The six (6) times I’ve ever felt patriotic
The USA is a cruel, unjust place, but sometimes it can be good
I don’t even know what patriotism means anymore. At one time, I think it meant that you were willing to die for your country. But then 9/11 happened and it seemed to scramble everyone’s perception of what patriotism means. Now, it means that you don’t wear a mask outside because it impedes your constitutional rights. It means that a tyrannical government will not prevent you from eating at Applebees. It means you probably have something like “patriot1776” for a Twitter handle or a “Patriot” sticker on your very large truck. Of course, these are all generalities that I’ve observed from my coastal-elitist, socialist high-horse (his name is Neigh-cobin [like Jacobin ahhh fuggedaboutit]), but it’s hard not to be a little confused by the irony when July 4th, our most patriotic holiday, is cancelled this year because patriots gonna patriot.
But my perception of patriotism has always been skewed. I like living in the USA just as much as the next guy who’s too lazy to move to a more just and fair country. There are some parts I like, and a lot that I don’t.
I don’t like that we have a president who is all the terrible aspects of human nature, melted down in a shit cauldron and then reformed into the approximation of a human. I don’t like the fact that we’ll never get rid of gun violence — our national scourge of herpes that will sometimes quiet down but will never truly go away thanks to an archaic amendment. I hate that there are kids in cages at the border. I hate that healthcare is so fucked that people have to resort to Gofundmes to save their loved ones. I hate that racism is built into the very fabric of this country, which has been systemically perpetuated throughout the years in different forms to keep Black people and POC from attaining wealth.
But let’s not forget all the good things about the USA. Like, I get to write this little newsletter without any goddamn fucking ass-turd censorship.
And, um, let’s see.. ice in soda?
See? So many cool things about the USA.
So, in honor of America’s most American holiday, here are the times in my life when I’ve felt patriotic.
Watching Independence Day
Maybe it’s dumb that my first injection of patriotic pride came from a big-budget Hollywood movie, but I’m pretty sure that most people’s senses of patriotism are learned through consuming propgandist pop-culture.
But seriously, where would we be without Bill Pullman? I bet I’m not alone when I say that watching him deliver his “This is our... INDEPENDENCE DAY” speech was the first time I felt any sense of national pride. After stepping out of the theater, lil 10-year-old me was certain that if aliens did land on earth, we — Americans — now had the means, template and strategy to whup them good.
Kerri Strug at the Olympics
Nothing attempts to tickle my patriotic gland (ew) like the Olympics, but I remember going full-blown Murican when I saw injured gymnast Kerri Strug take her team to gold in 1996. At the time I was spending a very boring week at my grandparents’ house in rural Utah. But every evening, we’d watch the Summer Games in Atlanta, which served as a nice respite from reading and being quiet.
When Strug landed that vault, I immediately knew I had just witnessed something special. The clip is still incredibly powerful — the slight ankle-lift after nailing the landing remains the most iconic sports image in my lifetime.
It was also during that week that my grandparents took me to my first demolition derby. So, pretty patriotic week, I’d say.
Being judgy toward American tourists whilst in Europe
Less than a year after 9/11, I went on a class trip to Europe. On the 4th of July, I was with a few friends, hanging out and drinking wine in a small plaza in Venice. There was a group of American tourists eating at a table near us. Suddenly, they started chanting “USA! USA!” I’ve never felt more embarrassed to be American, but also proud that I could recognize shitty American behavior, so we shit-talked those tourists for hours. I’m still shit-talking them! I’m sure if they heard us, they would still be in the burn unit. Being an American is fine, but being an American — a drunk 17 year-old, I might add — who hates on other Americans is the best.
Hanging out with a British stranger one night in New York
In 2008, I had press credentials to the CMJ Music Festival in New York City. At the time, I was a newcomer to the city so I didn’t have anyone to go to shows with me, and I ended up going to lots of shows alone. One night, I struck up a conversation with British bloke named Liam (of course his name was Liam!) who was also riding solo. If my memory’s correct — which it probably isn’t considering how many beers I drank during CMJ — I’m pretty sure I talked a lot about mountain biking. Like, a weird amount. I talked about all the trails I’ve done, and also the beauty of biking on red rock in Southern Utah. At that point, I think it had been a good six years since I’d been on a mountain bike, but that didn’t matter — the point is that America is grand and great for mountain biking and Liam fucking KNOWS that now.
Another New York story! Eyyyy, I’m rememberin’ heeeerye. I was in a jam-packed bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn when Obama was elected. I had accidentally taken out $100 from the ATM and was freaking out because that was pretty much all the money I had. Then, Obama became the president and everyone cheered and the bartender gave free shots of gin to everyone, and suddenly my empty bank account didn’t seem that bad. That night, it seemed like America was really ready to change for the better. I wonder what it’s like to have hope like that again.
Watching Neil Diamond perform “America” live at Sports Arena
Pretty self-explanatory. Mr. Diamond had huge American flags projected on the screens behind him. It was patriotic af. I cried red, white and blue tears with all the other boomers in the crowd. Every time Neil plays that song, it’s like mainlining USA straight to the vein, and it hits harder than the moon landing, winning WWII and 1992 Dream Team all at once.
Happy birthday, America, you occasionally-great, often-mediocre and generally-cruel country! And remember: real patriots wear masks.
By Kelly Davis
Hell yeah yeah Yaya!
There’s an odd cocktail (let’s call it an awkward cocktail) called Death in the Afternoon. It’s 1.5 ounces of absinthe and four ounces of Champagne. It first appeared in the book So Red the Nose, or Breath in Afternoon, a “celebrity” cocktail book published in 1935. It was Ernest Hemingway’s contribution and he claims to have come up with it while marooned on an island during a fishing trip. I’ve tried it and can’t say I love it [Editor’s note: I feel the same way about Hemingway’s writing], but an Instagram post by Denver-based bartender Connor Stehr (@shake_and_stehr) reminded me of the cocktail. I came across Stehr’s Insta while looking at @PoliteProvisions’ Insta (see—there was a San Diego connection in here somewhere). Stehr posted a daiquiri recipe that included a couple of dashes of absinthe, which makes the cocktail mighty tasty. Hemingway also loved a good daiquiri and I’m sure he would have loved one with a couple of dashes of absinthe. A good daiquiri, BTW, isn’t what you might think it is. It’s not this or this or this. It’s a simple mix of good rum, lime and simple syrup shaken with ice and strained into a glass. Adding a couple dashes of absinthe makes the whole thing more interesting. (Quick note about the daiquiri in the photo—I used a five-year Havana Club rum, which is what was in the cupboard. It makes the cocktail a little darker than the one in Stehr’s photo. Also, my cat Yaya totally photobombed.)
Sadly, San Diego County has closed bars that don’t serve food and ordered restaurants to close by 10 p.m. So, wear your goshdarn masks and support your favorite restaurants with takeout, cocktails to go, boozy ice cream! and merch.
I have a new batch of AWKSD shirts ready to send out. If you missed out last time, now’s your chance to snag one and show off your awkward San Diegan pride. I’ve already sold out of unisex larges, but still have about every other size, plus some women’s sizes. Venmo me: Ryan-Bradford-2 (or Paypal) with your size and address. $15 for paid subscribers, $20 for normies. Shipping included.
Also, I’ve compiled some of my old, AWARD-WINNING “Well, That Was Awkward” columns into a book, called So Awkward. Now that San Diego CityBeat is pretty much dead, and has taken the archives to the grave alongside it, this is the best way to revisit some writing that made me so famous that I was once asked to guest-judge an air sex championship. Seriously, there’s a lot of writing in this book that I’m proud of, and it’s now in a non-screen form. If you want a copy venmo me: Ryan-Bradford-2 (or Paypal) with your size and address. $10 for paid subscribers, $15 for normies. Shipping included.
THE WEEKLY GOODS
Chida Rebecca // Editor-in-Chief (photo via Black & Magazine)
Regrettably, I was not aware of Black & Magazine until PACIFIC Magazine (where I’m a contributor) announced a partnership with the Black-owned/published magazine. Since publishing is excessively white, I’m stoked by this discovery. In this excellent editorial, Black &’s editor-in-chief Chida Rebecca lays out the importance of Black publishing:
When the videos are buried down timelines or even deleted, and specific platforms have been submerged into a digital abyss, print will still be as it always has. As legal and historical documents that have cemented the fate of countless destinies – we will be here, just as we have always been.
Support Black journalists. Read and support Black & Magazine.
Listen to this
I suppose it’s summer, but what really is time anymore? These days, I turn to seasonal-appropriate tunes to force my body to recognize the passing of time, which means I listen to a lot of surf, punk and garage. So, imagine my delight when SAND’s E.P. landed in my inbox. The San Diego band creates the kind of infectious, tropical punk that worms its way straight into my sunburned, IPA-addled brain. Think PUP + Joyce Manor and you get SAND. What a delight.
This photo burned through the internet last week, and with good cause. I can’t think of a better portrait of white American fear than this wealthy, khaki-clad pair protecting their mansion from peaceful protesters with his and hers guns.
This week, write a short piece of fan fiction about this couple. How do they think? How do they talk? What actions led up to this moment? How do they talk to each other? Make it funny, tragic, erotic, whatever. And send me the results! firstname.lastname@example.org
Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford. And if you like what you’ve just read, please hit that little heart icon at the end of the post.
Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.