November 9, 2009
As many of you already know, I live in the Gettysburg area. My house sits about five miles south of the official battlefield park, scene of the famous July 1-3, 1863 fight that saw the high-water mark of the Confederacy, and the much-ballyhooed turning point of the American Civil War.
It was also a portent of great wealth for the Asian manufacturers of little toy rifles and swords with which the darling children and grandchildren of tourists pretend jolly mayhem on one another.
Of course, the battle took up a lot more space than just the 6,000-acre park. The road on which I live, for example, was the site of an encampment of troops serving under Union Gen. Abner Doubleday, who did not, legends to the contrary, invent baseball.
I am not enough of a student of history to know what Abner did in the battle, but according to a neighbor who pokes around the area with a metal detector, his troops apparently gave up sleep for the evening, preferring rather to spend their time peppering the ground with bullets, buckles, and buttons for the benefit of future relic hunters.
We get between 1.5 and 2 million tourists every year. It makes us really cagey about finding ways around town via alleys and back roads so we have a lower risk of getting behind one of our famous double-decker tour buses or some septuagenarian operating a 40-foot motor home while trying to read battlefield markers without actually stopping.
The great thing about all those tourists is that they bring their wallets with them, and when they leave, said wallets are usually a good bit lighter.
This is a good thing.
The bad thing is that we have to deal with tourists for all but the coldest months of the year. There has been, I believe, some intense research into finding a way for the tourists to simply mail their money to us, or transmit it through PayPal, but all the details haven’t been ironed out yet.
I’ll keep you posted.
These thoughts reasserted themselves recently as I sat in one of the restaurants on the tourist strip, writing in my journal and enjoying some ice cream and coffee.
Well, trying to.
Tourist season was already past its peak. Halloween was behind us, so the legions of live people looking for dead people on the battlefield were pretty well gone off to haunt other places.
Still, and mysteriously, one end of the restaurant was filled with a platoon of Confederate re-enactors in full regalia. Fortunately, they weren’t hard-core, that segment of the re-enactor universe who never wash their uniforms, out of deference to historical and olfactory exactitude, and who as a result smell like road-kill.
No, this was generally speaking a bunch of good-ole boys having a grand time with their lady friends over a hearty meal of chicken strips and bluish-ice cream sundaes. Better than hard-tack, you betcha.
They were a rowdy lot, but none more so than one fellow at the nearest table, who spoke with great animation and volume about his latest adventures in the sphere of medicine.
He sat facing me at an angle. Directly across from him, and facing away from me, was the woman who seemed to be with him. She was a substantial lass, with long, lustrous black hair and a deep and abiding passion for fried food, judging from her plate and by her, um, beamishness.
Now, I am the last person to pronounce judgment on a person’s girth, being horizontally gifted in my own right, or their choices in how they garb themselves. My favorite leisure time clothing is a sturdy set of bib overalls and bare feet, so who am I to talk?
Even so, I like to think that if I had the sort of back porch possessed by that young lady, hip-huggers might very well be the very last thing on my list of things to wear out in public.
“Hip-huggers” is perhaps not an accurate description, as these seemed more to be holding on by their fingernails.
The problem was exacerbated by a T-shirt whose reach was far from adequate.
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember just how white some white people can be.
I do believe my corner of the room was a lot brighter than it otherwise might be, for all the light being reflected my way. I felt that I had suddenly found myself in the spotlight. I would have risen and given an acceptance speech if I could have gotten a word in edgewise.
He never stopped talking. He was too loud to ignore. And the subject seemed to change every other sentence or two.
It wasn’t so bad, merely annoying, until he started talking about his colonoscopy, his dramatic re-telling of the preparatory arrangements involved, the methodologies employed in achieving the exam, and the results discovered in the process.
By the time he got to the end of the recitation and confessed that his doctor had also discovered a mother lode of hemorrhoids, (“Which I already knew,” he added), I don’t believe anyone on the north side of the Steinwehr Ave. Friendly’s had the least bit of sympathy for him.
His friends either ignored him, or pored over the brochures and notices on the bulletin board by the register…
I, fuming that my chance to concentrate on my journal-writing had been thoroughly smashed, also admitted that if I hadn’t chosen a large serving of super-chocolate fudge ice-cream, I might have gotten through the ordeal with a bit less discomfort.
© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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