Flag Post: A Very Orbit Independence Day 2016

mural of American flag painted on exterior brick wall

Mural, Lawrenceville

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Star-Spangled Banner (second verse), Francis Scott Key

artwork with American flag and news clippings, Clarion, PA

Public art, Clarion

Wooden shipping pallet painted like an American flag

Shipping pallet flag, North Side

Oh sure, the world looks at we, the bloggerati, and just sees the obvious glory. But let me tell you something: blogging is more than just lavish parties, sleazy hangers-on, “making it rain,” and bath salt benders–it’s hard work! Why, who do you think is out of the house at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, gears cranking while sunlight warms his wind-tousled hair, obsessively searching high and low* for the next breaking story? Not you–I’ll tell you that much. Why, you’re probably doing something fun and relaxing while getting some light aerobic exercise! And who’s working his index fingers to mere nubs hunt-and-pecking to research the national anthem while you sit on your keister and surf the Internet? This is the cross we bloggers bear.

Neon American flag in glass block window of brick building

Neon flag with glass block frame, Strip District

glass storefront windows for former pizza shop, Homestead, PA

Yellow, white, and blue flag, (Former) pizza shop, Homestead

Of the many rewards blogging provides, the excuse to look up odd reference points like the verses of our national anthem is one that goes unheralded–un-spangled, if you will. Reading the full set of lyrics (there are four original verses written by Francis Scott Key, plus one more added by Oliver Wendell Holmes during the Civil War), it’s nice to see that the song actually has some real heart and poetry to it.

It’s quite a lovely and unexpected bit of verse from a tune that is, at best, overplayed, and at worst, a nail-biting one-two of plodding drudgery preceding the inevitable scene-chewing high wire act in the penultimate line. The song (and each verse in its full form) has a Sunday morning coming down conclusion in the good-on-paper, but now tainted-by-jingoism cliché The land of the free and the home of the brave.

Child's painting of American flag on painted plywood

(Former) storefront, Ambridge

Mural detail showing waving abstract American flag with many other design elements including dice, city skyline, men, flowers, etc.

Park’n’ride mural (detail), Wilkinsburg

The American flag can be a lot to take in–both visually and symbolically. It’s not the most aesthetically-rewarding vehicle out there, but we prattled on enough about this in last year’s flag post. What is exciting is how many citizens choose to construct their own versions of the flag. Here we see them painted on wood, built from shipping pallets, recycled from the lathe of a plaster wall, as a mural over a parking lot, and fixed into a waving position in the chain link fence by a steel mill. Donald Trump would have us believe that America is no longer great, but it’s pretty obvious that plenty of Americans still feel like there’s something to celebrate.

homemade American flag made from painted wooden slats, Pittsburgh, PA

Front porch, South Oakland

American flag made from red, white, and blue plastic pieces inserted into chain link fence, U.S. Steel/Edgar Thomson Works, Braddock, PA

Chain link and garland flag, U.S. Steel/Edgar Thomson Works, Braddock

* At least, everywhere along the bicycle trails.

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