Though there are times that I wish banks and post offices were open.
Another thing I love about Independence Day is that is one of the very few remaining days of celebration that we’ve not yet had to alter our traditions and rituals to accommodate any small, thin-skinned contingents of whiney people who may find something about it offensive. We can still set off, and enjoy fireworks on this day without fear that colorblind people, (of which I am one) will find them offensive. Or that dog owners are angry about having to clean up that annual piss stain on the carpet or replace a screen that Scruffy jumped through after the first colorful rocket blast. Thankfully, so far, no one has complained too much about us all wearing red, white, and blue on this day. I guess when you dwell safely beneath the flag emblazoned with those colors you just have to deal with it for one day a year. We’ve not yet had to alter our tradition of firing up the grill and covering it with the ground carcasses of creatures which are now shaped into patties, or forced into sausage casings for the sole purpose of our consumption to accommodate animal rights activists who may find this day offensive.
It’s one of the very few days of the year that, at least so far, everyone in our nation seems to celebrate and enjoy regardless of religion or race. Most share a common appreciation, respect, and enjoyment of the Fourth, and in many cases, literally wear their patriotism on their sleeve. Though since we now, sadly live in a world in which an ever-growing number of people cower behind the neurotic cloak that is “political correctness” and we are forced constantly to accommodate others’ petty sensitivities, it’s probably just a matter of time before we have to alter our Independence Day celebratory rituals.
Conversely, I have absolutely no patience whatsoever for those who use “patriotism”, or a wardrobe, or bumper sticker adorned with the colors red, white, and blue as a mask for bigotry, ignorance, or intolerance. I have no room in my world for that scarlet-throated mentality. It’s almost as if these two camps are in a metaphoric tug-of-war of stupidity and we open minded free thinkers of reasonable intelligence are the rope being stretched to our limits.
Now that I’ve gotten all of that off of my chest, I’ll climb down from my soapbox and bring it back around. This is one of those festive weeks that hoards of people load up their vehicles to maximum capacity and trek to our beaches to relax and enjoy the holiday. Literally hundreds of thousands of people plan their annual vacation around this week. Many of the best and brightest society has to offer will sit for many hours in traffic during their annual migration to our fun little town. Unfortunately, a massive contingency of them has not been out since St. Patrick’s Day, and not since New Year’s Eve prior to that. So sadly, the thought process and decision making skills of some will be a bit skewed throughout the course of this next week. I know my effort is futile at best, but please be safe.
For the next several days, especially the fourth itself, our ocean, bays, and canals will be blanketed by what I’ve heard some refer to as, “The Pennsylvania Navy.” Now don’t get offended, those of you from the great state of PA, I didn’t coin the phrase, I’m just borrowing it to illustrate a point. Our waterways will be speckled as far as the eye can see in every direction by various forms, sizes, and shapes of personal watercraft; many of which are rentals, and most operated by individuals who will quickly prove that they are as skilled, knowledgeable, and courteous on the water as they are on the road.
These same traits, unfortunately for me and others in my profession, will also rear their ugly heads throughout the week as these same people pay their dinner and bar checks. Here’s a little heads up for ya—just because Hazel, the dayshift barmaid at the Altoona Elks Club thinks you’re a good tipper, doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. Your fun time is my livelihood. Thanks in advance for your kindness and generosity.
Against my better judgment, I found myself amongst these eager travelers earlier this week. I had a couple days in a row off at the beginning of the week and decided to take a road trip to visit family and show off the new baby. And for what it’s worth, those of you Quaker state dwellers I alienated with the previous two paragraphs, I went to Pennsylvania. Anyway, I learned a lot of valuable lessons on this trip. Many of which I will never forget. It was my first road trip with almost all of my children. The eldest fruit of my loins could not make the trip because he had to work. Though I don’t think he would really have enjoyed spending eleven out twenty-five hours as a prisoner encapsulated in what at many times seemed like a minivan shaped pneumatic tube direct to hell. With my son safely out of the mix, it was my wife, and our three little girls. Their respective ages are seven, thirteen months, and three weeks. If you ever have the opportunity to do this, fake an illness. Throw yourself down a flight of stairs; drink a whole bottle of cough medicine—whatever it takes. It was like being trapped in an ever descending antique diving bell full of tear filled eyes, crap filled diapers, engorged mammary glands, empty stomachs, cold French fry covered floors, dueling screams, and a cavalcade of attitudinal inadequacies. Whenever one baby would cry, the other would try to drown it out with sympathy tears of her own.
We had to make one quick stop at an outlet store along the way upon realizing that the one-year-old only had one shoe. Because there’s nowhere on Earth I’d rather be on a Sunday in the summer than an outlet mall between here and the other side of the Bay Bridge. I pulled up in front of the shoe store and dropped my wife and oldest daughter off. In the time it took me to find a parking space less than one hundred yards away, my one-year-old had learned a cool new trick. She could not only now remove her own diaper while restrained by an infant car seat, but she could finger paint the entire second row of my van with its contents. By the time my wife and daughter had returned to the vehicle with a brand new pair of shoes for this tiny little beast who had just provided me with a visual that I will recall vividly to my grave, I had already cleaned up the Exxon Valdezesque disaster and was kneeling next to the van gagging violently with tears streaming down my furrowed face. (And yes, I am completely aware that I just raised the bar for run on sentences.) Unless you’re my English teacher and grading this, back off.
Anyway, we had a great time and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It took about six hours each way and should normally only take three and a half, but my only regret is that we couldn’t have stayed longer. Thanks to my family for feeding us so well and harboring all of us for the night. And perhaps I have a newfound sympathy for all those travelers who make the trek to our little beach town every summer.
Happy Independence Day to all of you, and God bless America. Yeah, I said it. Thanks for playing along.
Until next week,
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