Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Steve Earle--"Johnny Come Lately" (mp3)
Bruce Springsteen--"Chimes of Freedom(live)" (mp3)

I spent most of tonight watching the first disc of the Ken Burns PBS documentary The War. Before I started watching it, I was in Target and picked up one of those crazy books about what it means to be a father or something like that. I read a few pages. One of them stated that (I'm paraphrasing) "being a father means taking your children to see the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor so that your children can learn what freedom costs." Which I'll be doing in less than two weeks. So, yes, you could say I'm totally in the right mindset for Memorial Day.

I don't want to make too much of Memorial Day, because I can lay no claims to it. But my father is a WWII vet, serving proudly on Guam and New Guinea against the Japanese and my grandfather served at a submarine base in Brest, France during the first World War. I have an uncle who fought in Vietnam, a great uncle who fought the Germans hand to hand in Europe, and an uncle of my wife's who did the same. Most important to this day, I have a relative on my mother's side, an Eshelman, buried at Gettysburg. I imagine most, if not all, of you also don't branch out too far on the family tree before you encounter military service and, possibly, sacrifice, too.

If I can do Memorial Day right, come tomorrow at 7:45 am, I'll be driving to work with Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" blasting inside the Camry. Thirty-nine years later it remains an absolute work of genius, and there is no other performance I know that captures so well the dichotomy between patriotism and its consequences. Somehow Hendrix, through his guitar, knew that deconstructing the national anthem could capture the folly of Vietnam more than any protest song. By sundown, I'll have a mix of other relevant songs playing, including the two that accompany this post.

Someday I'll probably address it more in depth, but my own dichotomy about war is living through the Vietnam War but still using WWII as a reference point. Tonight when I told my wife I was going to watch The War, she asked, "Which one is it?" I replied, "There's only one." That's still where I am.

And when Memorial Day comes tomorrow, yes, it is more than a cookout to me.

Still, I know all you fans want to know what I'm cooking for Memorial Day. Well, I'm taking kind of a Mexican angle, with two kinds of tacos--carnitas (pork slow roasted in a chipotle rub) with a roasted tomatillo salsa and fish (tilapia) tacos with a mango-jalapeno salsa. On the side, poblano chiles and corn in sour cream, a fresh tomato-avocado salsa and chips, and cantalope.

I hope you get your grill on and enjoy the holiday, or at least what little remains of it when you get home from work like me. Support the troops and bring them home, too.

"Johnny Come Lately" appears on the classic Steve Earle cd Copperhead Road, available at Itunes. "Chimes of Freedom" comes from a same-title Springsteen ep also available at Itunes.

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