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.