My best lessons in Americana come from my community's Memorial Day parade.
The high school marching bands strut their stuff down the avenue, playing patriotic tunes in a just off-key manner that somehow places them somewhere between punk rock and Sondheim.
Little Bobby and Sally turn their two-wheelers into garish road machines sporting more red, white and blue than a twelve-foot-tall Uncle Sam. They are joined by dozens of their friends thrilled to ride in front of thousands of people...and throwing penny candy to their contemporaries with their butts planted firmly on the curb.
Shiny red fire engines also get the star treatment, as if the taxpayers who funded them need a reason to ogle at them. At least the lime green paint jobs that became so avant-garde among the smoke-eater set have finally gone the way of Beanie Babies, Pet Rocks and other trends-du-jour.
The Miss Whatevers of 2008 roll down the boulevard on the cowls of late model convertibles seemly embarrassed by their fortune. All needed training on proper hand-waving motion. Clearly it's something you have to learn in the pageantry minors before you move on to the big leagues.
But when all is said and done, the Memorial Day parade is for America's veterans. Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing a grizzled World War II sergeant stomp down the street with nothing but a too-tight uniform, a love of country and an appreciation of all things American. They gave up years in their lives so we could enjoy every second of ours.