The Fourth of July is always one of my favorite holidays. It is synonomyous with good food (and plenty of it), time with friends and family, no work or school, fireworks…and somehow patriotism is squeezed in there as well (even though, when you think about it, the holiday celebrates the Founders being patriotic to their ideals, rather than their country, but oh well).
Growing up my family would always drive down to our local park, where we would survey the landscape for that perfect spot to view the fireworks being set off on the other side of the field. My mom would compile a light feast for us, consisting of baquettes, assorted meats, brie, her curry chicken salad, a fruit salad, and lemonade. I could barely sit still, and would wander with my brother all over the park, trying to find friends, throw a football or frisbee around with someone, and gander at all the cool stuff the vendors were selling (the kind of stuff that you only saw once a year during this holiday). Kids I didn’t know would throw poppers at my feet, and I would silly string them back, laughing in good fun. I would come back to our picnic area every so often to let my parents know I was around, grab some more chips or lemonade, or bring my dad with me to the ice cream truck to get an ice cream, but mostly I enjoyed the whole cacophony and activity surrounding me. As night would settle in I would wander around trying to relocate my parents, stepping in my fair share of peoples picnics as I hurried to get back in time. Then the fireworks would let loose, and I could just lay on my back and enjoy every whistle, screech, boom, and flash. I had a friend who was scared of loud sounds (on our swim team, she had to dive of the starting block via whistle, rather than starting gun) and would usually cry throughout these 15 minutes, but her protests, like everything else, were lost in the madness of the fireworks.
In high school and college I moved beyond our park to BBQs, and even our boat. My dad would sail us out into the middle of Long Island Sound, straddled by CT and Long Island, with a view of the Manhattan skyline. We would grill sausages and hamburgers, and as soon as darkness set in, we were surrounded by scores of firework displays, from Manhattan to Rye to our town to hamlets on Long Island. This was a much more serene Fourth, with nothing but us, the stars, water, and the distant murmur and vibrant collage of colors the fireworks would give off.
This Fourth my college roommate had his girlfriend visting from Mexico, and while any Fourth in the nation’s capital may be considered an experience in itself, he insisted that he could not imagine the holiday celebrated properly without a BBQ, so I obliged and had a bunch of friends over. I cooked some hot dogs and hamburgers on the Weber, finally convincing everyone to leave the living room (apparently E’s Girls Next Door is captivating television), but ten minutes after chilling on our deck it started to rain. While I had to finish up the food in the rain, it was only a refreshing drizzle and a welcome reprieve from the smoke and heat of the grill. The hamburgers were delicious, and we had plenty of beer, chips, and fruit to go with it. In fact, my college roommate brought the new Miller beer with him, Chill, which is essentially beer, lime and salt. It was better than I thought it would be, which is to say it was still not that great (a bit too salty to chug, in any event).
The main attraction of the evening (even superseding the fireworks for some, apparently) was Taboo, which my brother bought but I had never played before. This easily occocupied the next two hours until we left for the fireworks, ample time to come to two conclusions:
1) I suck at Taboo. As my friend put it, for someone as intelligent as I am, and as competitive, I was definitely my team’s weakest link. It is probably because I am not that creative in making up clues, and it is hard to think when people are yelling guesses at you. It must run in the family, because my bro was not that impressive either.
2) They need to invent dirty Taboo for us, because I swear people used the most inappropriate slangs, innuendos, and other clues not even thought of by the makers of the game. Creativity comes in many forms…
3) Finally, I was alarmed by the associations some of my friends made. Its never a good sign when the word is “nag” and a teammate says “What girlfriends do” as a clue and the very first thing that come out of one of my girl friend’s mouth is “Cheat!” We’re bad people I suppose.
Our trip to Target yielded a bunch of Americana apparel for this festive occasion, so we headed out of my apt around 8:45 bedecked in American flag top hats, tiaras, kazoos, flags, and bandanas. We even had a “Happy Fourth of July” banner for the apt I wrapped around my body and wore out. Basically we looked like the Fourth of July threw up on us, or we were trying to stave off deportation. We made our way up 16th street towards Malcolm X Park, while taxis honked at us, we sang every patriotic song we knew, and rather drunkenly blew on our kazoos.
I had never watched from the park before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But we settled on a spot among the crowds near the edge facing downtown, and had a decent view over the rooftops towards the mall. Most kids climbed on their dad’s shoulder’s or climbed the statues, but some of my shorter friends were at a disadvantage (but made up for it with plenty of kazooing). The fireworks were pretty cool, and although we didn’t experience the explosive roar that we would have downtown, there were plenty of stray fireworks being set off on the periphery of the park to add excitement (to say the least). As we headed back after the grand finale a kid came up and asked us about our attire, clearly wishing that he too, could fulfill his Fourth of July experience. It was then that I realized that unlike my park back home, or the Mall, that there were no vendors about, and short of our antics, most adults looked like they happened to be on an evening stroll, and that the kids were bereft of glow sticks, flags, balloons, ice cream, all those things that excited me as a kid. We tried to offer the kid something, but he was hurried on by his dad…
In honor of the Fourth of July, here are the 10 Most Patriotic Moments in Sports History…
But not to be outdone, we can’t forget the great accomplishment of Joey Chestnut, who downed a new world record of 66 hot dogs at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, defeating defending six time champion Kobayashi, bringing the title back to America. Even the announcers claimed the audience was witnessing sports history, and says Joey:
“It’s about time this championship comes back to America on the Fourth of July,” says Joey. “If I had to eat another hot dog right now, I would.”
And what is more patriotic than that?
The face of a champion
Other gems from the announcing crew and particpants:
“If Chestnut wins, you can look up American Hero on Google tomorrow and find Abe Lincoln…Neal Armstrong,…Taylor Hicks and this guy.”
Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, downed 49 dogs for third place, and dedicated his game beforehand to Nicky Hilton, sister of Paris Hilton, who he feels is in the shadow of the elder heiress, just like he is in the shadow of Kobayashi.
The kid who held a sign up while being introduced saying “On the Seventh Day God Created Hartford” and on the opposite side, “Hermione Dies”.
Announcer notes that Kobayashi appears to have no gag reflex. No additonal comment needed.
And, believe it or not, betting was on full force for the event:
Contract BQty Bid Offer AQty Last Vol Chge
TradeHOTDOGS.CHESTNUT 58 62.0 80.0 3 62.0 142 0
TradeHOTDOGS.KOBAYASHI 3 15.0 35.0 12 35.0 130 +16.0
TradeHOTDOGS.FIELD 0 – 5.0 69 5.0 31 0
For a minute by minute breakdown, see here.