Photo courtesy of NASA Marshall
Space Flight Center (NASA-MSFC)I never pulled it together to have a barbecue last summer. I was so busy watching our nation slither into darkness that I just plain forgot to ever light the coals. Sorry. I'm no fun anymore.
I need a barbecue—need that sense of cosmic balance you only get with a beer in one hand and the charred joint of some animal in the other. Or maybe just a charred joint would suffice; I don't want to disappoint my vegan friends. I need all manner of friends around, and bongo drums, and a cattle tub filled with water and more friends, and that suntan-lotion smell mingling with the mesquite smoke, and people talking and laughing under the shade of the olive tree, and Lightnin' Hopkins on the hi-fi. That's what I need.
Just this morning at the swap meet, I bought an early-'60s Hopkins album with a song titled "Happy Blues for John Glenn." Is that a jigger of optimism or what: JFK in the White House, an American in orbit, and Lightnin' all happy about it?
If you've been drinking, you can see Lightnin's point: there was no pressing need to put a man in orbit. There was no work product resultant from it, unless you want to count Orange Tang. There was the Cold War and Khruschchev's promise to bury us driving the space race, but it was a mainly just a big old Fourth of July thrill for us to put those rockets up there.
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What unifying goal drives us now? Sure, President Bush has talked about lofting men to Mars, but that was never more than just talk. He's too busy lobbing turds like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz into the international punch bowl. Talk about hiding in plain sight: the world is roiled by the war we built on false intelligence, so we send a willful intelligence falsifier, Bolton, to represent us at the United Nations. Meanwhile, Wolfowitz said we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq, that Iraq had no ethnic strife, that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenues, and that he knew better than the detailed, discarded State Department plan when it came to rebuilding Iraq. If Wolfowitz was, let's see, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong about the country he's focused on for years, how much help will he be to countries he's never heard of when he's ramming World Bank policy down their throats?
But I digress, though actually I don't: it affects your summer. Due to Bush's policies, the dollar is worth so little you'd do better tendering napkins as currency when you travel abroad, and for many of us, that means we won't be traveling abroad. The weak dollar should be good news to an area as dependent on tourism as OC because that typically means more foreigners come spend their money here, now that the U.S. is a relative Tijuana to them. But tourism is down because the world is a tad horrified by the U.S. at present, and this means fewer winsome Norwegian girls on the beach asking you to help with their English: "There is, how you say, shitin your water, yes?" "That's right, honey, and we like it that way. You won't find a plume like that near your Nordic fjords."
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It can get lonely, having the marshmallow-scarred fire rings of H.B., the fear-stained rockets of Tomorrowland and the frozen-banana-splattered sidewalks of Balboa all to ourselves this summer. The only hope to lure the naughty Nords, hunky Dutch, erudite Uruguayans, brazen Bosnians and comely Cambodians back to our shores is to lively up ourselves a bit, to recapture the grassroots creativity and homegrown lifestyle that made Southern California a modern beacon to the world. That's what it's about: you come up with neat shit and you share it. Summer's the time to start a band, a ceramics company, a website, the next damn surfwear firm or a political-action committee. Step up to the plate. Live like Tim McGraw was dying.
Spread some aloha. Did you know that John Glenn's space capsule was called the FriendshipSeven?That's a nicer calling card than "Shock and Awe," don't you think? I don't want to scare people. I want to give them some grilled eggplant. My pal Jonathan Richman once wrote a song called "Parties in the USA," opining that's just what America needed, more people dancing to "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and fewer cops shutting down parties in Huntington Beach. (The party in question in the song was at Sam Lanni's, owner of H.B.'s fabled Safari Sam's, which cops also shut down in 1986. Sam is finally opening a new club this summer, in LA this time. Check www.safari-sams.com for the date.)
That's what saves California, people saying, "Forget the California Adventure; let's make our own events. Have you been to 'Becca's carport? It rocks!"
Here are a few I think are ripe for creating:
Huntington Beach Police Appreciation Day
This is a time for everyone to let officers know "We see the job you're doing, and this is our thanks." Did you know that if you roll a police car, it's easier for them to coat the undercarriage to protect against the salt air? And what about those poor foot patrols? How about leaving a comfy couch out for them, in the middle of the street where they won't miss it? And they've gotta be hungry, so maybe set the couch on fire so they can cook hot dogs. Invite them into your homes; they're comin' in anyway. What fun's the Fourth if there's no reason to take the Fifth when they're sitting down later with FBI investigators?
Support Our Troops Day
In solidarity with our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a day for everyone with an SUV to weld scrap metal to it, don several layers of faulty Kevlar, and drive around all afternoon with the windows up and the heat on. As you dodge the importunities of our local freeway snipers, you can reflect on our brave men in uniform and how maybe they wouldn't be in harm's way now if you didn't drive such a selfish consumption-mobile.
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Yippie Day Reunion at Disneyland
What yearlong celebration of the Happiest Place on Earth would be complete without a shout out to one of the defining days of an era? Thirty-five years ago, on Aug. 6, 1970, the Youth International Party held a protest gathering at Disneyland to "bring the reality of Vietnam to Amerika's Fantasyland" or somesuch. Riot cops lined Main Street USA. Yippies briefly took over Tom Sawyer's Island and hoisted a Viet Cong flag over the fort. There were plenty of arrests, little kids cried because the park closed early, and it didn't exactly change any minds. Now that everyone's older and wiser, maybe it's time for a day of quiet reflection at the park that you can drop a tab of windowpane. Were you at the first Yippie Day? Show a ticket stub, mug shot or visible scars and get in free!
On this religious day, we can all make the assumption that Jesus spent his days walking around with death rays shooting from his eyes, burning sinners to cinders, since so much of modern Christianity has become a judgmental, vengeful, unforgiving hatefest. "Hey, hoist me up on this cross, would you? I can scorch the entire Middle East from there!"
At my house, your house, 'Becca's carport. Keep it moving.