Perhaps it’s the uncomfortable contradiction of honoring veterans but opposing the administration’s use of military power that threatens to reduce Memorial Day to nothing more than the neutral, official start of summer. Or it could just be that a day off from work trumps everything else, politically minded or not.
Regardless of the driving force behind the mass decision to party hearty, people did flood the American River this past three-day weekend. At Hagan Community Park, all ages and races came together to celebrate one of this great nation’s greatest pastimes: passing time. The Rancho Cordova recreation area offered plenty of wide-open grass, sports fields and access to the refreshing river for anyone who wished to honor fallen veterans by enjoying a nice day in the sun.
“They told me there ain’t no parking back there,” the lady at the park entrance said in greeting to the day’s visitors. “Just so you know I can’t give you a refund.” Many chose to park outside the grounds and lug their ice chests in with them, but the lazy or stubborn forked over the four bucks for auto access and took their chances.
Down the road, where cars circled and waited for parking spots to open up, it became clear that the sprawling park’s prime real estate was any plot of shaded land. People seemed only to venture into the sun to cross to another dab of shade or tend their food-loaded grills.
Edging closer to the river, though, the recreationalists tended to become less sun-averse, younger and more naked. Like something out of a mother’s nightmares, the groups of large families with kids picking daisies gave way to a sea of teenage hormones and displays of puffed-out chests and shaking tail feathers. One step away from a 1950s PSA crying out the evils of premarital sex, the gathering generated enough heat to send anyone down the hill and into the restoring rationalism of the nippy river water.
Black butterflies and racing, out-of-control children crisscrossed the dirt path to the shore. On the water, a large collection of rafts had been tethered together to create an inflatable island. Now and then a few would break off and slowly drip downstream like the malleable wax of a lava lamp. In no hurry, they idled by a line of rubbernecking landlubbers. A 10-speed bike gang hovered on a nearby cliff, watching bikini after bikini float vividly down along the current. It amounted to a live display of sunscreen-rubbing soft-core porn, and it was much to the bikers’ delight.
So, let it not be said that the day lacked gratitude—to the American River directly, and by extension the American service people who would sacrifice everything to secure its blessings. Either that or everybody was just happy to have a Monday off.