Cave-ing in to Pressure

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Between now and, let’s see, just to be safe… between now sometime in September or so, I’m going to be hiding in a cave, one of the very deep echoing sorts with tunnels and hidden pools and bug-eyed hissing creatures celebrating their birthdays.

Why the need for utter seclusion from the encroachment of humanity?

Because my region of the country is about to go apeshit. Every tourist in the world, including the Queen of England herself, is going to be visiting the area to celebrate America’s Four Hundredth.

(Funny aside: was working on a readers’ advisory submission the other day. Under “preferred settings,” the person had helpfully written “former British colonies.” Ahem. EVERYWHERE is a former British colony. Sun never sets on the British Empire, and whatnot. Made my job pretty easy, actually.)

“America’s Four Hundredth Anniversary” is an insulting phrase, and difficult to spell. Had to use spell-check to get “hundredth” right. Jamestown was settled four hundred years ago. Definitely important. Very historical. But it is not the birth of the country.

For the moment let’s ignore the Indians, which is very easy to do, considering this country’s long, proud tradition of doing exactly that. Nevermind that they’ve been here SINCE THE LAST ICE AGE. It’s easy to overlook.

But the English gents who set up shop in Jamestown didn’t found the first permanent European settlement. The Spanish did that with St. Augustine in Florida in 1565. So let’s think about this logically: if we want to celebrate America’s Four Hundredth Anniversary (Of Permanent European Invasion), we have to travel 659 miles south and forty-two years back in time.

But try telling THAT to the tourists.

Don’t get me wrong. I love history, more than most people. I even have a degree in history, Russian history. It is a completely useless degree, unless I am in the presence of people who want to discuss the ways in which Lenin’s vision differed from Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and believe me, folks: that’s a completely hypothetical situation, one that exists only in my private fantasies.


I am sitting quietly on a park bench, reading Lenin’s famous treatise, “What Is To Be Done?”. I am wearing a slinky red sequiny dress, which is not very practical for a stroll in the park, but it looks stunning. Also, I’m twenty pounds lighter.

A group of uncommonly attractive, hyper-educated liberals approaches. They all have good credit, healthy track records in relationships, and progressive attitudes re: monogamy and sexual exploration. None of them live in their parents’ basements.

“What would that document have been like if Trotsky had been the author?” one of them asks.

“He would have been even more supportive of the working class than Lenin was, if that’s possible,” responds another.

“Well,” I retort, “that’s certainly a Menshevik opinion.”

We erupt into gales of laughter and disappear into the sunset.

(Kay, let me explain the punchline. During Lenin’s rise to power, he had only a small number of followers. But in a brilliant PR move, he named his party the Bolsheviks. “Bolshevik” means “majority” in Russian. Everyone else, even though they had numbers on their side, was relegated to the “Menshevik,” or “minority,” party. Excellent propaganda.)

I majored in Russian history because I like Russian literature. I wanted context for my favorite novels. I have “nerd” painted on my forehead in big, legible letters.

We have now established that I like history to a rather pathetic degree. I think it’s a fascinating subject, and I’m happy that people want to come learn about colonial America.

But I hate crowds. During May, while all the festivities are going on, I think I’ll hide quietly with some books and a flashlight, unless I can find a cave with electrical outlets. Send some spelunkers after me if I don’t show up for work.



4 responses »

  1. I, on the other hand, am going to jump right on into the middle of things and help out at the events. Asking me why would be pointless. My husband’s asked me several times — "Remind me why the hell you agreed to volunteer at this thing??" — and all I can say is that it sounded like fun. And it does, again, now that I know I won’t have to be there when that idiot Bush is going to be there. I’m not there to ‘celebrate’ the first permanent English settlement in the Americas (or one of the many times the English (and other European countries) have obliterated societies to selfishly use the land and other natural resources (and slave labor) for themselves, often in the belief that Christians are somehow superior to all other people and deserve to. I hope no one is celebrating, in that sense. I suppose it wouldn’t be good advertising to say "Come and reflect on the horrors that have been perpetrated by one culture on others to get where we are today (global warming, depletion of habitat for many species, poverty in the midst of monetary affluence)!" But I do hope people reflect on it.So why am I helping out? I have my stock excuse: I may want to write about it someday. As a future best-selling author, I like to do things I normally might not do just to have more experiences in the world so I can maybe, perhaps, someday stick something I learn into a novel or book (or blog entry) or poem. Plus, of course, working at the events allows me to put off cleaning out my closet for another week.

  2. Chessie >^..^<

    I don’t wanna go anywhere near Jamestown now…eeeeeee!And what do I do but tell the Queen of Claremont I’ll be there on Sunday to see the Susan Constant and the Indians… 🙂

  3. You guys take yourselves waaay too seriously. Just think of it as an opportunity to separate sheep from their wool, enabling the Wilhemsplatz liberry to buy more books.And if you want a really good look at the history of the area going back 15,000 years, try Bob Deans’ River Where America Began. He writes that the spirit of the James infuses every aspect of American life, whether we know it or not. Personally, I like William Styron’s description from Confessions of Nat Turner – ‘the mother of slavery’.

  4. the queen of Claremont

    See, you should have come to the other side!!!Our Claremont commemoration – at my suggestion early on – was to honor the Native Americans. The settlers sucked without them, and the Indians had already been here a realll long time, and as far as I’m concerned, lived a far better life-style than the Europeans, Africans, Middle Easterners, Asians, whatever..Claremont had a quiet, but effective, small-town festival that everyone (except a drunk and one person who’s pissed off abut everything) enjoyed. No major crowds, but there was a steady flow of interested people who were all in a good mood who, surprisingly, did not trash the town! Even the ususal ‘nattering nabobs of negativism" in town complimented the Committee on having an event that truly honored the Virginia Tribes (while promoting my darling little library (we had over 500 people come through!)). Those of you who didn’t come missed a good opportunity to think abou why we are here and how we managed to survive, despite ourselves.I gotta tell you – the Chickahominy dancers made my day, and the Nottaway Tribe has some wonderful people! (JUst FYI – Nottoways have a powwow here in Surry on June 23/24, and the Chickahominy powwow is September 29.I plan to be at both of them.Did I mention that I just found out my Great-grandmother was Cherokee?


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