Monday, July 13, 2009

Surviving the Frolics - Shredded Oldies

"something happening here... what it is ain't exactly clear" - s.stills

This morning, Monday, July 13, 2009, the same morning that the Fabulous Las Vegas Sign was vandalized by graffiti , in the eerie 6 am stillness of Milwaukee's Kinnickinnic Avenue, the remains of a murdered music collection was found scattered in the road. Senseless acts abound. The crime must have been commited in the early morning hours, as the traffic had not much disturbed the remnants of the massacre.

The sun rose on the glittering shards of audio cassettes. Nearly a dozen cassettes were mutilated and strewn over a half-block long section of Kinnickinnic AvenueAs a lover of all types of music, I can't help but wonder, why the ritual killing? If the music wasn't wanted, or the cassette defective, why not sell it, give it away, throw it away? Why mutilate and litter? What was it about this music that raised so much hostility, that it had to be not only destroyed, but, completely subdued, humiliated and defeated.
Was this some strange new ritual in connection with the South Shore Frolics? Hours before this heinous outpouring of anti-musical hostility, the South Shore Frolics had concluded, mere blocks from the site of destruction.

The Bay View South Shore Frolics is a traditional celebration dating back to the smoky, smelly cave people who used to dwell among the cliffs of Lake Michigan. When not frolicking lakeside, these inhabitants can be found on the freeway in their over-sized pickup trucks, and SUVs without turn signals, elbowing smaller vehicles around, and listening exclusively and loudly to Hate & Run AM Radio. They are proud of what they are not, for that's really all they are, to paraphrase Don MacLean. The traditional perception of the word "Frolic" in proximity to the appelation applied to South Shore "frolickers" is a frightening juxtaposition of opposites.

The three-day festival is free, that is, you don't have to pay to get in, but not free in the same sense as "land of the free". One Frolic evening, when I was still new to the area, I went down to the lakeside, and was about to sit down to enjoy a concert by the Milwaukee Policemans' Band, taking a seat in the back row, on one of the backless wooden benches set up in front of the stage. A fat, slobbering sow-like woman, with the down-turned mouth of a shark, approached me, and barked "you can't sit here". Noting that there were no signs or barricades, I asked, "Are the seats reserved?". "NOT FOR YOU!" she practically screamed, wiping the drool from the corners of her shark mouth with the back of her fat, red hand. Out of courtesy, I got up, and out of belligerance, I remained standing directly behind the seat for about 20 minutes, while she glared at me with her angry red sow-eyes. When the band took a break, I wandered elsewhere, to see what else the Frolic Experience had to offer for free. Rally 'round the flag, boys!

They have a parade. It's not like a 4th of July parade, which is full of community organizations, local bands, and patriotic sentiment. This parade is run by the Bay View Lions, a closely guarded clique of, well, Lions. Community organizations who want to be in the parade must pay an entry fee. And yet, some in the parade are on the payroll. Where is the fine line drawn between entertainment and community service? Only the Lions know. The Frolics parade leaves the street of the parade route littered with wrappers, bottles, flyers, melted popsicles, and baby diapers. The people living on the parade route are free to enjoy the parade for days afterwards.

There is a hillside overlooking the South Shore Beach. It is on this incline that the Frolickers set up their bed-blankets, stake out their little squares of public park, and experience on Saturday -- and again on Sunday, the Atomic Fireworks. It's a traditional fireworks display, only deployed much lower than usual from the beach. The explosions seem closer, blindingly and deafeningly closer than a traditional fireworks display, the closeness emphasized by the audience's elevation on the slope of the hill. From the stage, a master of ceremonies "narrates" the Atomic Fireworks, commenting on each rocket's red glare, and encouraging the audience to "Put Your Hands Together" for the benefit of the show's sponsors.

After three days of beer, a parade, and two sessions of Atomic Fire Works, it's not as surprising that some South Sider, eyes bleary with frolic, would commit this vicious attack on a cassette collection. Perhaps it was his own collection, and he was purging it of the music Unfit to Frolic By. What were his criteria? Seen in the holy light of the Frolic Fires, some things must be sacrificed, left shattered in the street for the early light of dawn to discover.

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

1 comment:

thecrookedstamper said...

Ah, someone else also experiences the blinker-less vehicle phenomenon - it must be the new black or something.

So sad about the senseless music destruction. :-( Or maybe they were not music cassettes, but rather recorded conversations (think: Nixon).