Surreal: that was the word for the morning at Monument Park. The RI Reg’t walked over the park instead of parading with the troops, because one of our members has not been well, and did not think he could keep up with the parade. It was odd to follow the reenactors in 18th century clothing under power lines and past high rise apartment buildings shouldering out old frame homes, but the surrealism really kicked in at the park.
There it became multi-sensory when the ceremony’s organizers turned on the music. It wasn’t exactly merengue, and it wasn’t exactly salsa…then the soundtrack switched to updated Big Band hits and finally landed on a strange, over-the-top, quasi-operatic version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
So when you look at the photos on flickr, play some salsa or an album you might have ordered at 2 AM from a TV ad, and think about standing in 40F/4C weather eavesdropping on politicians talking about inching closer to universal health, and the lessons of Hurricane Sandy for high-rise dwellers, while squeezing up next to you for a photo op.
Later, at Fort Lee Historic Park, the artillery demonstration was loud and satisfying, but we got behind schedule and to the oddness of the morning was added rushing. It was capped off at the end by the order to fix bayonets, which led to bayonets being caught in branches.
Finally, for me, the day nearly foundered when I pulled my phone out of pocket at the end of the event to check the time, and saw my boss had been texting me all afternoon over a non-crisis. Part of why I love re-enacting and living history so much is that it takes me so far away from myself and from my daily existence. It’s related (slightly) to my work, but to be so far away in place and time and effort is a delight. I can’t just throw the phone away or not take it along: I am supposed to be on call, all the time…but it’s history, not a hospital, and if budgets change, so should expectations.