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Home for the Fourth

July 4th, 2013 · No Comments · bacon, UAE

If I were to rank the American holidays that seem emptiest/saddest/most pathetic outside the borders of the U.S., two of the top three would be Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Though the latter is certainly not specific to the U.S., even if many of its States-side traditions are.)

The third “sad Yank holiday overseas”, ranking behind only Thanksgiving, is the Fourth of July. A big deal inside the US of A, barely known and rarely recognized outside of it. Certainly not in the UAE.

(As is the case for most “national” days, when experienced outside the country of origin. Quick: What is the date of Bastille Day? When is Canada Day?)

So, work overseas had taken me out of the Fourth of July environment for three consecutive years. July 4 was just another day on the calendar.

Till I experienced it, in person, anew, today.

The Fourth, I am reminded, is much like Thanksgiving in the sense that it is secular, very American and enjoyed by practically everyone.

Barbecues and picnics and fireworks? What’s not to like?

All of my siblings and most of their children gathered at my brother’s house, and he bought the enormo-size takeout package from the Naples Rib Company, a Long Beach institution, and everyone caught up with everyone else, and just seemed carefree and happy to be there and not pressed to be anywhere or do anything.

Like a holiday!

Things broke up around 5, on a warm but not oppressive July afternoon … so everyone could pursue the fireworks of their preference. Or none at all.

One of us who was jet-lagged fell into a semi-coma for a couple of hours, but came around in plenty of time to walk outside, around the corner and down a half block … to watch the fireworks being shot off at the Virginia Country Club at 9 p.m.

Just two of us, standing on the sidewalk, watching stuff from a couple of miles away.

Everyone likes fireworks, right? Even “flinchers” like fireworks as long as they are far enough away.

The rocket racing up into the air, and the explosion, and the subsequent explosions of more color — red, white, green and then the whump of the mortar launch. (Sound always arriving after light.)

I don’t know the names of these individual expressions of pyrotechnics, but the one that expands into a a dense, circular floating flower … and then flames out with a sort of sizzling sound (like bacon in a frying pan) is my favorite.

The show went on for a half hour, a nice one but not a big one … shells lobbed up one at a time, to admire how this or that pattern unfolded and flared and winked out.

At 9:30 came the finale. All fireworks shows end the same way — with a sudden surge in pyrotechnic activity. Bang, bang, bang, bang. And then comes an absence of noise, sometimes punctuated by a delayed-response cheering, on the edge of hearing.

(Have to admit, the eruptions made me think of the words: “rockets’ red glare” …)

And that was the end of the day.  Nothing had to be done, no one felt bad for not accomplishing something significant. Lots of people got together and renewed traditions, and at the end of the day a country went to see the nearest fireworks show, even if it was just on television.

Not a bad holiday. A pretty good one. And you might find yourself liking it even more if you have missed two or three of them.


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