I love the Fourth of July. It is a wonderful opportunity to pause and remember the courageous men and women who bravely sacrificed so that future generations could live in a nation in which a qualified person of any race or belief system (except Libertarians) can be elected to the highest office in the land (and by this I mean First Lady); where, if you want your cheeseburger, fries and shake supersized it shall be so; and where a pathological self-mutilating pedophile who, if he couldn't sing and dance and were like the rest of us, would have been given a sequined straight-jacket and put in a padded hyperbaric chamber a long time ago, can become a candidate for sainthood.
By far, my favorite part of the Fourth of July celebration is our tradition of fireworks shows. For years, Macy's has put on a huge, world-class show in New York City that somehow manages to outdo the previous year's display. Normally I shy away from attending in person, remembering some years back when it took me two hours to get home from seeing them at a state park I live about ten minutes from. Feeling brave this year, we decided to try another location.
This year we tried Weehawken, a nearby city along the Hudson River with a great view of the New York City skyline. (The skyline is always kind of a mixed thing for me. I alternate between marveling, like everyone else, at its majestic beauty, and thinking, as a seasoned and occasionally jaded New Yorker, that it's too much packed into too small a space, but that's a post for another day.) We found a spot right by the bust of Alexander Hamilton and settled in. With a long wait between our arrival and the start of the fireworks, I spent a good bit of time looking into Mr. Hamilton's eyes and thinking, as many Americans surely would, "You frigging dummy."
Hamilton was,, of course, one of this nation's founding fathers. He served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, co-wrote The Federalist Papers, and did a whole lot of other things I'm never going to do. But the reason the statue was there at all was that the place we were standing is where Hamilton, along with Aaron Burr, the former vice-president, engaged in a "duel," a somewhat extreme case of "I'll see you in the schoolyard after 3:00" and, in the process, threw away his life and everything he'd ever accomplished. (Remember, this was before airplanes, when vice-presidents wanting to shoot things were limited to doing it from the ground.) What at the time may well have seemed a rite of being a gentleman is more easily understood today to be the supreme act of childishness. And when, like Hamilton, you can't hit the broad side of a barn from the inside to begin with, it's a particularly bad idea. (On the other hand, it did earn him a really cool statue.)
In a fitting, if unintended, tribute to this, a woman standing near us for the fireworks thought another woman was speaking too loud (she was) and responded by, of course, yelling at her. A third woman joined in, siding with the loud talker. None of this involved a lot of English, but it was kind of fun to witness. Unfortunately, it settled down before I was able to get out the pistols and clear out ten paces worth of open space.
Back to the fireworks. Here are some pictures I'd love to say I took, but the fact is that except for the Alexander Hamilton bust and the Dueling Grounds plaque, they're the work of my son Jacob. I think they provide a little bit of a feeling of what it was to see this year's fireworks show. The photos are mostly self-explanatory. There are just a couple of things I'd like to offer comment on:
- In the next-to-last photo, you'll see the top of the Empire State Building just to the right of the fireworks burst,. lit up red-white-and-blue for the occasion. (They've got a pretty impressive collection of lights up there and illuminate the building in different colors for a wide range of special occasions.)
- The last photo shows something that didn't get widely reported, a fire that broke out on one of the barges near the end of the display. A few fireworks on board were ignited, but damage was minimal and no injuries were reported.
Gratuitous Political Commentary
Item 1: I've Heard the Word "Minnesotans" More in the Last Week Than I Have in my Entire Life Preceeding That
You've got to admire Norm Coleman. After the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that he lost the election and had no more legal avenues left to continue contesting it, the former senator decided to concede. How gracious of him. Al Franken has now been sworn in as the new junior senator. Franken is ready for the challenge. He's prepared to work hard, he understands the issues and, doggone it, people like him.
Item 2: From Parts of Alaska You Can Actually See Political Obscurity
Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska (nickname: the "Oh Yeah, I Forgot That's a State" state). Her own words, from her Facebook page:
"How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."
Those are not the words of a president. Memo to the governor: the first rule of being in a hole is to stop digging. Also, in this case, to stop pouting.
And, not for nothing, as we say here in the hood, but when I think of politicians who have left their positions without finishing their term, I'm remembering some who sneaked out the back door in disgrace, some who were led out in handcuffs, and some who, sad to say, were carried out on a gurney. I'm drawing a blank on any who left to pursue a higher calling. Maybe someone can help me here.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me make it clear that on a personal level, I have only the highest respect for Sarah Palin. Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances, and on the home front she's dealt pretty well, even admirably, with some very tough situations. And there are undoubtedly positions of leadership she's suited for. It's just that at this point, from stunningly poor campaign interviews to clumsy debate performance to pouty personal Facebood entries, I'm thinking Leader of the Free World is not one of them.
Item 3: Full-Court Press
I'm not too worried about Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas got confirmed, for goodness sake. How hard can it be?