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The Friday Morning Listen: John Mellencamp - Uh-Huh (1983)

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We had the “official" start of summer a little over a week ago, by I've always felt that the 4th of July weekend was when summer stepped into its full bloom. In what has become a tradition, the small farm house that I pass by on my way to work has begun to display its enormous American flag. It covers the entire gable end of their house and must be at least 25 feet high. The house, surrounded by Farmall tractors, has come to symbolize “summer" for me.

I've never been much of a flag-waver. In fact, the overt display of all things patriotic has kind always made me uncomfortable. It's probably the implication that I'm supposed to feel a certain way about all of this. You know, it's the whole exceptionalist, “God Bless America" thing: that this is the “greatest country in the world," that I'm supposed to “support our troops," every single one of which has served to “preserve my freedoms." The pressure to conform makes it feel like some kind of sporting event.

None of this is to imply that the folks celebrating the 4th are “wrong." It's just not my kind of thing. Instead, I like to reflect on all the interesting things I've seen in the year. I saw a mini-van with Maine license plates, chock full of stuff, with a mattress roped to the roof. On the rear window they'd written “We'll miss you New England"; on the side window, “Tennessee here we come." One Saturday, there were the two little girls with the lemonade stand. I didn't know kids did that kind of thing anymore. On my way home from work somebody had set out an old webbed folding beach chair and flimsy charcoal grill: “FREE." I swear, they must have been 30 years old. Is that what you call “vintage"? And speaking of vintage, every so often I see this old man siting in his wife-beaters, ensconced in a chair in his front yard, little dog by his side. I can't decide if I think he's a character or that he makes me sad because he's living out the post-wife part of his time. There's also a house that has not one but two AMC Spirits parked next to the garage. The fact that these vehicles still exist defies the laws of physics.

I could go on and on with this. My writer's eye sees new things every day. The only downside is that sometimes, I'd like to forget. In particular, I'd sort wish I didn't remember that cake my mom used to make on the 4th—with strawberries for stripes and blueberries for stars. I don't even remember what it tasted like, though I'm certain that if I had a slice right now, it'd be the best piece of cake I've ever had.

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