Revisiting the Park: Am I not an American?

Richard Carl Lehman

The plan was to get out of the dark, wet and cold in Seattle and head to Palm Springs on Feb. 7. Why not? It was warmer there by 5 degrees. On the relatively smooth flight down, I buried my head at the window taking pictures and videos of the mountain ranges, Karen to my side. We were surrounded by coughs and sneezes but believed the airplane air was recirculated with fresh outside air – more than safe.

At security I am sure the bins we put our phone, laptop, and contents of our pockets in were dirty. A recent study showed these bins had the highest number of respiratory germs than any other surface at the airport. After getting through, I realize we should have washed our hands and disinfected our phones with sanitizer.

Next time I board a flight I will wipe down everything: the window shade handle, seat back pocket, tray table, arm rest, headrest, seat belt and overhead bin handle as the person who just came off the flight might have been carrying a virus.

Karen is recovering from the worst cold she has ever had, resorting to antibiotics. Her virus started with me before our trip, and she relapsed upon our return. And it appears I too am having a relapse.

With her 46 years as a flight attendant, she had been an excellent packer and was able to jam all our clothes into two big suitcases. Things a husband should never say is, “Do we need that much?”

It was a breeze to pick up our bright red Kia Soul and we were excited to check in early. Even though it was only a two-hour flight, after the trip to the airport, the schlepping to the rental car, and the unpacking, a much-needed rest was in order.

A bright, sunny day in Seattle is sometimes considered sick leave, and all our four seasons provide such happenstances. Palm Springs offers year-round sunshine and is very enticing during our grayer periods but in hindsight, it seems it is better to go in March as that is when temps and rainfall are less.

Our main mission was to see the sun and relax and, secondly, see friends who live in the area. We also wanted to take in the car show and the farmer’s markets. Oh, and don’t forget Tommy Bahamas Bar and Restaurant on El Paseo Drive. Such good food and service!

One evening promised to be fun: to meet at a good friend’s house for cocktails then to a restaurant. We only had 45 minutes for conversing before caravanning to the restaurant, so were not able to catch up as much as we would have liked. A three-person combo had begun playing and, from then on, we had to shout across the table at each other. People started dancing to the jazzy ‘50s-style music to the group who we were hoping would take even a single break so we could talk.

The restaurant was full, the waitstaff seemed overwhelmed by the number of patrons but we were finally able to order. It was suggested we split an entree as they were large portions, so Karen and I got the pasta. The others split lamb dinners and one had a huge, chopped salad to share. Our friend brought in two expensive wines he wanted to share but had to ask for some wine glasses. The server poured indiscriminately, and droplets were flying – our friend ended up with a less than equal share. We were appreciative that he brought us the nice wine as the waiter had not asked if we wanted beverages.

Only two bites into our entrees, someone laid an American flag by my plate. She asked if I was an American. I thought it was a joke. Then someone laid down an even bigger flag crowding my 2008 Caymus cabernet and handed one to Karen.

So, with a bite of pasta in one hand and a glass of Caymus waiting for me to sip, the band shifted into high gear playing “God Bless the USA” otherwise known as “I’m Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood. Everyone stood up and swayed to a flag frenzy. I don’t know why I stood up as I did not need to declare myself. I am not unpatriotic or un-American.

It put me in mind of saluting the flag growing up. The salute in 1941 was the right arm extended with the palm face down toward the flag. Congress passed legislation in 1942 instructing Americans to place their right hand over the heart instead, as it too closely resembled the Nazi salute.

No sooner was the song over, the flags were picked up by the management and we were able to get a few more bites of pasta and swallow the last of the other fine cabernet. Even if we could have had coffee and dessert, we were too flabbergasted to comment let alone stay any longer. Meantime, we were invited to watch the Super Bowl the next day but that the game was rigged. We then knew the atmosphere we were in.

Super Bowl was spent in our room with room service, and it was delightful. Our time in general was perfect as the sun did finally come out to warm us at about 65 degrees.

We are gleefully content to be spending the rest of the year here in Madison Park keeping politics and religion private.