A Menace To Liberty / 17 April 2001

We’re trying to have a peaceful goddamn dinner you know maybe for once? Maybe for once we could sit down and eat her homemade lasagna (va-va-voom, incidentally, with twenty-seven different types of cheeses — Alexis up at the farmer’s market haggling over something called French Morbier which, as the legend goes, is made from lion’s milk and laced with a natural barbiturate: “So maybe I throw in the gallon of washer fluid in my back seat?”) and talk about fixed IP addresses without being bothered by this incessant thumping and pounding?

I figured it was our upstairs neighbor — he’s a conventionally handsome medical student who drives a Jeep and is always very diligent about digging us out from the latest snowstorm and Alex is forever finding excuses to chat, borrow a bowl of sugar or more likely lend a bowl of sugar, she comes stumbling down from upstairs, sweaty, lipstick smeared, hair tangled, “Whew, I wish that mailman would stop mixing up our mail with his,” and so it went until I had to go ask him to move his … his Jeep so I could get the Pill out of the driveway — “Thanks, you’re a pal,” I say, and feign slipping a little on the ice and whoopsie my Black & Decker EK600 Ergo Electric Knife (with the 7-inch meat-carving blade inserted, not the less intimidating 5-inch utility blade, better suited for fruits or vegetables) falls out of my overcoat and makes a loud clatter against the pavement. Doctor Love takes one glance at it and knows what time it is, and I feel I owe this impressive level of intuition at least some grudging respect, which is why I hesitate when the pounding upstairs begins — what if he’s building something that he thinks can defeat me? Who am I to complain? I wouldn’t want to interrupt his work and perhaps diminish the finished project, whatever it might be. I don’t want him at anything less than his full capabilities when the time comes.

But Alex gets up and looks out the window and says Ooh! Ahh! and so I know the sounds must be fireworks, and sure enough there they are, bursting death blossoms (if I may pilfer some terminology from The Last Starfighter) there over the roofs of the neighborhood. “I wish someone would shoot out that streetlight,” she says, and I say, “Maybe it’s for the Seadogs [the local minor-league {and thus only} baseball team which evidently couldn’t play its intended opening day a few weeks back because the field was still snowy and frozen — Portland is so cute], maybe they finally played a game.”

As usual, the internet proved me wrong. Turns out yesterday was Patriot Day, a firecracker-worthy holiday celebrating something about the Revolutionary War, although everyone seems to have their own opinion, often geographically fueled, about which aspect of the War we’re celebrating. The sweetest part is that this holiday is only observed in Maine and Massachusetts (that’s right, New Hampshire and their goddamn Man of the Mountain and their punk-ass dollar toll can go eat it), and yet some people get the day off work and everyone gets an extra day to file their tax returns. The patriotism suddenly courses through my veins, overheating into clear-eyed, table-flipping jingoism.

He folded his hands beneath his head and gazed at the dark boards of the ceiling in the dimness beyond the range of the standard lamp. Was it death he was now waiting for? Or a wild ecstasy of the senses? The two seemed to overlap, almost as if the object of this bodily desire was death itself. But, however that might be, it was certain that never before had the lieutenant tasted such total freedom.

—Yukio Mishima, “Patriotism”

Joshua Green Allen

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