Saturday, January 5, 2013

An American Girl – A Yuletide Postscript

A Curious Co-Mingling of Christmas, Country and Kahlua

“Well she was an American girl,
Raised on promises,
She couldn't help thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else” – Tom Petty

Sometimes you just never know from whence inspiration will arise (excellent, pretentious prose prevails despite the prolonged posting pause).  Today’s tale is of this photograph, origin unknown, and of a generally joyous holiday whose spirit can oftimes be elusive and grueling to grasp;  and how this seemingly unrelated pairing coalesced in a most usual way in this most unusual time in which we all live and persevere (“It's a most unusual time, I keep feeling my temperature climb. If my heart won't behave in the usual way, well, there's only one thing to say - It's a most unusual day.”) Upon initial glance, it was clear that there was something to be explored in this picture, some material to be mined from the intriguing image. That it would lead to both a heartwarming Christmas account (meaning, thoughts on Christmas as opposed to a Christmas Club Account, that is), as well as a sharing of patriotic bravado and a unique interpretation of how American Exceptionalism may be manifested, is a bit surprising, and hopefully not too severe of a stretch for the cerebellum. Most likely, the coming conjecture is but a reflection of the inner-workings of only one man’s mind, so I beg indulgence and no minor patience.  Allow me some leeway and some rope, follow the twists and turns and leaps of logic and let us journey jointly - through holiday spirit and the lack thereof; through Americana of a nature unrealized in our previously, equal parts iconic, imaginary and illusory, Norman Rockwell existence;  and through the people’s portal of 1600 to the residence of the current Commander in Chief whose distinctly American biography, whose authentic rags to riches story and whose legitimate connection to his constituency, as he rose from those very ranks, sets him apart from most who preceded him in far more tangible and significant ways than just the obvious darker skin tone that so dis-endears him to, and aggravates and irritates the impenetrable, padlocked and minute minds of the Tea Party and Far Right Neanderthals (and once again, nycityman forfeits even the most slimmest of hopes of garnering any readership in red states.)

"Oh Miss Crabtree..."

A Christmas Valentine to Whomever that Young Lady May Be – Making Much Ado About Nothing

I have come to love this picture, this picture whose innocuousness is surpassed only by its silliness, and to have such powerful and devout sentiment toward it, appears both illogical and nonsensical, and so a bit of explanation.  Any reader who has perused previous prattlings from the prodigious past catalog of “… and several butcher’s aprons” may have very correctly concluded that nycityman is often not much of a “people person.”  Fondness towards my fellow homo-sapiens does not always come as easy as to a puppy, a person of ill-repute, or a pandering politician. When graciously invited to a special event, the unappreciative essential query will most-times be, “okay, but are there gonna’ be other people there?” with the probable follow-up, "I'm not going to have to talk to anybody, am I?"  Now, neither an ogre, nor a hermit I be, I curry companionship, I favor friends, I don’t dwell within the darkest recesses of the shadows of the night (not primarily) - there are those few to whom I’m close and love like a remarkable Rioja Reserva, the episode of “The Little Rascals” when Jackie and Chubby woo Miss Crabtree or a fresh out of the package pair of boxer briefs (don’t judge me, sometimes it’s the simple things.) However, when in attendance and conversation at one of the aforementioned “are there gonna’ be other people there” social soirees, is it really my dutiful responsibility to recall all the of the imaginative monikers of your progeny flock, as well as academic institutions attended, years they have preciously inhabited our beloved terra firma, and the ostensibly infinite inventory of their impressive accomplishments in life? In reality, I’ve very likely been faking my way through your name all evening whilst, during our tete a tete, daydreaming about an unlikely chance encounter  between Katherine Jenkins, Freema Agyema and myself, or perhaps pondering just how far in the competition a really well-trained horse might go on “Dancing with the Stars.” And so it went,  until this un-credited photograph appeared on Facebook - the honesty in her reaction, the excitement, the lack of formality with the leader of the free world and now forever a figure in history, the silliness and the playfulness, the fact that her pose of choice for a photograph that will live for generations in her family was this one articulating “oh my God, check this out, I can’t believe this!” and the sincere and obvious joy and amusement conveyed by our President’s countenance originally entertained me then, unexpectedly, filled me with affection toward people. You.  And you, in the representation of this very American girl, helped demonstrate, in some albeit, extremely unintended and indirect way - a spirit of Christmas.


A New American Exceptionalism?

And still, there’s more to it. This is an image captured on film, or as a jpeg, that is utterly, patently and only American. This is modern day Norman Rockwell. This is casualness between citizen and leader not seen in many, if not any, other parts of the world - it wouldn’t be allowed and certainly considered improper protocol and, perhaps even, criminal behavior. Nycityman holds much fondness and affection for our sister city of London, and much respect for the history and traditions of the United Kingdom, but there will never come a day when the Daily Mail touts a shot of Queen Elizabeth is such a setting, arms entwined with a royal subject.  And what of that setting - just what is this somewhat, seedy-appearing locale? Was our President mere moments away from a dive into a mosh pit? Was he called in to an after-hours joint to bail-out Biden after a brawl? Or was Barack Obama simply getting himself another new tat - Mitt Romney on his left bicep to accompany the McCain on his right? 

If there is such a thing as American Exceptionalism, is this a depiction of what it really is? American Exceptionalism is undoubtedly not bragging every day and telling everyone with a cochlea that we are the greatest country in the world – that’s just annoying.  Perhaps instead, it’s the equality exhibited between Obama and that young lady. For where there is no line of succession, no divine intervention, no military coupe our leaders are beholden to us, work for us and report to us; and arise from our citizenry - the American President is one of us and that idea and ideal, particularly prevalent in the life story of Barack Hussein Obama -unlike Bush and Romney, no patrician wannabe, he – is communicated in Obama’s behavior and demeanor. This image of the casual, confident commander and the jumpy but joyous, everyday American is a meeting of equals - and isn’t that exceptional?

And, in the audio/video portion of our presentation – first up, Tom Petty with “An American Girl,” followed by Andy Williams and, “It’s a Most Unusual Day.”

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