The Mobile Manhattanite is more mobile than usual this holiday season, spending a couple of weeks in London. Yesterday, passing through tourist-clogged Leicester Square and helpfully taking some photos at the requests of two sets of appreciative Japanese teenagers, I was delighted to see the square's annual holiday fun fair in full swing.
Later, on the way to the National Gallery, I heard martial music and saw, over the heads of a moderately large crowd in Trafalgar Square, some white plumes on black Stetsons. Drawing closer, I heard strains of a Beatles song and then saw the spiffily garbed members of the Santa Monica High School Vikings Marching Band, visiting from California to take part in the London Parade for the New Year. Nearby, waiting in the wings, so to speak, was the Cedarburg, Wisconsin High School Marching Band, resplendent in black and orange. The two bands represented, for me, an America of a more innocent time. Maybe this America still exists, to some extent. The Cedarburg contingent later got their chance with, after an extended percussion flourish, a rather stately rendering of "St. Louis Blues." Perhaps I had to come to London to be reminded of this Capraesque vision of the U.S.A. For these kids it may still be A Wonderful Life, at least for a while. Afterwards, the splendors of the National Gallery provided a true contrast. Is this what the pundits mean by the "culture wars"?