03 July 2008

My Continuing Love Affair with Things that Destroy Hearing, or Why I love the Fourth of July

With the holiday weekend coming up, I thought it might be fun to talk about some Independence celebrations of years gone by.

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays, and has been for a long time. I've wondered why that is, and I think the answer may lie in the fact that it's an overt, obvious holiday. In the winter, everyone gets time off for Christmas and New Years, but do people really celebrate Christmas? You never know. They could celebrate any one of the number of different winter holidays. It just so happens that their "Solstice Celebration" looks exactly like your Christmas Dinner.

The same for Memorial Day and Labor Day. Everyone goes to the beach, or someplace at least relatively close to the "Great Outdoors". But it's usually pretty warm on those days anyway, who's to say that they wouldn't be at the beach in the first place?

The Fourth of July is distinctive, in that everyone knows who is celebrating. Why is the neighbor on the corner dropping M.O.A.B.s from his roof? Why, because it's the Fourth of July! Never mind that every car alarm in the neighborhood is going off, and I now have to pry my wife and our two cats off of the ceiling. Eli? He sleeps right through it. Everyone knows he's simply the biggest patriot on the block, and Thank God that he has the willpower to drive down to Indiana to purchase his illegal celebratory tactical nukes for the rest of us!

I have watched fireworks in many different places, but I think my favorite is downtown Grand Rapids. The crowds, the hustle and bustle and noise of city life, it sets the perfect tone for a loud, bright celebration such as July 4. I am willing to brave the traffic and the crowds to be a part of this celebration. The way the fireworks reflect off the river and the glass buildings, the way the booms echo through the canyons of the city, it is simply an incredible experience.

My favorite year for fireworks was the year that our huge group of friends all went down there and hung out. In the far corner of Calder Plaza, near the tire swing, there is a small grassy area. This grassy area has a fence on one side, where it looks out over Monroe Avenue, just across the street from the DeVos Convention Center. We were all sitting and smoking, just having a great time being downtown and being together. We were laughing a bit, because that used to be a great spot to watch the fireworks, but this year, the construction had started on the conference center, and we could only see about half of every shot that went off! After the fireworks were done, I got down on both knees, and asked Shannon to spend her life with me. She replied that when I bought her the ring, she would give me an answer. Oh yeah....small details....

Of course, that was the year after she had asked me to marry her. We were sitting on the other side of the river that time, on the bike path down in front of the Ford Museum, and her question got a bunch of people's attention. So did my reply, which was, "Are you serious? That's not how it works. I'm not going to answer you." When we both started laughing, I think those people thought we were crazy.

Another favorite year was when we were up at Shan's aunt and uncle's house, which is on a lake. Every year, the lake association gets together and puts on a display, so everyone goes out on their boats to watch. Apparently, that was too boring for everyone on our boat, because we started jumping off and swimming around in our clothes. And it was pitch black. With other boats around. In an unfamiliar lake.

I remember having to work one year on the fourth, and so we watched the fireworks in the bucket of the de-ice truck, which is on a fifty foot boom. There we were, seventy feet above the ground, able to see all around us! It was great! We counted at least six different firework displays that night.

Lately, we've been going to my parents house, which sits on a hill. We are able to sit on the back deck and watch a few different displays from far off. And for added effect, their neighbor is the biggest patriot on their block, and has the biggest stockpile of the loudest illegal celebratory tactical nukes in the neighborhood. We usually don't see their cat the next day though...

Anyway, what are some memorable Fourth of July celebrations for y'all?


1 comment:

-Tim said...

I don't think it was the same year, but the tire swing at Calder was a great time. I think that was the year Em was back in town from Washington. Maybe it was the same year, now that I think about it... Anyway, it was lot's of fun.

By the way, what are M.O.A.B.s anyway? Massive Orbiting & Aerial Bombs? I really have no idea.