We’re patriotic folks here at Bwog. So much so that we thought we’d write about our experiences trying to commune with the motherland. Because there’s not a red America and a blue America… it’s a rainbow! Forthwith, our dispatches.
UPDATE, 12:04 PM EST: We woefully skipped the Midwest on our first go-round. Bwog reader Cyrus Moussavi wrote in to remedy the situation. His dispatch is appended.
After spending most of my days with a Hungarian girl, a woman from England, and a boy from Scotland feeding apes from Southeast Asia at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Valencia, CA, I found myself really looking forward to a truly American holiday. To reconnect with my American roots, I decided to than hang out with a golden retriever and some old people on a bridge to see just how good sparkly, colorful lights in the sky could look when designed by Americans.
The bridge is the central gathering point of my neighborhood for fireworks-watching. Every year, people from all around the Santa Clarita Valley gather here to have a decent view of not one, not even two, but THREE fireworks shows throughout the city. First, Stevenson Ranch set off their show. It was lame. Luckily, the action on the bridge centered around my golden retriever friend barking at a kid on a scooter and some closer, illegal fireworks before the next show started.
The second show began at the mall, my place of employment, where I really get to see the diversity of my middle class suburban Disney town at least four days a week. So this show would naturally most make me feel a connection to my community and, ultimately, America. Unfortunately, the majority of the mall’s fireworks looked the same as the others, just a little closer.
The next show started at Six Flags Magic Mountain during the mall show. A fireworks connoisseur at this point, I determined that the shapes and colors of these fireworks were a little more strategically designed than the other two shows, telling a great story of America’s triumph. Other people must not have agreed as they started packing up their lawn chairs and going back into their houses. But I stuck it out, because I was still determined to love America as much as possible.
It’s too bad those people left because the finale at the mall was the highlight of the entire evening. The best firework of the night occurred during this last clump of mall fireworks—a happy face. Because nothing says “I am an independent American” like an emoticon expressed in colored sparks.
– S. Alex Kudroff
The fireworks wouldn’t start for hours, but the Charles River Esplanade was already full of devoted Bostonians sprawled out on towels and folding chairs. The Boston Pops had set up on stage in preparation for the evening’s concert with the reliably American John Mellencamp. And then…Craig Ferguson’s Scottish accent blasted through the speakers, wishing everyone a happy Fourth. Mild enthusiasm ensued.
I was a little worried. For months, my Boston friends had told me about this incredible celebration. I was determined to have my first real American Fourth, with sun and barbecue and un-ironic patriotism—not polite applause for a Scotsman.
In search of true patriotism, I left the Esplanade for the Freedom Trail and the graves of founding fathers, hoping to find some contagious enthusiasm for our nation’s birthday. I was excited to find costumed revolutionaries, only to remember that they’re a city fixture. Most people barely acknowledged my “Happy Fourth!” My conviction was fading, but I still hoped that Boston’s legendary Fourth of July was more than just another fireworks show.
In the North End, Boston’s Italian District and home to Paul Revere, I found what I’d been looking for. Shopkeepers wished me a happy Fourth before I could even say hello and American flags flew outside most windows. The neighborhood paper devoted a full page to the Declaration of Independence, and the rest of the week’s issue to the role of Bostonians in liberating America. The sidewalks and rooftops were filled with Fourth of July revelers.
As the sun went down, the gathered clouds started pouring rain, and all but the most devoted fireworks watchers fled indoors, missing their live glory. The explosives, at least, lived up to the Bostonians’ bravado.
– Alec Turnbull
10:30 AM is generally far too early to even be awake, but it wasn’t too early for Independence Day tailgating, outside the most American of all activities: a baseball game. Outside the game, we ran into some hippies, but these were the friendly Grateful Dead style hippies, not the hateful PETA-style ones, so they gave us some kabobs off their grill. Thanks, USA-loving hippies.
The Washington Nationals have fireworks at every game, but they had more than usual this time, most notably set off after a man so American his nickname is “Da Meat Hook” smashed a grand slam to punish the cowardly Chicago Cubs for intentionally walking Ryan Zimmerman, who had apparently traumatized them with his solo shot in the first inning. Cubs, you may have won the series, but you can’t beat the Nationals on a National Holiday.
Afterwards, there was backyard grilling, nerf- and water- fighting, and fireworks. Here’s a hint from Heloise: if you don’t have a proper launching tube for mortar fireworks, you can use an empty water cooler turned upside-down. See below for fireworks pictures from people who weren’t too lazy to make the trip to the mall.
– Anna Couturier, via cell phone, from Lincoln’s lap
The Bay Area, CA
I had visions of grandeur for my Fourth of July in California. It has always seemed so ultra-American to me: the glittering Golden State, sunny and friendly with a lemon tree on every corner, dream of the pioneers. I imagined a day full of sailboats and hotdogs, pinwheels and popsicles, bikinis and beer, culminating in the most fantastic display of fireworks I had ever seen.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some friends and I ended up, at the recommendation of a drunken surfer dude who might have walked off the set of Beach Blanket Bingo 2007, at a beach called Red Rocks in Marin. As its name suggests, Red Rocks is heavy on the rocks. What it does not suggest, and what our surfer friend failed to mention, is that Red Rocks is light on clothing—in fact, it is clothing-optional, which became abundantly clear when we walked directly into a game of paddle ball in which the balls soaring around were not all made of rubber. Land of the free, indeed.
After a couple hours of European sunbathing, we headed back to the East Bay for barbecue and fireworks. The food was a success; the fireworks, not so much. Somehow we found ourselves on the shore of a man-made lake next to a highway. We could hear explosions from every direction but, sadly, see nothing. And then, as we prepared to pack it in, a little girl on the blanket next to us shrieked with delight. You had to squint, but in the distance a respectable display had begun. I may not have been on a U.N. tower rooftop overlooking the East River (a la last summer), but I was safe and warm, full of wine and hamburger, and as I watched the colors implode in a backdrop to the SUVs and trailer-tractors whizzing down the highway, I felt pretty damn American.
– Hannah Goldfield
When I realized there wouldn’t be any fireworks where I was staying on the big Island of Hawaii, I felt a little disappointed – I grew up with sparklers and potato salad as staples of the 4th of July celebration.
But with a volcano on one side of the beach and a brilliant sunset on the other… ultimately, I had no complaints.
Most of the people living in my little neighborhood of Hale Kahakai, near Kona, celebrated the fourth by donning snorkels and ogling out the array of sea turtles and manta rays that frequent Hawaiian shores in July. I’ve got only clichés to describe the setting: an ocean dotted with white boats and palms on the shores bending gracefully in the wind…lounging on the sand with Dialectic of Enlightenment, I soon found myself flipping through a neighbor’s large-print edition of Angels and Demons. Intellectual development—and patriotism—don’t work so well in tropical paradise.
In place of fireworks, sparklers and a picnic, I sat on the lanai listening to Hawaiian drums, averting my eyes from fat old retirees in Speedos and string bikinis, and watching the sun set over the pacific ocean. The only patriotic thing I saw all day was an American flag flying from a palm tree.
I was lucky enough to be in Hawaii yesterday- but for those of you wishing to escape from New York now that you’ve seen those spectacular fireworks:
1. Remove shoes.
2. Marinate some Swordfish in lemon, oregano, cilantro and olive oil, for a couple of hours.
3. Pour the fish and marinade into shallowly folded tinfoil and roast it on the grill for about 6 minutes per side.
4. Chop up some cilantro, red onions, mangos, and salt to taste, and load this salsa on top of your tasty fish.
5. Close your eyes and pretend that someone is serenading you on a ukulele and you can actually wear flip-flops without your feet turning black.
Also, a pina colada helps with the imagination part.
– Emily Rose Jordan
Manassas and Middleburg, VA
This was supposed to be an account of Independence Day in the city they do Independence Day best: Washington, DC. Instead, I chickened out, finding the prospect of hundreds of thousands of red-blooded Americans oozing patriotic fervor too much to bear on a day off from work. I mean, one military brass band is pretty much the same as the next, right?
The alternate destination: rural Virginia, storied land of Civil War battles and the graves of our forefathers. The names in my history books were always mythical abstractions, having grown up 3,000 miles away from most of the action. So I thought it fitting to visit the battleground of Manassas, where the Civil War teed off 150 years ago.
And with all due respect to Professor Foner, the guided tour had me more awake than any class in an IAB auditorium. Our volunteer tour guide had the small gaggle in shorts and sandals riveted, struggling to keep up as he talked us through that day on the 21st of JUly, 1861 when Confederate soldiers routed the Army of Northeastern Virginia. He started talking in the present tense at one point—“Now General McDowell’s getting frustrated, so he decides to attach the Confederates’ left flank, that’s the popular maneuver now, flanking”—and I understood why people spend days doing those Civil War reenactments. It’s exciting.
From there, we traveled deeper into the verdant countryside, ending up in Middleburg, where everything has something to do with foxhunting. Notable establishments include the Red Fox Inn, the Red Horse Tavern, and a Humane Society thrift shop were you can buy discount dressage saddles for $500. There was one outpost of Old Europe—a shop with frilly nightgowns and smelly candles, where, according to the icily coiffed owner, everything was from Frayunce. Most of it from Provence.
The Mall would have been less outlandish, anyway.
– Lydia DePillis
I get it. New Yorkers, pseudo New Yorkers, and people who read the New Yorker are all less patriotic than the flag waving bozos living in the rest of the country. Drinking American beer means roughing it, “work” comes in the form of 2 month unpaid internships, and the Fourth of July is a celebration of the same “irony-as-deft-social-commentary” outlook that made it acceptable for a generation of youths to wear “vintage” Malcolm X t-shirts.
Well fuck you. Thanks for pointing out that looking at weird explosions in the sky is not a life-changing symbol of unadulterated independence, and that most people spend their time getting drunk. Sorry, but everyone knows that. That’s why they get drunk.
Thankfully here in Madison, Wisconsin, home to the largest and earthiest undergraduate population in the country, irony was not on the menu. Most of the frat boys still in town were too drunk to even play the game where you throw the beanbags in the holes, let alone ponder the social implications of a god-damned day off. So I found myself with the hippies.
When you are a well-funded middleclass neo-hippie in the 21st century, even acknowledging the existence of irony is too much. For a man who loves patchouli and watching hair grow on female armpits, an ironic outlook on anything would require a complete life-style change and probably a mental breakdown. So, ironically enough (you fucking twat), the best way to spend the independence of the greatest imperialist power of the last 100 years, free of urbane irony, is to chill with hippies and listen to Fela Kuti on vinyl.
All along the college section of town, young folks barbecued in front of the beatdown communal houses that Columbia kids dream of when they think of “college.” We missed the fireworks over the lake because a stoned hippie set half the yard on fire. He was building a bonfire to protest the environmentally unfriendly propane grill, and ended up incinerating a few bushes and a bird’s nest in the process. Nobody felt the need to comment on the irony of the situation, and another stoned hippie dropped by later to tell us the fireworks were “pretty freaky.”
– Cyrus Moussavi