Independence Day: Recapping Stories on America’s Biggest Holiday

4th-of-july-rooftop-party-skyline-new-york

When I first moved to New York, I had already heard rumors that fireworks during NYE are not permitted. I still haven’t found out the reason for this but there surely are a ton of fireworks displayed during a different, memorable night: Fourth of July! America’s Biggest Holiday gets even bigger thanks to Macy’s & Co bringing in the best firecracker show you will ever see on that holiday. Read More »

Fourth of July: Beach, Sunburn, and Rooftop Love

4th-of-July-manhattan-skyline

I hope you spent a great Fourth of July no matter where and how you were celebrating! It’s only been ten hours since July 5 came around and I woke up with only a slight hangover this morning. Good sign, indeed!

Yesterday was my third Fourth of July in America (at least the third one I can remember) and of course I got to spend it in the city I live in. While I do vow every year to travel outside and FINALLY get to do a kick ass BBQ and huge party, I somehow always end up either in Brooklyn or Manhattan. My dreams of a New Jersey rave or Connecticut fest have once again been shattered, as in every year and as in this year.

Despite those undreamt dreams, this year was to date the best celebration I experienced! Possibly because nothing was planned and everything happened quite spontaneous. Don’t you just love those days that unfold as the hours fly by?

Riis Park Queens

It started off pretty well by me going to the beach with the boyfriend, who surprisingly had a day off (he works 24/7 in his own bar and rarely gets to spend summer days outside of it). We went to Riis Park, which is close to Fort Tilden (which I failed to blog about last year, argh!) and part of the Queens community called Breezy point. Riis Park is an extension of the Far Rockaway beaches and the only way to get there is either by bike, by bus, or by car. Since bike and car is currently not an option for us, we decided to take the subway to Flatbush-BK College (both the 2 and 5 lines go there) and then hop onto the Q35 bus. There is also a direct bus from Park Slope and Williamsburg which costs $10 one way. The advantage of this ride is that you don’t have to go through the hassle of switching public transit and perhaps it doesn’t take as long (well, you never know what the traffic situation is here). Switching from the subway to the bus only took us an hour of a commute, which really isn’t bad for NY standards.

Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year

Of course we weren’t the only ones with the great idea of swimming, so when we arrived, the beach was already well populated – filled with families, partying youngsters, and chillaxing hordes. Not as bad as Coney would have been on the same day but, yeah, beaches in New York tend to get crowded when everyone is off. We found a somewhat secluded spot close to the border of Ft. Tilden. Ft. Tilden was a great beach last year but unfortunately the community has not had the funds and helpers to clean it up for this year’s season. While Riis Park is usually a gay and lesbian beach, this year it was also a family beach because good sand is scarce here and any cleaned up beach is a good sign (yes, the aftermath of Sandy is still hovering over us). We stayed for the better part of that hot afternoon and unfortunately left with a minor, pinkish sun burn. Should have reapplied that sun screen after swimming, I guess.

After some Mexican food at the Habana outpost, I met with some friends in Bushwick, who had told me about a rooftop party with drinks and food. By the time I got there (perhaps 8 PM), the BBQ was already finished but drinks were just getting started. Bands were playing and people were happily dancing around. It must have been a crowd of 200 persons for the better part of night and that says a lot for a ‘simple’ rooftop in the middle of Bushwick.

Rooftop Love in Bushwick
Rooftop Love in Bushwick
Pre-party picture
Pre-party picture

While Teen Commandments (a local punk rock band) was performing, Macy’s fireworks were going off on the Hudson River. Although Brooklyn is on the East River, the roof was high enough to be able to see the fireworks past the silhouette of the skyline.

Teen Commandments
Teen Commandments

“I really don’t know why they changed the location to face New Jersey!” someone muttered next to me. I turned around and started a heated discussion with a long-term New Yorker who was outraged that 75 percent of New York was not able to take in the fireworks while New Jersey, the neighboring state, was. “They have their own funds and they do their own fireworks,” he pointed out. I agreed, as we had seen a few fireworks go off on the NJ side of the roof well before dark. Macy’s did a great job in providing us with 25 minutes of show time and even flagging up a few new forms, such as an UFO or a Jupiter (or any type of planet with a ring).

Throughout the night the rooftop crew decided to shoot some firecrackers into the sky, so we had our own “special” fireworks going off above our heads. At some point, the cops must have told them to stop and that was it. A rave-like party happened after the last band stopped playing and then everyone vanished in a drunkenly lost night.

4th-of-july-rooftop-party-skyline-new-york

Crappy picture of Macy's fireworks
Crappy picture of Macy’s fireworks
party blues
party blues

What a wonderful 4th of July it had been! Even better than a proper 4th of July weekend. Because this time most New Yorkers stayed in their actual city (a lot of people had to work today or didn’t want to take a vacation day).

Oh, and in case you wondered why the Empire State Building was going crazy: Supposedly it was part of the Macy’s fireworks grand finale theme and changed its colors at light speed rate. At times it looked like it was rotating but that was just part of the effect.

4th of July: Rice Krispies Treats with Peanut Butter

rice-krispies-treats

Tomorrow is Independence Day, meaning one of America’s biggest holidays of the year has finally come around. While I did most of my pre-holiday-shopping today, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every store in NY will be open until the late afternoon hours of 4th of July. Now I surely don’t remember how things were last year and before that, but I somehow must have forgotten the fact that shops do not close, even on the second-most-significant day of the year. Sure enough, Macy’s will always be known for its insane shopping discounts on named day (and of course today, too, in case you want to step into the masses of bargain hunters). But even food stores and other local delis will remain in business until the very last minute, or so it seems.

My plans for tomorrow are not yet well thought out. Part of this is due to the crappy weather we’ve been enduring lately. This must have been one of the wettest summers I’ve experienced by far. Every day we’ve had some sort of thunderstorm or summer rain and it has been increasingly difficult to decide on what shoes to wear (rainboots or flip flops) and to make plans for the beach. Hopefully, tomorrow the weather will hold up. In case the sun shines, you will find me at the beach with a bottle of bubbly. Not at Coney Island. I made the mistake of going there last year and ended up being almost suffocated in the masses surrounding the annual Hotdog Contest hosted by Nathan’s. No, I will chillax on the sands of Far Rockaway and hopefully it will be not as crowded with people as it was two years ago…

In preparation of tomorrow’s festivities, I felt like trying out something new and made a traditional American dessert: Rice Krispies Treats! It reminded me of some old childhood days and the fun we had when devouring this. To spice it up, I tried a peanut butter and chocolate version. For the peanut butter version you will need:

rice-krispy-treats-ingredients

– 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
– 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows

– OR –

– 4 cups miniature marshmallows
– 1/2 cup peanut butter
– 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal ( I took the ones from TJoes)

First melt the butter on a low-heated-stove and then mix the marshmallows into it. When everything is melted properly, remove pan from stove and add peanut butter. After the peanut butter has melted, just throw in the Rice Krispies and voila, here you go!

rice-krispy-treats-ingredients2

peanut-butter-rice-krispy-treats

4th-of-July-rice-krispy-treats

(Find the original recipe on the Rice Krispies homepage)

My original plan was to have whole chocolate chips but they melted as soon as they were mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Change of plan, I guess. Also, half of my treats just crumbled away, perhaps I didn’t add enough marshmallows. For my first attempt in making these (easy) bites, I think it went well. I also added a glass of white wine because I felt like it.

bubbly-wine

I hope you have a great 4th of July. What are your plans?

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?