Monday, October 10, 2011

Nifty little holiday

Low-key, do-nothing little holidays have always been among my favorites. And when it comes to low-key, do-nothing little holidays, Columbus Day may be the capo di tutti capi. 

What’s so great about Columbus Day?

For one, even if you’re working, it’s kind of a quasi-working day. Even though most companies don’t observe it, a lot of folks take the day off because the schools are closed – at least they are in Massachusetts – so the traffic is light. With a lot of people out, C-Day often becomes a long lunch, or clean up your e-mails, or gloriously meeting-free day.

For another, the weather, at least much of the time, is pretty good. After all, as we learned from Helen Hunt Jackson’s wonderful little ol’ poem, which I must have memorized – what? - 50+ years ago:

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
        And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
        October's bright blue weather…

Much of that “bright blue weather” – at least in the early part of the month – is sweater or light jacket weather, and the nights are great for sleeping. The leaves used to have started to change colors by this point in the season, but that was then and this is now. Still, it’s fall, but it’s mum and marigold bright fall, not the dour, leafless fall that’s due in November.

On the other hand, October can also bring torrential rains of the sort that keeps the dog inside trembling, as happened here the other day, when my “dog nephew” Jack wouldn’t step paw out of the house until the rains abated, roughly two hours after his usual walk in the park outing. (Poor baby. The look of pure joy and relief on his furry little face when he lifted that leg at the first telephone pole we hit…)

Although football is in full swing, and winter sports like hockey and (most years) basketball have started to rev their engines, baseball is still on on Columbus Day, as we get to watch all the lead up to the World Series. And now that the Yankees Go Home – made all the sweeter in that the last out of their season was an A-Rod strike-out – I can watch the games for the pure enjoyment of baseball. Of course, I’ll pick a team and root for them: what’s the point of watching a sports event if you don’t want someone to win? (Detroit and Milwaukee in the divisional series. I am half Midwest, after all.)  But it will be without the tension and agita that’s involved when your own dog’s in the hunt.

Columbus Day also means a quirky, unassuming little parade. Sometimes I catch a bit of it, sometimes I don’t. (It’s always more fun in a political year.) This year, I will not be catching any of it, as the North End Columbus Day Parade Committee is holding its parade in East Boston. (For those of you who don’t know Boston, these are two historically-Italian neighborhoods that are geographically separate – by ocean blue, in fact – so the idea of the North End-ers having their parade in East Boston is interesting.)

I like that there are no obligations associated with Columbus Day: no special foods, no must-attend events, no present buying. It’s pretty much a free ride.

So it’s altogether a nice little holiday.

I know, I know, there are those who don’t believe we should be celebrating anything here, given that the Native Americans didn’t fare all that well in the wake of C. Columbus’ arrival on the shores of the New World, and the treatment of Native Americans remains a blight on our history.

But is there really anyone out there who thinks for a Genoa minute that, if it hadn’t been Columbus, it would not have been someone else who got in the ship and set out to see what was beyond the blue horizon, even if there was a strong possibility in their mind that the earth was flat. (Ooops!) And that, on balance, the discovery and development of America has been good for more people than it’s been bad for.

And that includes my family.

Of course, it doesn’t help that of late Columbus has been revealed as a something of a venal and self-aggrandizing P.O.S. (Oh, those feet of clay.)

So this holiday is, I suppose, something of a mixed blessing.

Still, a holiday it is and, at least in my book, one still worth celebrating.

Now, if only I can get this out of my skull:

Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two…

It would be an almost perfect world.

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