It’s Saturday night, just after 9pm. This is the time I usually sit down and write an essay, arisen from thoughts which form in my head on my daily rides.
Tonight though, also happens to be Independence Day. It’s kind of hard to concentrate on writing with all the mini-explosions taking place in my neighborhood. Firecrackers and fireworks have been going off without interruption for nearly 45 minutes. If the last few years are any indication, this will continue for another hour or so.
I live near the center of a small town. This demographic is low-to-middle income, and many of the homes in my neighborhood have multiple families living in them — with multiple children. Most every household in my neighborhood has at least one dog in the yard and some have more than one. I’ve never been able to accurately count the outdoor and feral cats in the neighborhood, but there’s a dozen or more I see regularly.
The dog on my lap, this dog that got over 80 likes earlier in the day for a picture of his sweetness, is now trembling in fear from the sound and vibration of all the fireworks going off. My cat, Mischa, has run through the house at full speed a half-dozen times now, driven mostly by the louder explosions.
When I returned from Colorado back to Southern California in 2015, I lived next-door to a man named Laverne. Laverne was an Army veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Laverne had been granted an early retirement after a diagnosis of PTSD. Laverne spent most of his days smoking pot and watching television in his garage — his man cave. He spent most of his nights in there too, also smoking pot and watching television. He confessed to me once that he was afraid to fall asleep. His young daughter and wife lived a relatively separate life from him on the other side of the door.
On July 4, 2015, we were surrounded by fireworks. Between the professional display that took place down the street, and all the neighborhood fireworks, and as cliché as it sounds, it sounded like a war zone that evening. In-between concussions, I could openly hear Laverne crying and talking to himself from under the half-open garage door. When I peaked under the door, Laverne was curled up on the sofa holding his knees towards his chest. There was a smoking apparatus on the table beside him and the television was on but the volume was off.
I think about Laverne every Independence Day, as I coax my dog from behind the toilet — the place where he instinctively hides from the explosions that surround him. I hold him on my lap, I reassure him and I think of Laverne. If there’s one crying veteran, I think to myself, there are thousands more. If there’s one frightened dog, there are millions more.
The celebration of Independence Day with explosions that scare veterans and animals is an idea let’s run its course. I get that it’s only one day a year and just for a few hours. I also get that they fascinate children and adults alike, and are an age-old ritual that brings people together. But at what price…?
The sight of a grown man curled up on a sofa crying to himself with a cloud of smoke coming out from under the door was enough to convince me, rigidly, that fireworks are a poor way to celebrate the day, and somewhat ironic — pets hiding behind toilets not withstanding.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
14.9 mph avg
13 hours 26 minutes seat time
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Willy DeVille. Enjoy…
2 thoughts on “Red White & Kablooey: We Can Do Better…”
It’s easy to intellectually look at statistics, or large groups and be mostly untouched by what is going on. But looking at one person, or dog for that matter, in times of personal stress, has a much more visceral impact on our senses. We would all be better people, if we looked at the individual and allowed ourselves to really feel their suffering, as you do, Roy!
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It’s just one more inconsistency of being American. We love our animals and we donate to the ASPCA, we put bumper stickers on our cars about how it’s better to rescue. But when Independence Day comes, we love to scare the shit out of them.
And as far as our veterans go, we might as well walk up behind them when they’re not looking and bang trashcan lids together.
That’s all I got…
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