Grasshopper Soup: Great things can happen while daydreaming
In a late night breeze, from a pole on the corner of my deck, the American flag flies over the moonlit Truckee River, shimmering and rolling unfurled up river with the water flowing down. Official flag protocol says it is inappropriate to fly the flag at night. I don’t care. It is still America at night.
Americans who died for what the flag symbolizes did so at night as well as day. For me, it’s a personal thing. Something about it I sense is good, somber and beautiful, no matter what the official protocol says. Old Glory will fly free there for as long as I want it to. Great thing, freedom.
More than anything, more than the history behind it (a tainted one at that), for me the flag symbolizes the land, the ground I walk on, the beaches, the granite boulders and trails choked with pine roots, the sawed off tree trunks I rest upon, the green grass that stains my bare feet, the alkaline, the clay, the mud, gravel and lava rock. Fields of corn.
The flag also symbolizes ideals and principles that someday we hope will become a reality for everyone: freedom; respect for opposing points of view, and compromise between them for the common good; acceptance and appreciation for the uncertainties and the inevitable pleasures and sufferings of life; common sense, vigilance and trust.
But most of all, for me the flag represents the land. The ocean cliffs, the desert sand, the dense forests and treeless expanse of grass, gullies, wind, rain and thunderstorms.
There are times I am tempted to take the flag down out of sheer embarrassment for being an American. Like when I think about politicians and politics, which makes me want to find a bumper sticker that says “Obama Lied,” even if he didn’t, if only to show I understand such ignorance.
Too bad Barack can’t find enough people who want to work for him. It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who isn’t guilty of something. And the best, brightest and most honorable and clean among them are not so sure they want to get involved. We are trying to fix the spokes on an economic bicycle wheel while it is spinning. Only an idiot would want to stick his fingers in there.
So this morning I spent about 10 minutes staring at a snow bank covered with sunlight, like watching the night sky covered with stars. And I told some friends a true story about something that just happened that fixed a big smile on my face that I can’t remove.
Two years ago I picked up a young man at the Truckee train depot to take him to the Reno airport. It was eight o’clock in the morning and he had a beer in his hand. Other than that he looked like a pretty clean cut kid (yes, I sometimes refer to young men as kids ” it’s my prerogative). When he told me his flight time, I told him he might not make it. I drove as fast as I could. We chatted away the miles and just before the airport he said he needed to find a cash machine (you suppose he could have meant a politician?) to pay me. I directed him to the ATM and watched him take his bags and disappear into the terminal. I never saw him again.
I was furious. I tried to picture him feeling terribly guilty and weighted down with unbearable remorse, racing to catch his flight. But mostly I was angry. I called airport security to see if they could apprehend him before he got on the plane. They couldn’t.
Two nights ago I got a phone call from a cab driver. He was at the Blue Agave in Tahoe City. There was a man asking the bartender if he knew of a cab driver named Bob. Cabbies know all the bartenders. Making the inquiry was the young man from two years ago. He got me on the phone, apologized, and we had some good laughs. He paid me the fare plus $40.
Smile, life could be worse.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 25 years.