Hey, Baby, It’s the 4th of July


July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July!

For those who haven’t seen it, the 4th of July in Ashland is a big deal. The day starts with a parade, then there are crafts and food booths lining the road in the park, and a concert in the band shell, and finally fireworks. As a child, the fourth was almost as exciting as Christmas, but without the gifts, and nearly as fun as Halloween. There was even candy as some folks in the parade threw it out to the crowds. I can remember being a little kid and feeling a visceral rush when the old bi-planes flew in formation overhead to signal the start of the parade, and while waiting for the parade itself to make its way down to wherever we were lined up and waiting, the first strains of music from the bands gave me a thrill I can almost taste even now.

I know many people filled stirred with patriotism when they hear the national anthem or see the flag, but as a child, I wanted to see the horses, get candy, and go to my favorite booth in the park, the dime toss. I waited all year to try my luck at the dime toss, pitching coins towards glittering stacks of plates, shot glasses, and the coveted Coca Cola glasses. Looking back, it seems odd that I was interested in collecting dishes, and not even particularly nice dishes, but perhaps it was the thrill of winning.

After the parade and the dime toss we usually made our way back to the house for lunch. The middle of the day on the 4th was nerve wracking for me. The anticipation of the evening and the fireworks built, but the day itself had a curiously flaccid quality, like the day of Christmas Eve, all anticipation and hours to get through before the event.

I’ve felt a little of that all the time we’ve been here, waiting for the bus, waiting for the real trip to start, and now I don’t quite know what I feel. I woke up this morning feeling sorry for Larry the mechanic. While his communications skills may be lacking, I know none of this is any fun for him. I imagine him cursing the day he accepted the job, and I’m sure he doesn’t relish spending the 4th tinkering with the bus instead of watching the parade or heading to a barbeque. In fact, I don’t even know if he will work on the bus today despite what he told us last night.

I keep thinking that the universe is trying really hard to teach me a lesson about accepting what is and letting go of the oars, but I have to say that I’m not thrilled about learning the lesson quite so harshly. I can tell everyone feels bad for me, and yet I don’t feel too bad myself. I really don’t know what will happen, and I don’t think that is any different than any other day, but most days I think I know what will happen. On trips plans are often destroyed by chance and circumstance, like the year fires made us miss camping at Lake Selmac, or the year our ignition gave out near Fort Bragg and we camped in the walk in sites at MacKerricher State Park waiting for the Honda dealer in Santa Rosa to be open to fix the car. Those changes weren’t bad; we had a nice night at the coast instead of at the lake, and while we were stuck camping over the long weekend I started making art out of beach trash, a tradition that continues even today, and one that inspired me to include it in my teaching by having students clean the beach to learn about making a difference in the world.

We could go to the parade today and sit in the crowd, but I don’t want to. It feels like admitting defeat, and I know I would be imagining the bus in the parade when the bus is stuck in front of Larry’s shop. Instead, I hope we can take a drive out to one of the rivers that cross the valley, and I can rinse my toes in the water and have a quieter day. Also, I hope that Larry will call.

Update: So, we met Larry, and he’s a really nice guy. He fixed the idling problem—vacuum seal—but now when you hit the brakes, the lights short out. We are supposed to leave tomorrow for the first stop on our trip, but instead it seems we may be waiting for Larry to call. I haven’t had a case of phone madness this bad since I was a teenager, and I am trying to move forward and be positive, but it is hard. I want to be on the road, on our way, and yet it seems that is not meant to be. Tonight, I watched the neighborhood kids and families here in Talent set off fireworks, and I wished I was home with our pit bull, Buddy, who hates Boom Boom night. I don’t know what tomorrow will be, and one thing this trip is pulling into sharp focus is that we never do actually know. Maybe Larry will get the bus running and we will head off, but maybe not. The illusion of control is so easily shattered by an old car, something I learned from owning an old Volvo, but I still just want things to work out. I keep telling myself to let go and enjoy the time I have, but I have to admit that the stress is getting to me. “That’s not what I meant at all,” I keep thinking, and yet there seems no way to say just what I mean, nor any way to control the current of the river of this trip.


Rio Vista, CA.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Huck says:

    Hello Friend,

    I don’t have any trip/river or therapy advice. It just sucks or as your father said. This is “bullshit “. Then you take a deep breath and know you can’t live there. ( oops getting a little therapy ish.)
    “ Truth has no path and that is the beauty of truth—-it is living. “ the truth today will not be the same tomorrow. Take Heart.
    Take care Huck


  2. Christina Sheldon says:

    At least you got to call out one of the best songs-tangentially-written-about-a-holiday ever, “The 4th of July” by Dave Alvin! Here’s a fun recording I found; it embodies the most enthusiasm I could muster for the holiday, myself, this year.


  3. Christina Sheldon says:

    At least you got to call out one of the best songs-tangentially-written-about-a-holiday ever! Here’s a fun recording I found; it embodies the most enthusiasm I could muster for the holiday, myself, this year.


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