Summertime, Almost

Sometime tomorrow night summer officially begins. Ours is here already, with the girls both out of school. We enjoyed a family vaction to beautiful Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, land of beachfront high-rises and hundreds of golf courses. Lily says her favorite part was playing miniature golf (it was pretty great).

Mine, though, was the Dixie Stampede. It’s a dinner show, set around a big dirt arena on which trick riders and sundry animals (buffalo, ostrich, pigs, and the requisite horses) reenact the drama of American history, culminating in a competition between the North and the South. The arena is divided in half; we were positioned among those rooting for the South. For a while it looked like we were going to revise history—our riders were better at jousting for rings, our representative was better at throwing a toilet-seat “horseshoe.” But we couldn’t pass a flag down each row fast enough, and the North wound up victorious.

Throughout all of this, we enjoyed (sans utensils) a well-choreographed meal of vegetable soup in heavy “cream” (I’m unsure of its dairy status) with a biscuit, a whole chicken (yes, for everyone, a whole chicken, to be eaten with the hands), a slab of pork loin, a potato, corn (because each meal needs a vegetable), and a surprisingly wonderful apple turnover. The only beverage choices: unlimited Pepsi, sweet tea, or coffee.

The show culminated in an increasingly loud and frenzied patriotic number. Dolly Parton loomed on the big screen, singing about the red, white, and blue and justice for all; white doves were released; the “soldiers” waved flags. When the announcer demanded, “So I ask you one question: ARE YOU PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN???” there was a round of explosions (fireworks? inside?!?!?). I had a cathartic moment (or a minor freakout). I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, so I froze somewhere in the middle, my face convulsing in what probably looked like alternating versions of the Greek tragedy and comedy masks. Wes was actually concerned. Certainly the sugar and caffeine were big contributors.

The next day, I lay on the beach a few feet away from two soldiers on what seemed to be weekend leave. “Think about it, man,” one of them said as he lit a Winston, “Iraq is just like this, only without the water.”