Tuesday, July 04, 2017
I wanted to celebrate the Fourth this week with my boss and coworker, but because we were slated to move offices this week, I decided to hold off on the cooking until a better, calmer time. This morning, I heard that we wouldn't be moving until early next week, so maybe I'll do something this coming Friday. Today, though, will be a fairly quiet Fourth.
My favorite way to celebrate the Fourth came to me by accident while I was living in Front Royal, Virginia: one year, on the night of the Fourth, I took the car over to Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive, enjoying the nighttime quiet and stopping at random overlooks that gave marvelous views down into the wide, shallow bowl of Shenandoah Valley. While at one overlook, I saw a tiny, far-off sparkle of fireworks, then I heard the long-delayed pop of the fireworks going off. Waiting for more, I saw fireworks going off in other parts of the valley—humble, scattershot celebrations of our country's independence. It was a marvelous sight, simultaneously beautiful and defiant: diminutive bursts of light punctuating the vast terrestrial darkness. There was no coordination among the fireworks displays; I had no way to predict when and where a burst might appear. But the overall effect was enchanting, and observing these fireworks was the polar opposite of how our family used to like celebrating the Fourth: by driving into crowded Washington, DC, fighting for a parking space, then slogging onto the Capitol grounds to lay out a picnic spot and defend it from all interlopers. True, the city's musical gala was always a delight: Barry Bostwick was normally the host, and there would be guest appearances by the likes of Aretha Franklin and/or Ray Charles, who would sing his version of "America the Beautiful" and his classic "Georgia." But the crowds and the drunkenness and the garbage and the long lines for the porta-potties were never pleasant, so I viewed our DC outings with overall distaste. Give me a quiet Fourth, or give me death!
It's not the season for fireworks here in Korea; at times like this, I'm very conscious of being an expat. But my thoughts turn to my home country, and I wish all my fellow Americans a happy and mindful Fourth of July. Cherish your freedoms.