For those of you who shied away from the fireworks and the humidity, here’s Bwogger Lydia DePillis’ dispatch from Washington DC’s 4th of July.

Washington DC on the fourth of July is the hothouse of American patriotism (in more ways than one). Having avoided it last year, this time around I thought I’d try immersing myself — kind of like seeing how long you can hold your breath underwater.

I didn’t actually end up doing the whole shebang. I only saw a section of the parade, and I skipped out on the Capitol Lawn extravaganza (complete with Taylor Hicks!). Perhaps that was why the whole thing never actually felt repellent: I hadn’t stuck around long enough for it to really sink in.

The parade, however, had a different twist than I was expecting. Sure, it had the blaring brass bands, the self-declared country western stars, West Virginia dairy princesses (okay, there was only one of those). But a good chunk was actually composed of immigrant groups asserting their love of America.

“We love Freedom, we thank America” read a banner for the Vietnamese American Community, trailed by marchers in traditional garb as well as a red-white-and-blue birthday cake float. Their patriotic pop-rock standards contrasted strangely with the woozy strains of the Falun Gong float that had preceded it, and the drums and cymbals of the Hare Krishna one bringing up the rear, lending the whole affair a feeling of pageantry that you won’t find on Main Street U.S.A..

Meanwhile, on a stage not far from the mall, a Latin band  blasted salsa, cha-cha, rumba, surrounded by dancers dripping with sweat but beaming smiles. The singer gave a shout-out to all the Latin Americans in the crowd, calling out Puerto Rico, Peru, Panama, to isolated cheers. It was cheesy and scripted, but it helped something click in my head: rather than feeling like a foreigner in my own country, I was a foreigner just like everyone else.

That was tourist DC. Real DC late at night on the fourth feels like a warzone, with roadside bombs going off all over the place. The volume of explosives detonated in my neighborhood in the hours after the mall fireworks show had ended probably could have destroyed an Afghan warlord’s compound, their smoke mixing eerily with the steamy summer mist. In the morning, shells scattered on the sidewalk were my only reminder of the party to which everyone is invited.