When I was about eight years old, my father bought a camper-trailer. Unlike today’s lightweight units, this one was built like a small shed, heavy as sin. Being trailering tyros, we took along four full-sized concrete blocks to support the corners. Thank something, that the days of heavy, powerful cars were not past. I don’t know how we pulled that monster, but from then till I was 14, we went somewhere every summer.
I need to clean out the paint locker at the back of my mind and offer up another story of how a small-town boy had his horizons widened a bit. In the meantime, this story isn’t about a trip. It’s about who we saw when our trip was interrupted.
This was the summer of 1953, or ’54. We had been camping here and there for almost two weeks. We were moving from north to south, somewhere just east of Toronto. We almost reached a main east/west highway and were stopped by a Provincial Police officer. He told us we’d have to go back and around another way, or find a place to park at the side of the road until “She” went through. She, who?? Queen Elizabeth, of course! He took pity on a family of campers, and told us how to get down to the little city ahead, and where to park, but insisted that we could not cross the main road until after the parade.
We followed his directions, and decided that, if we were stranded, we might as well get a vantage-point on the sidewalk. Mom and Dad piled up at the back of the crowd. Mom was 4’ 11”, I don’t know if she saw anything. Dad was 6’, he might have. I was about eight or nine. I just insinuated myself through the crush until I was right down front. The crowd ran right to the curb, and wasn’t allowing any room, even for a little kid, so I just stepped off the curb and stood in front. As the Queen and Prince Philip rolled regally through town, I was only eight feet away from her. Big F…..ng Deal! Can we get back to camping now?
It happened again last Friday night. The wife and I went down to the Rec room, to watch Jay Leno, and there was that damned woman interrupting my planned enjoyment again. The Tonight show was delayed by an hour for a broadcast of the opening of the Olympic Games. Well, it wasn’t just her. I got to see David Beckham, a man who makes his living on dry land, row his boat up the Thames and pass off a fancy cigarette lighter to some other guy, who gave it to a passel of pre-teen arsonists, who managed to start a big fire on the ground.
Get the feeling I’m none too impressed, yet?? How observant! Actually, as shows go, it was a decent show. The pacing fireworks as Bend-it’s boat raced up the river, how the individual copper leaves on the ground rose on gas-pipes, to amalgamate and form the Cauldron, the fireworks that went off after the flame was lit, all of these were grand theater. At least they went off in a timed display, not like San Diego’s 10-second, Fourth of July, boom and fizzle. But theater was all it was. Bread and circuses for the masses. Proof of this is the fact that responsibility for the show was given to a Hollywood director.
Owned, sponsored and controlled by multi-national corporations, it reminded me of the movie Demolition Man. Do you know that attendees’ clothing style was restricted and controlled? If you were wearing a tee-shirt mentioning Pepsi-Cola, you would be prevented from entering, because Coca-Cola bought all soft-drink promotional rights?
Perhaps it’s because I learned early that I can’t compete, but I’ve always been more of a fan of co-operation. For every competition, there’s only one winner, and all the rest of 203 countries, are just a bunch of losers. It’s all just a feel-good societal ego sop. Millions of dollars poured into each country’s athletes’ training and transportation. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of hours spent training for this soap opera, and when it’s all over, even if “we” garner a few fake medals, not a job has been created, our GNP has not increased, nor the national debt reduced, and banks still need bailing.
Us vs. Them prevails. Tribalist chest thumping. I wouldn’t be so cynical if people watched simply to see top-level athletic performance. They’ll tell you that’s why they watch, but, the same folks who haven’t even driven past a swimming pool in the last four years, are suddenly experts on synchronized three-meter diving.
These games are supposed to promote international fellowship but their very competitive format prevents it. It all boils down to, “Our team doctor is better at masking performance-enhancing drugs than your team doctor.”
Some of the “sports” that are getting in are just ridiculous. One person synchronized swimming? I could send over a dictionary so they can look up the meaning of synchronized. And the little girls running around on gym mats, waving sticks with ribbons on them??! Are they just so chi-chi that they got kicked out of drum-majorette school? Trampoline?! I thought the kids down the street were just playing. Good Lord, what’s next, Tiddly-Winks and pie baking?
Ah well, it is the middle of the summer, and there’s almost nothing else on television. Everyone can watch what they want but, I don’t watch chick-flicks. If I watch something by a big movie director, it better have some adult language, rock-‘em-sock-‘em Kung Fu action, car chases, explosions, and maybe a little gratuitous nudity in it. Why is Victoria fully clothed??!
I’ve kept my eyes tightly closed for a week now. It’s half-way over. Soon I won’t have to worry about this meaningless display for another four years. What’s that?? What Winter Olympics in two years?? Will it include competitive Sno-Cone Serving? Where’s a good movie when I need one?