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Sunday, July 3, 2011
Remember John Prester
Watching fireworks on a festive night in the month of Swelter, a visitor to the City might be asked: “Do you know the story of John Prester?”
It’s a trick the locals pull on tourists. The truth is no one remembers John Prester--not really. You sometimes feel like you know it. Or knew it--but it only lingers there almost on the tip of your tongue, just beyond memory’s reach. It’s a good story, that one; you just can’t recall.
There are hints, maybe. Are the fireworks just simple celebration, or do they carry some other significance? Surely there’s something to the giant puppets paraded through the streets--the “Mugwumps” with their motley dress, straggly goatees, stovepipe hats, and leering grins? What about the wooden toy guns the kids mock shooting them with? And what about the tune played by the street musicians and marching bands? Who doesn’t hear that with a twinge of deja vu?
When did all this start, anyway? When did John Prester and his crew save the City (surely that’s what they must have done) or nearly destroyed it (well, that’s a possibility, too)? Maybe it hasn’t happened yet and the celebration isn’t the ghost of a memory but the sign heralding what’s to come?
Ah well, let the City raise a glass to John Prester, anyway, whatever he did--or will do. A bastard bold enough to almost get remembered deserves that much, right?