As Vo Dilunduhs with the slightest sense of our state's history know, we have just finished Gaspee Days, a celebration of what was one of the first (and most dramatic) blows for freedom in the years leading up to the Revolution.
The capsule history: the HMS Gaspee, a ship that had been enforcing reviled trade regulations, ran aground on June 9, 1772 in the waters near the village of Pawtuxet. A bunch of colonists led by Abraham Whipple and John Brown descended on the ship, looted it, and set it aflame.
It was a mixture of patriotism and ruthless selfishness — "we're keeping this money, King George, and you and the horse you rode in on can kiss our swinging buttocks" — that is classically American.
For the past three decades, the folks in Warwick and Cranston (Pawtuxet Village is in both cities) have made a big deal about this event, as well they should. The Boston Tea Party occurred 18 months after the torching of the Gaspee and the Boston colonists were nowhere near as wild and crazy as their Vo Dilun counterparts. In rock 'n' roll terms, they were Air Supply compared to the Ramones.
So it was with a true sense of patriotism that yours truly meandered down Broad Street a mile down from my house in the Edgewood section of Cranston to take in the parade last Saturday. I actually prefer this parade to Bristol's Independence Day extravaganza, which is more celebrated statewide and nationally. The Gaspee Days parade has the virtue of retaining its small-town roots.
My preference for the Gaspee Days event might also be colored by my Bristol experiences. I was in the parade on a radio station float a couple of times and it was very hot and I got sunburned.
The last time I did this, I rode with my radio talk show partner, the late John Hackett, who was astounded at all the people who would run up to us and say hello but seemed to know me primarily from my music career and not from the radio or from my columns here at the Phoenix. I think that John didn't want to believe that the masses weren't reading newspapers like they once did.
As for this year's Gaspee Days Parade, it was disappointing that a perennial force, the Cranston East Thunderbolts marching band, did not participate. Apparently Cranston East graduation exercises were taking place at the same time as the parade and, despite the pleas from many Cranstonians, the School Committee was unable or unwilling to change the date of graduation. This also meant that Mayor Allan Fung did not march, as he was busy passing out diplomas.
The rain only drizzled and shpritzed — no big downpours. But the best part of the day was being invited to the terrific annual Gaspee Days family barbecue held by the extended Clifton family, Vo Dilun's first family of attorneys and jurists. Ed and Audrey live on my street (well, maybe it's their street) and Bill and Rogeriee Thompson live a block away. We've been friends for years and neighbors for more than a decade. And right off the parade route (site of the barbecue) lives Audrey's sister Susan and husband Ken (who was truly heroic, cooking all day long). Even Rogeriee's sister LaVonn came up from St. Croix where she (surprise!) practices law.