Land in the Sky: On Labels

Today at a supermarket in the Catskill Mountains I saw a bottle of vegetable juice adorned with remarkable labeling: “100% Juice with Added Ingredients.” What manner of adjective is this percent? I wasn’t totally sure. I stood there longer than I should have, pondering which language game I was being invited to play. What were the rules? What exactly was at stake here? Whatever could this mean? The middle of the supermarket juice aisle is no place to philosophize. Others needed access to the goods. Nobody else was reading labels, much less subjecting them to hermeneutic scrutiny. “Just who do you think you are?”

A decent respect to the needs of my fellow shoppers required I suspend further thought till the drive home, wherein I passed a pizza parlor housed on the first floor of what appeared to be a haunted house next door to a junkyard, then an erstwhile fairground long since overrun by scruffy trees, among them a single staghorn sumac, then a shuttered bar and grill where I used to have dinner and drinks with my dad on our way home from visiting my mom in the nursing home, past that was the occasional burned-down summer resort of yesteryear, but mostly it’s like motoring through a Hudson River School painting with gas stations and utility poles and oh so very scenic. I do my best thinking while driving because that’s usually when I have no thoughts at all, just like taking a shower or posting on Facebook, but today I got stuck behind a smoky old pickup, license plate hanging by a single rusty screw, great big Stars and Bars draped across the back window, just as we were passing the untended historic graveyard with its big Civil War monument smack in the middle of a manufactured memory.

And that’s when it hit me: 100% American with added ingredients.