Wednesday, July 09, 2008


The colors don't run. Y'all.

To celebrate the 3 day weekend of our Nation's Birthday, I mysteriously found myself participating in events and activities that were so gosh-darned-tootin' American it makes me nearly want to vomit red, white and blue while choking on my all-American hot dog and funnel cake.

Friday, July 4th
Well, this one was my idea. It has been my idea since this past October when I had first heard of it. And I then had to spend the next, what, 8 months working on the Mister to get him to go along with me. It would be his first time -- and while you want someone to always remember their first time, you want it to be a really good first time and don't want to spend that first time with amateurs. So, what could possibly be more American than spending the day at the Civil War reenactment of all Civil War reenactments -- Gettysburg, Pa. The mother of all Civil War battles -- the largest battle to ever occur on this hemisphere (are you scared that I knew that?) and to mingle among people dressed in the period -- most of them convinced they were the person they have dedicated their lives to impersonating.

This is a damned good Robert E. Lee. I mean, WAY better than the Lee at the last reenactment. My shirt, for those of you who do not make a habit of leering at my bust, has a picture of General Lee and reads: Most Likely To Secede, Class of 1825. (Referring, naturally, to his graduating year at West Point. Duh.). Like a 5 year old with new duds, I held out my shirt and said, "Hey, you're on my shirt!" He read it, but didn't react. The Mister feels that the Robert E. Lee inside him must have been offended as the real Lee wasn't all that crazy about secession. Whatever. It's a good shirt and terrifically Civil-War-Reenactment-Tastic.

I saw Stonewall (and it's a pretty convincing Stonewall. I mean, seriously. He looks JUST like him, no?), if I may be so bold as to just call him 'Stonewall' here, from across the camp and exclaimed wildly to the Mister, "Holy shit! It's Stonewall!! Let's follow him back to his tent.... No! Don't follow him so closely, I don't want to seem WEIRD." Because following a man dressed as a dead Civil War Lt. General back to his tent at a reenactment of a Civil War battle that said dead Lt. General didn't even live to fight in -- that's not weird at all. In any case, I was so excited to meet him -- well, the fake him -- that I could hardly, literally, catch my breath. When I went up for the photo op, I actually was at a loss for words. The Mister offered, "She's your biggest fan." Stonewall kept his legendary stoic expression and just nodded. I continue to grin and pant like a moron. He goes on, "I mean, I know more about you than anyone else here because she loves you so much." He nods. I grin. Photo snaps. I grin and walk away and immediately take out my phone to call my mother to shout, "I just met Stonewall Jackson, Mom!" No, there's nothing weird about that at all.

The Mister put in a little time with his Yankee homeboy General U.S. Grant. (Another Civil War General who was not at Gettysburg, 1863, but showed up for the reenactment, 2008. Not because he was dead, but because he was busy waging war on Vicksburg. That's dedication. And, incidentally, he is one of only 3 Presidents who had the rank of General or higher. Is it scary that I know that?) And for those of you who don't make a habit of leering at my husband's bust, his shirt say what you think it says. And yes, I bought it for him. Throughout the day I'd notice people reading his shirt and then looking at me. Anyway, it suited him for the day and made it seem like, "Hey, I'm not into it. I'm with her. And she's into it."

This was awesome. In the "living history" camps, people set up period camps and reenact the people who would have been in these camps -- cooks, generals, privates, undertakers, etc. And here we have the prostitutes. They asked me to wait outside, to which I responded, "Totally fine. You ladies take care of him so I don't have to." They gave him lemonade and rum cake and rubbed his back. They remarked how hard it was to get lemons because of the blockade for supplies, specifically southern lemons. They were just "supporting our boys in uniform!". It was awesome. And it hardly mattered that they were all old enough to be my mom and weren't the slightest bit hot or even Civil War hot.

People came from all over the country -- and as we learned -- all over the world to be at the 145th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg -- originally taking place (with real guns, et al.) July 1-3, 1863. Unlike other reenactments, this is the Olympics of reenactments. Only the best and finest Lees, Grants, Jacksons, Longstreets, Hills, Stuarts are there. And while the Mister, at his first reenactment, pointed out that we were spending our July 4th commemorating a day when Americans slaughtered Americans, it was more a tip of the hat to a time in our young country's history that forever changed it. I digress, lest this blog entry go on and on about the Civil War. Appreciate the sheer amount of personal restraint I am exercising here.

15,000 reenactors showed up to do dubious battle for Cemetery Hill. After an awesome and educational mortar demonstration, the battle raged on.

The day was fun, educational, a little rainy later on in the day and a fine mix of all manner of American breeds.

We were the assholes who didn't bring rain gear. Some kind old woman loaned us her umbrella until the battle started and umbrellas were banned.

But then there was this guy. This guy who I followed all over the grounds to snap the perfect picture of. The Mister fears that by posting pictures of random strangers and then poking my personal brand of humor at them that I am opening myself up to litigation. I am confident this man does not own a computer and knows very little of the Internet.

And not take a picture of this guy?! Complete with wife-beater, denim shirt with the sleeves ripped off and, like the cherry on top, chewing on a hay straw. Aww, and look. His friend has a John Deer hat on.
It boggles the mind that these shirts were printed, likely en masse, without being proof read by someone literate. I support the sentiment, I shake my head at the state of grammar these days.

Saturday, July 5th
American Civil War -- check.
National Museum of Crime and Punishment -- coming right up! From Medieval times to Bonnie and Clyde to Mobsters, Serial Killers, CSI and Americas Most Wanted -- every wall was dripping with awesomeness. A whole educational section on prison tattoos and what they mean. A case full of prisoner-made shanks! A touch-screen quiz on serial killers (I got 15 out of 16 right. Scared?). My Bestie and I cracked the safe in the demonstration.
We tried our hand at being "booked". We wanted to look serious. We wanted to look hardened by the justice system. But we couldn't stop giggling. I particularly appreciated our fake-o cohorts.

Then we were jailed. Which, really, is totally possible. We've had the discussion wherein we decided: If you go to jail, I'd commit a crime so we could be cellies. Don't we look tough?

Sunday, July 6th
Why stop here? Why not git me a gun and shoot like an American. Alright. I did.

My personal experience with firearms is admittedly (though not unashamedly) minimal. My father used (and likely still does) own a replica Revolutionary War long rifle (clearly where my father Revolutionary War-zigs, I learned to Civil war-zag.) complete with bayonet, flint and muzzle load. I must have been about 8 or 9, but my dad took my brother and I to a firing range on the Air Force Base near our house. Too small to hold such a long firearm standing up, my dad set me up on my stomach, sniper style, and taught me the general basics of loading such a rifle (as if such information would come in handy one day -- "You hold still, house robber, it's going to take me between 20 and 45 seconds to load this thing."). On my first shot, the rifle recoil slammed into my little shoulder and the flint popped out and hit me in the face. My mom vetoed any future rifle trips.

Years later, in my twenties, I found myself at a wonderfully odd Halloween party in Norfolk. Hindsight has since mentioned that it was likely a bad idea (You know. Those situations you find yourself in and later wonder how you ever made it out of your twenties alive with the dangerous things you occasionally found yourself involved in and hope your children don't ever ask you about because it would ruin your opportunity to say something like, "I was never so stupid as to....." or try to justify it with, "....I was lucky when I did X, but you shouldn't..") , but several of the gentlemen folk at the party decided a small excursion to the lake behind the house with a large semi automatic weapon for firing practice might liven things up. I, in my favorite "lounge singer" dress -- a chartreuse number covered, and I mean COVERED, in sequins -- was offered a chance to fire the thing. Less flint this time, same recoil and a large sequin patterned bruise on my right shoulder for weeks after.

And the on the other side, never seeing the gun, but seeing the damage. Patients with, what we lovingly refer to as, GSW. Gun shot wounds. A gang fight resulting in a shot to the chest, a showoff with a shot to his thigh (who knows, coulda been a Halloween party in Norfolk.), a suicide shot to the head that missed and instead took off half the face and a suicide or mercy killing (never found out which) shot to the chest at close range that miraculously missed the heart and ribs only collapsing the lung.

So when the Bestie's new beau suggested the Mister and I join them at a firing range for handguns, I figured, why not? My first impression was that damned recoil -- only with a handgun was far further from my shoulder, thank God. And the noise -- even with earplugs. It would also seem that years of Duckhunt and the like have served the Mister well and he was a remarkably good shot. I wasn't so bad myself -- even with my ambidextrous ways.
I might spend the next two weeks in perpetual fear that the Mister will wind up dead and I will be the key suspect -- seeing as how 1) they always finger the spouse as the culprit and 2) I (and my Bestie, the most likely alibi) am covered in gun shot residue.

Yup. I shot those bullseyes. Granted, it was at about 3-4 feet away, but our handy handgun instructor, aka the Bestie's beau, informed me that most handgun usage is within 7 feet -- so learning to shoot at close range isn't a bad idea. I showed my Bestie and she said (well, yelled, since we had earplugs in.) "Great job! Good to know you could hit the target when it was like, on top of you."

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