The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

GETTSYBURG: Well, I am back from the great overland voyage to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, back despite the best attempts of tractor trailers to drive the brother and me off the road, although from the absolute lack of comments on the last couple of posts I’d say no one knew I was gone in the first place. Be that as it may, the trip went well, except for the people in the room above ours who apparently wanted to take a bath, turned the water on, and then promptly forgot that they’d left the water on. Watching warm water gushing from a light fixture has a vaguely Magritte-like quality to it, or would, if we weren’t more worried about electrocution than art criticism.

And I find that the American talent for mislabeling was just as alive and well back in the 1860’s as it is today. I climbed to the top of Big Round Top, following the advice of the Park Service sign, which said that this was a self-guided tour, self-guided tour being a bit of bureaucratic doubletalk that means start walking up the hill and when you get to the top, you’ve arrived. So this is what I did, in my heavy leather jacket, and two cameras, and my overweight and out of shape body. I stopped twice along the way, first because I was sweating like Mrs. Murphy’s pig, and second, because if I am going to have a heart attack, I would just as soon have it sitting down as standing up; that way my obituary will, I hope, point out that I was not trying to be a complete idiot when I dropped dead from exertion. I did reach the top, though, none the worse for wear, though I would venture to say that if my legs and heart would not agree with that assessment if they had anything to say about the matter, and looked around and saw not a blessed thing except trees and a monument saying that Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were here not doing much of anything after their successful defense of Little Round Top, the hill next door to Big Round Top.

There are markers and memorials everywhere at Gettysburg, commemorating something of importance; I am sure if Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveler, evacuated his bowels anywhere near the town of Gettysburg there is a memorial to the event somewhere in the vicinity. There is, after all, a commemorative marker in front of the house where Brigadier General Schimmelpfennig, who’d got cut off from his command on the first day of the battle, spent the next three days hiding in a backyard woodshed next to a pigpen, an event I am sure the good general would have preferred everyone to forget, had he lived long enough to be embarrassed by his enforced absence (he died shortly after the end of the war). So having found that there is still nothing to see on the top of Big Round Top, the brother and I went next door to Little Round Top, the name of which is the mislabeling I was talking about at the beginning of the previous paragraph and from which subject I seem to have strayed a bit. In any case, I should point out that Little Round Top is something of a misnomer, and that the name should properly be Not as Big as The Hill Next Door But Still Pretty Damn Big All The Same Round Top. I realize, of course, that this new appellation, however accurate it may be, does not flow as trippingly off the tongue as its current name, and in all probability will not replace the old name anytime soon, even if it is the more accurate description. There is also no wheat in the Wheatfield, no peaches in the Peach Orchard, and neither devils nor dens in the Devil’s Den. There is, however, a seminary on Seminary Ridge and a cemetery on Cemetery Ridge, and there is a statue of Abner Doubleday along a highway in the park made after he didn’t invent baseball. So there is some verisimilitude involved in all of this, even if you have to look hard to find it.

But all in all, the trip went well, although I am surprised that there are no discounts for active duty or retired military people; here is a town that owes its good fortune to the United States military and you'd think they'd give my brother a break, what with him spending most of his adult life in the Navy, but this neither here nor there, I guess; the Navy didn't fight at Gettysburg, so I suppose the brother is not entitled to any deals, but it's the overall sense of ingratitude I don't like, I guess. I am also sunburned for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, and now advancing age has included a new place for sunburn to occur: the top of my head. The hair is thinning up there and I forgot all about the thinning spot; I refuse to call that portion of my head the bald spot since it's not really bald, you know, only somewhat thinned out a bit; until I scratched up there and felt my scalp stinging. The next time I do this sort of thing I really must wear a hat. Sunscreen would be a good idea too, I think.


  • At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Neil said…

    I googled half of your references and learned a whole lot about Gettysburg and American history, but for the life of me, there is no reference anywhere to "Mrs. Murphy's pig."

  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger miriam said…

    I missed you. By the way, did you go to Antietam?


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