Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Oh Say, Can You Shut Up?

We live, as I’ve said, in a very quaint community where the 4th of July is celebrated in a nostalgic, small-town way. The annual 4th of July parade is a source of civic pride and every year, people line the sidewalk with portable chairs as churches, banks, cub scouts, and local politicos are paraded past them in cars and flatbed trucks, along with a seemingly endless procession of fire engines. It’s about as Norman Rockwell as it’s possible to get, I think, in America 2005.

After the parade you get a short breather until it’s time for the 5-minute drive to a local school where the fireworks display takes place. Terribly tinny versions of “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” play through ancient speakers as the modest display is received with polite applause. They must have had a few extra bucks in the fireworks budget this year, though, as the finale was more impressive than usual, a real shoot-‘em-up that left the sound of thunder echoing in the surrounding valleys.

And, of course, the annual sprint-to-the-car at its conclusion is more exciting than many officially recognized sports that I could name.

But to be honest, most of these activities pale beside the one yearly 4th of July celebration that, to us, really commemorates the spirit of Freedom and Liberty that the holiday is all about.

I’m talking about our backyard neighbor’s Annual 4th Of July 48-Hour Drunk.

This event, which takes place like clockwork every year, is always the one that marks the year’s halfway point for us. I should explain that these neighbors have been very ambitious regarding the small space they’ve got to work with and ever since they’ve moved in, a non-stop series of construction projects and upgrades have taken place: brick walking paths, twinkly party lights, a hot tub (which they once used in the middle of winter), a barbeque pit, and the list goes on. It’s as if their great dream is to create a Jimmy Buffett theme park in their backyard. Perhaps they believe that if they build it, he will come.

Having done all this work, though, they can hardly be faulted for wanting to show it off. And so, early on July 3rd, the activities begin: the radio is cranked up loudly to the worst possible music they can find, many friends are invited over (the louder, the better) and finally, there is the Ritual Opening of the Alcohol.

The purpose of the alcohol seems to be to enable the already loud and obnoxious guests to increase their volume enough to be heard above the horrible music pounding out of the radio. In the great tradition of Potato Sack Races or Passing an Egg with A Spoon, this contest is usually a draw, with the two contestants eventually blending into a numbing cacophony of rude and throbbing noise.

This contest begins to peter out around 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning on July 4th, giving the neighborhood a brief respite before they begin the cycle anew some 6 hours later. Say what you will about them, you have to admire their endurance. Many of the guests don’t seem to have gone home at all, as they hoot and holler indecipherably patriotic sentiments like “Screw you, you soopid…son of a…blitch!” and the ever-popular “Arrrrrggghyblaaaaaghhh!”

It’s hard for mere words to convey the effect of hearing Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle playing at maximum volume while drunken partygoers scream obscenities from a hot tub and vomit onto brick walking paths. You simply have to experience it to understand why, when it comes to celebrating our country’s founding, this annual celebration simply has no peer.

Finally, like any 4th of July, the day concludes with a sort of aural fireworks: the sound of hundreds of emptied beer bottles tumbling into recycling containers like a waterfall of tinkling glass. Only then has our Holiday truly concluded, as we bundle up our flags in anticipation of next year’s festivities. Another year of Independence has come and gone, but 2006 will be here before we know it, bringing with it more bad music, more beer, and, yes, more additions to the world’s smallest backyard.

Like America, it is limited only by our vision.


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