July 4, 2008
There it is, courtesy of the wonderful blog Hoboken Now: Independence Day in Hoboken.
I've experienced the 4th in many places, in many ways. Growing up in Fairhope, Alabama, I saw the fireworks displays every year on the bluff on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay every year until my early 20's. I was in New York City with the Tall Ships display in 1976; with my sister and friends we viewed it from a rooftop at Westbeth. I lived in Geneva, which has as big a celebration of the 4th of July as anywhere in Europe (and maybe the world), and for six years I watched hang gliders jump off the Salève, ate hot dogs made of Swiss sausage stuffed into rolls pierced on the spot with a special appliance just for the purpose, and met vacationing backpackers from the States who had come to the event because they read about it in Let's Go Europe. All kinds of unorthodox things happened at that fireworks display, and I heard some stories that may have been urban legends I will not go into here.
Whenever the day rolls around, I think of my country and what has become of it. I love to acknowledge what it was, and what it was meant to be, and I am proud to have that as a part of my own history. I even think of old Fairhope, really a young town, built as our country was, on a utopian ideal. Never mind that both are pretty much a shambles now, overrun by the same marauders of the soul: Personal greed and a deep immorality of the spirit. There is a glimmer of hope in the land this year, and I cannot dwell on the negative today, because the day itself is a celebration of what we should be. Yet we all know that in order to make things better we must be able to see what we know they can be and remember what they have been.
So I think I'll go back to John Adams, who in the early days of our country predicted the future 4ths of July in a rather nice letter to his wife: "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival," he wrote, "It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..."
It is that and more, Mr. Adams. And in Hoboken, I'll be able to see fireworks to the east in Manhattan and to the west (out my kitchen window)on the bluff of Jersey City tonight.