J and I and two others (residents) were sitting in Jake's in Northampton having brunch last Saturday. I have to say that I liked Northampton, and Jake's. There were lots of students sitting around the restaurant, many dressed in that 'upper-class urchin' way you often see on college campuses, especially the expensive ones. Scuffed and ruffled and tousled and torn, beautifully and expensively disordered. Out of the corner of my eye, through the window, I see this acid-yellow sign with black letters printed on it. A banner says, IMPEACH BUSH NOW! And right then, I noticed the Veteran's Day parade march in front of the mini anti-war protest taking place in front of a church across the street from Jake's. Nothing much happens. A handful of protestors, 'regulars' I imagine, stand silently as the parade passes and a respectable number of parade-watchers dot the side of the road, holding flags and waving.
"Hey, it's the vets!" I say, as we leave the restaurant and give a little wave. We've got some time before we all break up for the day and go our separate ways (I'm meeting someone and J and the others are going to an Amherst reunion football game) so we walk up and down the little main drag, looking at all of the shops. An impressive array of shops for women, as you might imagine. "I could do some serious shopping here" I say to J and imagine myself dressed like some of the students that I see. A small fortune to look like I don't care.
Later in the day, waiting for my friend to show up, I listen to a Veteran's Day speech on Elm Street, I think. The speaker introduces a Gold Star mother who happens to be in the audience. A short time ago, I wouldn't have even known what that was. The speaker goes on to talk about what his office is doing for veterans who are back from Iraq and Afghanistan. He is some sort of politician, I presume. It feels a little awkward, standing by myself in a strange town listening to a politician give a speech about returning veterans, but I stay until the end of the presentation.
When the crowd breaks up, I reach for my cell and try to get through to my friend. I stand on the sidewalk, watching the rest of the crowd march down the street in the opposite direction. I guess there is more to the Veteran's Day celebration, but I have to wait for my friend, so I stay where I am, and watch members of the crowd walk away, the flag that one of them carries getting smaller and smaller.