Independence Day Stories

4th of July Weekend is coming up, and with it the entire package of festivities, BBQs, and down days at work, which are connected to the holiday.

For all of you who do not know by now: 4th of July is a HUGE celebration in the States (you don’t have anything comparable in Germany, and NO, the day the wall came down does NOT measure up to it!), as many excited Americans are celebrating the day of independence from the British Empire. This year, July 4, 2011, will be the 235. anniversary of the date the first 13 American colonies gained freedom from Great Britain. This so-called Independence Day has ever since been a national and federal holiday, on which patriotic symbols are displayed – the American flag being among the most typical ones, of course. You find the notorious Stars&Stripes in various forms, not only in its original one, so do not be surprised if it shows up on a cake on the buffet table or is worn as a funky motive on a shirt or body painted on some American faces. Yes, the US is a very patriotic country, and this is especially revealed on their biggest day of the year.

Macys contributes to the annual insanity surrounding the 4th of July celebrations by paying over half a million of dollars for the biggest firework of the nation on Hudson River (it used to be facing the East River, but they switched locations a few years ago). It is perfectly viewable from the New Jersey waterfront, at which most camera teams and reporters tend to pitch their tents hours before sunset. The view is the best, I have to admit, and if you want to see it, go to Weehawken or Hoboken. My friend and I made the bad mistake of actually staying in the City last year and trying to catch a glimpse of the colorful sparklers at Time Square! BAD DECISION! He was double pissed, as he lives in Weehawken and could have seen it perfectly relaxed from his great window view or roof! O well, it’s never too late to learn.
So we ended up being smashed in a crowd of mostly tourists and people from Queens and Brooklyn, having to tolerate sweaty bodies, screaming infants, and ruined shoes as one foot after another tried to shove through the crowd and happened to find my bare toes. Yes, it wasn’t too nice, but now I know better. And the highlight of our adventure was that we couldn’t see half of the fireworks for the police only let us through to 10th Avenue and the massive buildings ahead of us blocked out the best part of it – or so it seemed. Needless to say that I didn’t take one decent picture from the spectacle, as it was too much of an effort to navigate my arm around the tightly pent-up crowd. Uff, just thinking about this makes my heart race again!

The day by itself had been pretty eventful: I got to check out numerous BBQs, but unfortunately nothing resembled the “real American experience,” as I like to call it. We first went to a private party in Greenpoint, to which we made our way from an overheated subway station through the hot streets of Williamsburg. In case you forgot, last year was the big heat wave season throughout the East Coast, and July was consistent with this. When we got to our friend’s house, we were welcomed by a crowd of only two people. Oooops, seems like they were let down by quite a few of their friends on that day! Well, they definitely tried to make the best out of their situation, as they had their own little BBQ going on. We ended up staying for a chat, while they switched my water glass up to an Eggnog mix, which is great to drink during the summer, believe it or not. After some time more people showed up, so we excused ourselves (my friend was bored) and returned back to Prospect Park, where we took part in a bunch of other BBQs. Since we were on the Haitian side of the grounds, almost every other family had their own party going on, and we wandered from crowd to crowd, being invited to eat and drink and thus collected an overload of corncobs, bread, juices, and other edibles in our hands.

Me holding Haitian Flag
Us taking a break from food on 4th of July

It ended up being more of a Haitian-American experience, with people dancing to their bongas and waving their national flag to its rhythms. Which was a very interesting cultural experience by itself, too, of course.

In general, it appears to be more difficult than elsewhere to have a BBQ here in the City due to reasons of space and dimensions. I know some people give a party on their rooftops but it is rather hard to have a large crowd on top of a building. That is why I am still determined to travel to other places to finally see an “all-American” 4th of July party with many people, buffets and a huge green space. Wish me luck, maybe I’ll witness this sometime soon.

It is also not uncommon that a good amount of folks likes to escape New York and take advantage of their 3-day-weekend, which they sometimes extend to a 4-day-event. Quite naturally. Such as in the case of my coworkers, who are hitting up Florida, Pennsylvania, or Maine, and who had their last day of work today. How I envy them!

What are your plans for Independence Day?