have you ever really considered labor day anything other than a mark on the calendar? it is the end of one section of time & the beginning of another. for children & their parents, it denotes the end of summer vacation & the beginning of the school year (mostly); for the rest of us, it’s the last long weekend of good weather (mostly) before the winter holidays drop by for their yearly visit (welcome or not.)
some cities celebrate labor day with a parade, others ignore it completely. labor unions may mount a sit-in, a demonstration of some sort against the inequities of the rich vs. the poor. this event may be covered by the local t.v. news organization, but half-heartedly & without the passion they reserve for the latest celebrity imbroglio.
rarely do the people who actually labor for a living have the day off (maids/day laborers/gardeners, you know, the help. i don’t know that labor day will actually ever mean what it did when it was enacted as a federal holiday in 1894 (whatever its meaning was then, you know, though, just as it would be today, its enactment as a holiday was politically motivated.) <sigh> we are witness to the disengagement of the populace. it’s true, no one cares ( there are those poor white folk who are feeling a tad disenfranchised these days; their institutional bigotry pinching their narrow-mindedness like a badly made shoe.)
but it’s labor day & we should celebrate (hallmark, are you listening? i’m waiting to see that first labor day greeting card, then it will be official.)
we’re getting close to ‘list season’, the time of year when all publications & media outlets along with their writers, critics, essayists (are there any left?) & pundits all contribute their ‘best of’ lists (like used tissue when you have a cold.)
i’ve never been very good at making lists of favorites & i’m not sure why. it could be that i can’t remember everything that i’ve ever read, seen, or heard (the arts are notorious for their lists, aren’t they?), at least on cue.
it’s much more pleasing to me for a memory of a favorite to bubble up unbidden, such as this morning’s memory of labelle performing their hit ‘lady marmalade’ which i would consider one of my all-time favorite albums, but would’ve probably not remembered it if i had been making a list.
how could i ever make a list of authors? just now, at lunch, i was reading about a new book of letters between author james salter & critic robert phelps that’s just been published; salter is one of my favorite authors, but i hadn’t thought of him in ages.
oh, it’s easy to come up with a quick list: cormac mccarthy, henry james, p.d. james, nadine gordimer & lawrence durrell, lawrence, d.h., & tolstoy, rushdie & marquez (gabriel garcia-) but my god, how could i even consider that complete (don’t forget thomas hardy!) & that’s just the novelists, what about the poets? & how could i possibly rank them? yes, i might be able to say that a few have given me greater pleasure (if the number of their works i’ve read were the benchmark,) but to place a #1 or #2 or a #10 next to their names would be very painful indeed.
and that’s just the written word. forget movies & music, how could you even start? it’s just too much work (for labor day.)