I wrote this about 2 years ago, on a day in March. For some reason…well, for obvious reasons, it seems relevant to repost.
I live in Park City, Utah in the Old Town are a bit above Main Street, nestled against ski runs and hiking trails and mine shafts. Dogs rule the street. Neighbors share parking and walls. Winter fills up a few of the houses with nightly rentals, and occasionally, the excitement of travel, altitude, and booze create raucous evenings. Today, we’re still hoisting skis and clunking out the door in boots to eke out a few more runs, but last night felt warm enough to throw the windows open, catch fresh air and bird songs in the morning.
The house across the street is set back on the hill a bit, which helps when it’s rented out to folks with East Coast pitch, or Texas sized timbre. Tonight the distance did not dilute. The front porch hot-tub is full and loud. Lots of group songs, followed by shots of something they’ll regret tomorrow. The man-call “Dude” was heard loud and often.
I think I recognize a school fight song being sung. I think I recognize a chant or two. It’s 10pm, I try not to eavesdrop and instead text my son in Washington. We watch a Netflix “together”, texting our thoughts back and forth. He is 20, in college in Seattle. Probably the same age as the shot-drinking, dude-slinging, chant-singing young men across the way. The movie ends and the noise increases. It is almost midnight. I turn off electronics and try to sleep, at which point the only thing to do was listen. Admittedly, I was curious. What is the conversation now days when young men are free-range? The chants and songs are a surprise, seems like an older era, so, maybe this is a fraternity ski break? I mused as I lied there. Awake. Becoming less and less amused. I am able to make out the words now. They are, indeed, singing fight songs. Of the confederacy, as it were. Bigotry, sexism, racism, all seemed encouraged. The conversations got louder, drunker, and then the chant changed:
“F**** Obama F****Obama, F****Obama”
After chanting thrice a shot is drunk. Over and over and over.
My adrenaline is raging. I still have my Obama/Biden sign in my window. It will stay there till he is no longer the President, possibly after. My window is in direct line of sight with the fine young men in the hot-tub.
When I was their age…(was I ever that age?) I spent more time in meetings about social causes than in class. We were activists. Took it seriously. Still do. We disagreed with the administration. We despised them. Precursors to the axis of evil. We fought long and hard to change the office, to stop apartheid, to get MLK day declared in Utah, to stop the Contra’s in Nicaragua, to create a Palestinian state, to stop the relocation of Navajo’s, to care for the Environment. We also drank plenty and had nights that went loud and late. We never thought to chant “F*** Bush” or “F**** Reagan” , let alone create rhyme to disparage and poetically chase it with shots. I guess we just weren’t that clever.
It’s 2am now. The police are dropping in, and the noise subsides. I’m boiling. I think of the SAE frat scandal. I consider hiking on over, knock on the door, armed with every geopolitical and socially enlightened argument about why they should not be wasting their youth with drunken racism. Waste it with drunken activism instead. Offer them historical perspective, quick quips to dash racism from their psyche, extricate bigotry and burn it in effigy…perhaps offer a DVD of Selma.
I think of the ire my son and daughter display when bigotry emerges — it ain’t pretty. Is tonight’s display the fault of the parents?
It’s morning, and I sip my coffee outside as we do in Old Town, chatting with friends and neighbors. Limited space invites conversation, or sometimes we just lean on the warm hoods of cars and watch our dogs play. I’m laughing with Brian about the “sprinter” we’ve had (sprinter is a winter that isn’t). He is African-American and we talk about what we all heard last night. His sister worked on both Obama campaigns in DC. We shake our heads and stare into our cups. My daughter, “by bond not birth”, comes outside to join us. She is Native American. Lives with me during the winter while she chefs. My house-guest and wife pour a cup and join us as well, they’re attorney’s visiting from LA and are Latino. It strikes me that all of us were represented in the hot tub poetics.Women, Blacks, Natives, Latinos. Different terms were used.
And across the street the party is waking late, rolling out onto the front deck tenderly. In florescent colored ski pants, and jerseys sporting favorite teams, expensive sunglasses, bad gold jewelry peeking out from hairy chests, rubbing sunscreen on their faces in prep for the day. A few are on their phones. They are sagging. Their gait is slow. The hair is gray, the bellies round and dipping. There is bulge and balding. They are Old.
Old faces, Old songs.
Fathers. Grandfathers likely. Husbands maybe, if the marriage lasted. Considering the price the rental goes for nightly, they would have to be of means. So, business leaders. Too old to be influencers any longer, I hope. They’ve already done their damage.
We are silenced by what we see, mouths open a bit. They avoid eye contact.
Tonight, when they roll in for their apres-ski drinks before heading to main street to dine, and a potential late evening hot-tub sing along, I’ll mosey over. I’ll ask them where they’re from, what brings them here, and how have they enjoyed our ski-town? I’ll print this out and hand them this little treatise, point to where I live, (making sure the christmas lights around my Obama sign are on) And let them know lights out is 10pm, and noise ordinances will be enforced.