Friday, July 4
Falling asleep in front of the television is a time-honored American tradition, one that by now is literally generations old - a distinction it is hard for many things in American life to lay really solid claim to. It is not a tradition I have ever had much use for. Something in me rebels at losing consciousness while meaningful signals are still pouring out of some object in the room; it has not seemed to matter much that the television is seldom signalling anything meaningful. For a great many people, that particular drone of insistent sound and flickering light offers something comforting or lulling. It seems pretty likely that they are more tuned into the nervous system of modern civilization than I am, but even good television has never had that effect on me, and most people do not watch good television.
The last time I fell asleep to the TV was the night war started in Iraq, and the sick nightmare drone of endlessly repeated, endlessly useless coverage filtering through my dreams made me want to claw my way out of my own skull.
Right now it is July 4th, and sitting on the front porch of a house shaped like the one I lived in when I was six, I can hear small explosions and smell sulfur. The lights of a baseball field are visible from here, and the railroad tracks that run through town. A loudspeaker is trying to implant a canned chant of we will, we will, rock you in a crowd I cannot hear. Some little shit across the way is tearing around with enough neatly packaged gunpowder to blow himself to kingdom come, and there are spent bottle rockets in the driveway. One of my neighbors just rode past with lit sparklers all over his big faded yellow bike.
Today, because she is sick, I drove my girlfriend to her grandparents' house some thirty miles East. On Interstate we saw a dozen of the kind of cars that show up in small town parades and car shows. Halfway there, on the Westbound lanes, there was a wreck - ambulances, fire fighters running for something, people clustered around the destroyed minivan windshield and someone stretched out on the grass, dead or damn near it. I knew that I should feel something more than detachment, but I had no idea how. We are detached from all of that, or we pretend to be.
When we got there, I had black coffee and BLTs, tomato fresh out of the garden. Her grandpa was watching TV.
The small explosions are growing more frequent, and for once I am content just to listen and watch.