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WHAT I LOVE
I like the timing, having fought a mid-week traffic jam, of walking in just as they begin to play. I like the blue and pink lights illuminating bands of smoky space above a young crowd. I like drinking $8 Budweisers with my oldest daughter; I like the softness of a warm summer evening. I like looking above the stage and glimpsing evening stars. I like the casual scent of marijuana wafting through the stands. I like colors, thoughtfulness, and sound. I like the joy of young bodies clinging one to another. I like remembering myself at their age. I like Two Step and Seek Up, even though they are not played.
I like that my daughter wanted to bring me to this concert. I like the smell of hot dogs and sauerkraut. I like that I don't mind spending $8 a beer on special occasions. I like when ten thousand souls all know the words to every song. I like the fusion of jazz and rock and the confidence of a band that plays fifteen-minute songs. I like the reprieve, that certain contented feeling that one is experiencing something special amidst the ranks of uniform days. I like the gradual darkening of the sky. I like it when, during a lull, the Yankees Suck chant arises, and with enthusiasm. I like it when the soft song comes, and the crowd speckles itself with lighters. I like the process, first one, then five, then fifty, then hundreds of flickering lights gently swaying in the duskish human bowl. I like the physical positioning of the crowd, how it all leans in toward and accentuates the lone man up front with guitar, marvelous words and unique voice.
I like remembering the first day of the war, as I sat in a Green Bay tavern. I liked my shock and awe that evening, glancing around at the normal noise and laughter, realizing that no one seemed to believe we were really at war. I like watching the swaying lighters now, in the mid-evening dusk, and imagining that each represents one of the young lives lost. I like counting five - over there fifteen - maybe a hundred or two in that section, and multiplied by the rest – certainly there are at least 858. I like being free. I like having money. I like music and beer and my daughter and these songs, Bartender Please, Ants Moving. I like to recall the empty power I felt once burning my draft card. I like wondering if anyone else here thinks we're really at war. That all these lights are the sons of a thousand points of light, a visual resource, a wonder, a hallowed bereaving, arm-held weaving ground.
I like that my grandfather once put me on his knee, and told me of chasing Poncho Villa across the Mexican border when he was in the cavalry. I like that my father rushed to join the Navy in 1945 so that he wouldn't miss the war. I like that he told me that during World War II households that lost a son placed gold stars in their windows, and that their mothers were referred to as Gold Star Mothers. I like to recall delivering the newspaper as a fourteen-year-old to the Fitzgerald household on North Avenue in 1968, how when leaving the paper on their step I could glance inside and see the old man sitting in his easy chair in the darkened living room, staring at the framed picture of his marine son on the mantlepiece, surrounded by flowers and cards and the paraphernalia of a private shrine. I like it that today my nephew and father's name-sake is an Army Ranger, and is deployed in the field.
I like my daughter; I have more just like her. I like appreciating what all these others, through all these ages, have silently bequeathed. I like being an oasis of age in a Hawaiian shirt, among this spring humanity. I like knowing that they will someday experience their summers, falls, and winters. I like that all these kids around me are free, though like myself at their age, may not entirely understand it yet.
I love America.