The One Where Fun With Flags Pays Off

On Wednesday nights, our neighborhood coffee shop/bar/gathering space hosts DJ Trivia. We have gone a couple times with some of our awesome neighbors. This week, none of our neighbors were available to join the festivities. We thought about skipping out too but, with Joe home from college and Luke without homework before spring break, we decided we had enough of a team with just the four of us. The boys were so not thrilled that we were dragging them along that Luke decided the only appropriate team name was Two Willing Participants since they didn’t want to be there.

We got through the first round with all the possible points, but it’s the easy round. We clinched the bonus question because of my gift with lyrics. Who knew that my brain would pull Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me out of its cobwebby recesses? I haven’t willingly listened to that song since, well, ever. Anyhoo, we struggled the second round and ended with 20 out of 40 points and didn’t even dare take a stab at the bonus question. We were sitting in 6th place out of 7 teams, and our confidence was flagging. Somehow, though, we rallied in the third round, scoring 60 out of 80. Luke knew the bonus question about the alloy of copper and tin (it’s bronze), and we were right back in it. Suddenly, we were sitting in third, which meant we were in prize territory.

The final round is fill-in-the-blank questions rather than multiple choice. We got the first two fairly easily, but missed the next two. We were somehow still in third place as we waded into the final bonus round, called the Do Or Die Dare round. We strategized how to play it and decided it was go big or go home. If we got the question right, we would double our entire score and could finish in a higher place, or at least hold on to third and win a prize. And then, as if the gods were on our side, the title of the bonus round question hit the screen. The title was Fun With Flags. We all looked at Joe. This was our Slumdog Millionaire moment. Joe has long been a fan of geography and flags. He’s a regular vexillologist. In his senior year, he had to give a 45-minute presentation on a topic of his choice. The title of the presentation he shared with his classmates? Fun With Flags. I shit you not.

Yeah…I know that flag

Steve pushed himself back from the table with a “this is it” flourish of glee. A flag appeared on the trivia screens. Joe looked at it for a nanosecond, leaned forward, and said quietly with the utmost confidence, “Uzbekistan.” I grabbed the paper and wrote it down. We handed it to the DJ judge in five seconds flat while the rest of the tables sat hemming and hawing and conjecturing. It appeared no one wanted to risk all their points with an answer. Finally, a representative from the Vandalay Industries team stood up and walked to submit their answer. We all knew Joe had provided the right answer. Not because any of us had a clue about the flag of Uzbekistan but because Joe. The DJ did all the tabulating and then announced that only two answers had been submitted for the Do or Die Dare and only one of those was right. The correct answer was Uzbekistan.

Yeah, baby!

The DJ read off the name of the third place winner. We smiled. Second place went to the team that often wins each week, Hot Fuzz. The room was dead silent. Someone had pulled off an upset. The DJ put our team name on the screen, and we high-fived all around while Hot Fuzz looked over at us like we’d just kicked their puppy. Two Willing Participants won largely due to the efforts of its two unwilling team participants, and the coveted $25 brewery gift card and bragging rights for the week were ours. It was positively glorious.

A member of Team Hot Fuzz, still flabbergasted by their unexpected loss, shouted over to Joe to inquire how he knew the answer to the flag question so quickly. To which Joe replied, “I have the flags of the world memorized. It’s a good party trick.” This twenty year old kid just ruined their evening, and I couldn’t have been any prouder. It made all the hours I’ve spent quizzing Joe on flags and listening to him prattle on about the poorly designed ones totally worth it.

Joe with his personal Uzbekistan flag at home after our win

I guess there are a few lessons to be learned from our trivia evening. First, never, ever assume something you are asked to do (like attend a trivia night with your parents) will be a waste of time because you never know what you might learn about yourself or others. Second, if you encourage your child’s obsessions, they might pay off. Third, if you’re going to trivia night, take Joe and Luke with you. Their arcane knowledge about flags or every letter of the Greek alphabet or the names of Roman emperors might be just what you need to humble Hot Fuzz. And finally, if your kid wants to collect flags, let him.

We’re In The Upside Down

Sunset in the middle of unpopulated nowhere Colorado

We spent the better part of our day heading west towards the small Utah town where tomorrow we will fetch (pun intended) our newest family member, Loki puppy. The thing about Colorado is it is big, bigger than you might imagine. It’s the eighth largest state, which isn’t clearly apparent when you look at a map of the US. However, it is only 20th in terms of population. This means there is a great deal of open space here. The traffic in the cities is a nightmare, but outside the cities there are areas of the state where you really are ostensibly out in the middle of nowhere. We passed through some of those nowhere areas today.

When I was a child, Colorado was a red state. As the population has increased and the cities have grown, it has become a blue state. Let’s call it light blue. Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Pueblo, and many of the mountain towns are blue. Colorado Springs, along with the rural towns in the west and east, are red. You can travel through Denver and see LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter signs along with American flags, but once you hit the rural areas you will begin to see Don’t Tread on Me and Blue Lives Matter flags, along with Trump flags and even Confederate flags (don’t get me started on that). This division of our state’s population along political lines has never been as apparent to me as it is now. It’s enough to make little liberal me feel uncomfortable when we pass through Rifle, where US Representative Lauren Boebert owns a restaurant aptly called Shooter’s Grill, where servers wait on tables with loaded guns holstered at their sides. As we left the Denver metro area and headed west and then northwest, we entered some of the lower populated areas that are solidly red, including Rifle.

Outside of Rifle, heading north towards Meeker today, I saw something I have never in my 53 years as an American citizen seen. There was a small ranch off the road on my side of the car. As we drove past, I noticed they had two flags attached to the wooden entry gate, one American flag and one variant of a Blue Lives Matter flag. This did not surprise me. What caught my attention was that both flags were flying upside down, waving in the fall breeze.

I turned to Steve and remarked about it. According to the US flag code, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” From what I could glean from the appearance of the ranch, there were no instances of extreme danger to life or property, which could only mean that the union down on their flag poles was meant to signify that our country is in dire distress. I told Steve that I too agree that our country is in dire distress, but I imagine I probably disagree with the person who hoisted those flags as to why that is.

The sight of these flags flown upside down, combined with the events of January 6th at the US Capitol, are deeply concerning. And after reading an opinion piece in The Washington Post yesterday written by neoconservative scholar Robert Kagan, entitled Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here, I’m getting increasingly worried about where we are headed. When you see conservative pundits on mainstream media saying they expect there to be violence, it’s time to expect violence. We are in an ugly, scary place. We don’t have a roadmap for where we are heading. I know it doesn’t help my mindset that I am a huge fan of the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. I keep telling Steve as I see the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade play out that I won’t end up like June Osborne, unable to escape a country that has fallen under authoritarian rule while she kept thinking, “This can’t really be happening.” It’s not hyperbole to say that we are in dangerous territory, and I’m not talking about Rifle or Lauren Boebert’s Shooter’s Grill.

Liberals and Democrats in particular need to distinguish between their ongoing battle with Republican policies and the challenge posed by Trump and his followers. One can be fought through the processes of the constitutional system; the other is an assault on the Constitution itself.” ~ Robert Kagan