Independence Day Ramblings

When it comes to discussions and debates about the awesomeness of summer, it is difficult to overstate the significance of the Fourth of July. It is to summer days what Mean Joe Greene was to the Super Steelers of the 70’s. Its what Joe Elliot was to shredded jeans my senior year of high school. What Dr. Venkman was to the Ghostbusters.

Many of you have your own traditions. As do I. They mostly involve Miller Lite, sparklers and an incoherent rant about the systematic and relentless creep of federal intrusion into the lives of everyday Americans who just want to be left the hell alone. Sometimes I’ll veer off and get lost in my disgust for FDR’s economic advisors and Woodrow Wilson’s passage of the income tax. But, just as easily, I’ll be diverted into a discussion about the cars I’d buy if I hit the lottery. What? Like you don’t have your own top 3…in no particular order, Bandit’s ’77 black Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit, Blake Shelton’s truck in the Boys ‘Round Here video and then the black Lamborghini in Cannonball Run. Pretty sure if you were a teenage boy in the 80’s, you had a poster of a Lambo on your wall.

Anyway, as with most holidays, I enjoy them. You have traditional favorites like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day. Some of you will have Halloween in there. Others will list Valentine’s Day thereby admitting their susceptibility to corporate America’s marketing schemes. Then you may have your own personal partialities. For example I’m looking forward to Opening Sunday of the NFL Season, Season Premiere For The Walking Dead (Oct. 11 btw) and whatever day it is that Rock Bottom starts selling Pumpkin Ale. And then there’s Every Single Friday Afternoon. Is there a time of the week Americans look forward to more than that period of time right after you leave work on Friday? Because, just like Loverboy said back in 1983, everybody really is working for the weekend. And everybody really does just want to get it right, get it right…

The girls have made this year’s Independence Day celebration a sort of homage to Lewis and Clark. They’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping on the neighbor’s trampoline with friends. They said its comfortable. I don’t believe them. But they have everything America’s westward explorers had – blankets, gunpowder, oiled cloth, snacks, i-Pods, etc. All without the threat of grizzly bears. Although Bails insists she saw a bobcat in our backyard at one point…


Independence Day 2014

The 4th of July, as holiday rankings go, is a pretty solid third for me. Thanksgiving and Christmas are 1 and 2 respectively. Although I gotta admit that it’s a pretty tight race for that top spot. It’s like deciding your favorite Def Leppard song. Photograph or Armageddon It? Tough call. Regardless, I think I’ve landed pretty squarely on Independence Day as my number 3. There was a spirited debate between The 4th and Halloween but in the end, grilled burgers, cold beers and high explosives won out. I am American after all. Plus I get to lecture everybody else about the glaring lack of patriotism on their houses as nearly everyone fails to display Old Glory. C’mon man, at the very least, pretend for one day, you have at least a conversational grasp of American history and traditions and hang the freaking Stars and Stripes out front. You can borrow one of my flags. I have three. A Gadsden Flag featuring the Don’t Tread on Me symbol depicting a rattlesnake. A rattlesnake, according to Benjamin Franklin, was a good symbol for America since America “never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.” The Betsy Ross Flag displaying the thirteen stars arranged in a circle. This is my favorite. And I have our current edition with 50 stars. Although I don’t think anybody would be that upset if we reduced it to 49 and let Illinois leave the union. I’m embarrassed to say I spent a good deal of my youth growing up in America’s most corrupt state. I feel bad for the all the folks in the Land of Lincoln not from Cook County yet have to deal with the waste from Rahm and Springfield.

Anyway, Independence Day, like most holidays is about traditions. This one just happens to be about America. And summer. Tough to extricate summer from the 4th. I’m writing this on the morning of our nation’s birthday and I’ve already heard firecrackers off in the distance. It won’t be long before I start smelling the sweet, sweet intoxicating aroma of grilled meat. Is there anything more 4th of July than Americans untrained in the use of explosives and gunpowder blowing stuff up while smoke from a grill rolls across the neighborhood backyards? I can still remember my Dad pulling the grill out onto the driveway, swearing at the charcoal as it failed to light and then running with my friends across the backyards of our neighbors as we nearly lost our minds in anticipation of fireworks. I still am somewhat befuddled by the anticipation and excitement for fireworks. I mean, for kids, anticipation and Christmas morning go together like the Obama administration and learning about scandals on the news just like the rest of us. That was sarcasm by the way. Regardless, Americans have been getting together for neighborhood parties since, well, since Lexington and Concord. Difference is back then the British showed up wearing the wrong colors for the party so a bunch of guys, fresh from the local tavern, walked out to meet them. After realizing they were outnumbered the Americans, as Americans sometimes do, talked some smack, flexed their guns and let them know in pointed terms to get the hell off our lawn. Also that taxes sucked. Especially when the money paid went to people who didn’t pay any taxes. Hey, wait a minute…

Anyway, the British, being the heavy favorites according to Vegas odds and not wanting to deal with all their jerkoff bosses back in Boston if they came home with a loss, decided these drunk, small town, animal skin wearing, Kid Rock looking hicks needed to be shown a lesson in manners and professional military combat maneuvers. And, after the typical back and forth jawing often seen at tailgate parties, Thanksgiving dinner and shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly…somebody decided to pop off a round. It was likely preceeded by the following statement, “Dude, hold this, I’m gonna try something.”

Upholding that tradition today are Americans at countless July 4th parties who, after a few cans of Sam Adams, pop off a strategically placed cuss words followed by some firecrackers and finally ending with an argument over whose fans are worse – the Red Sox or Yankees.

Today we show up with a cooler, our tailgate chairs and some deviled eggs and breakdown the top summer songs of the 80’s and early 90’s, discuss the inevitable disappointing exit from the 2014 NFL playoffs by the Peyton Manning led Broncos and the astounding level of douchiness shown by Harry Reid. This guy is like JR Ewing and Mr. Burns rolled together. We punctuate our arguments with f-bombs, our own renditions of Axl Rose’s slither dance and which beer, Miller Lite or Bud Light, really is the unofficial neighborhood get together beer. So its just like Lexington and Concord except nobody has muskets. I mean folks are drinking, talking smack, somebody shows up and causes a problem and the night ends with explosions and the smell of gunpowder. Nothing has really changed. I mean if you go ahead and forget all the unrelenting damage caused by the domestic policies of Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Obama.

And since I know you’re wondering about this – My thoughts on the topic of top summertime songs of the 80’s and early 90’s? Far, far too detailed to summarize here but, in no particular order, here’s a very short sampling of my favorites:

Midnight Blue
Technically not a summertime hit as it peaked at #5 on the charts in February of ’87. But I remember listening to it A LOT in the summer of ’87. So suck it real world timeline.

Upon seeing this video for the first time our 14 year old daughter uttered, “Will Smith was a singer?”

Tainted Love
Nothing, absolutely nothing says summer 1982 like this song. I think their was some sort of suburban pool rule that said you had to hear this song at least once while swimming.

That’s One Big Chicken

We’re down at Mom’s folks house. Her sister is here too with her three girls. So that’s a lot of girls in the house. Pretty cool in college, not so much now.

On the way down the girls were getting a little anxious. If anxious means utterly annoying. Anyway, we stopped for a bathroom break and Mom bought the girls a bag of Cheetos to share. Did you know that Cheetos are to little kids what a nicotine patch is to smokers? Neither did I.

The cheesy, crunchy goodness soothed them for the last 20 mintues of the trip. Well not really, but it kept them from bothering us. Okay, that’s not true either. Cheetos are supposed to be a satisfying salty snack but in practice they taste so good they kick in the Leo Getz from Lethal Weapon 2 mechanism.

But we did get to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house in one piece. Mainly because the girls are developing a good appreciation of 80’s music.

Before we left yesterday, and it took us nearly all day to get out the door, we had the girls clean up their rooms. This task includes making their beds. Kinsey was going a bit too slow so I helped out. Here’s what I found buried, tucked and otherwise concealed within the sheets, blankets and stuffed animals on her bed.

Bed things

If you look closely, you’ll find six books, two wallets, one flip-flop, a baton, a red wig for monkey from Build-a-Bear, various items of clothing for their dolls, a purse, scissors and a scarf. It looks like a thrift store for kids.

Anyway, small towns are cool. Especially for the Fourth of July, fireworks, pork sandwiches, potato salad and baked beans. And big wood chickens.

wood chicken (2)

Yup. That’s a chicken carved out of stump.

Gadsden Flag and the Second of July

(Note: I meant to post this yesterday but my internet connection at home went Mark Sanford, I mean AWOL on me)

This morning I unfurled my Gadsden flag outside the house. It felt good. I picked July 2nd to display the flag on purpose. Why?

Gadsden Flag.jpg

Well, July 2nd almost was July 4th. Back in 1776, twelve of the thirteen colonies voted for the resolution which was to become the Declaration of Independence on July 2. Only New York refused to vote “aye.” Yeah, I’m not surprised either. I mean not only did they send Hillary Clinton to the Senate but their freaking nickname is the Empire State.

July 2, 1863 was also the key day in the Battle of Gettysburg. After the Army of Northern Virginia pushed Union troops through the town onto Cemetery Ridge on July 1, both sides gathered strength through the night. General Lee attacked both Union flanks the next day leading to the fight at Little Round Top and Col. Joshua Chamberlain’s famous swinging door charge down the hill. It also set the stage for the disastrous Confederate attack on the Union center on July 3.

Plus Mom doesn’t really like the flag since it has a snake on it and she had already left for work when Bailey and I decided to display it.

Anyway, July 2 has a lot of history associated with it. You can argue the union was created and saved on the same day. It’s also Jose Canseco’s, Lindsay Lohan’s and Imelda Marcos’ birthday. So I guess there is a downside too.

Regardless, we’re headed to Mom’s folks house to watch fireworks for the 4th tomorrow morning. Here’s last year\'s post about our trip down there on the 4th. It’s Midwest small town Americana at it’s best. The Fourth of July always gives me a chance to talk history with the girls too. At breakfast this morning, I asked them if they knew why we celebrated on the Fourth of July.

Riley: Because we get to watch fireworks?

Dad: Why do we watch fireworks?

Kinsey: Because it’s fun?

Dad: Well, yeah, but why do we shoot them off and have a big celebration? What are we celebrating?

Riley: I don’t know.

Dad: The Fourth of July is the day America decided it wanted to be a free country and didn’t want the British to tell us how to do things over here.

Kinsey: What did they do that was bad.

Dad: Well remember when we talked about taxes?

Riley: Yeah, that’s when the government takes your money.

Dad: Right. Well, in America, we get to vote for the people who decide how much money they will take. Except when the British were in charge, we didn’t have any say in that. And that’s taxation without representation. And that’s not fair.

Now that’s not entirely the case as the level of taxation prior to the Revolution was actually lower than it is now. You can thank Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Lyndon Johnson for that. But that’s a tangent for a different blog.

After a little more discussion about the Fourth of July, I decided I’m going to do the smart thing and break out the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for girls after work. Plus the discussion, as most discussion with the girls, took off in a direction I hadn’t intended but ended in a pretty good spot.

Riley: So the British were bad?

Dad: I don’t know if they were bad but what they were doing was wrong so the Americans, back 234 years ago, decided if the British wouldn’t change then they’d have to fight. And they did. For nine years.

Riley: Did soldiers die?

Dad: Yeah, lots of people died. But you know Britain is American’s best friend now. At least until Obama gives the Queen another iPod.

Riley: I want an iPod too. But that’s weird that we’re friends now.

Kinsey: So I guess they just talked and worked it out just like we’re supposed to do at school.

Dad: Yup. Just like that.

See, history has everyday applications and helps you be a better parent.

Fourth of July

Didn’t start so well. After picking up the girls on the afternoon of the 3rd, I thought we’d run by the car wash and get the bird bombs washed off the car. $10 into the machine. I press “gold wash” and get two Susan B. Anthony’s as change and hit the window button.


The driver’s side window decided to pick the exact moment after I’d paid for a car wash to cease working. But even more funny than that is that these car washes have timers. If you pull into the wash in the allotted time window, you’re golden. If not, you’re out of luck. Well I’m frantically turning off and on everything in the car hoping for some sort of weird sequence of options to cause the window to go up. Nothing. About this time I notice that my allotted time is up. I say “stupid window” and hit button once more.

Goes up halfway, stalls, then goes up the rest of the way.


Luckily the guy at the car wash fixed me up and we got the Jeep washed anyway.

Kinsey: “Hey Dad were you mad at the window?”

Me: “Yes.”

Kinsey: “If it had a bottom would you have smacked it? If it had an eye, would you have poked it? If it had a tail would you have pulled it? If it had cheeks, would you have chubbed them?”

Then on the way down to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house the next morning I was politely reminded by local law enforcement of the 55 mph speed limit. Mom and I were talking, listening to Huey Lewis and the News (Mom’s 20th high school reunion was Saturday) and I forgot about the cruise control.

Then while we’re at the country club getting ready to watch fireworks Friday evening, Mom ditches me with the girls for awhile so she can hang with all her peeps she hasn’t seen since “The Flame” by Cheap Trick was #1 on the charts. I get up to go to the bathroom while the girls are finishing up their dinner of pork sandwiches, baked beans and cole slaw. It’s the Fourth of July, if you weren’t eating baked beans and cole slaw have your patriotism reexamined. I even let them have a little caffeine free Diet Pepsi. It’s fairly harmless and it’s the Fourth of July. Plus the girls thought it was the greatest thing since they discovered how to access the Scooby cartoons on the DVR. So I walk up to the sink to wash my hands and lean against the counter. That’s when I noticed the counter was pretty darn wet. About that same time I noticed that I had nice dark wet line about an inch and a-half thick across my shorts. I also noticed that the moisture was traveling south and that it looked like I had an accident in the bathroom.

Great. How am I going to explain this to the girls? Plus all of Mom’s high school classmates are there and here I am walking around like someone shot me in the shorts with a super soaker.

So I’m standing at the hand dryer trying to dry off my shorts while ignoring the chortling from other dudes in the bathroom And this isn’t a big bathroom. So everybody who comes in notices the guy drying his shorts with the hand dryer.

But at least things come in three’s so I figured I was done.

Fireworks turned out to be great. At one point they had Poison playing as the music. For just a moment it really did feel like the summer of ’88. Then Bailey, who is snuggled up on my lap, elbowed me in the ribs as she tried to get more comfortable and reminded me that it’s not. At the end she turns to me and says, “Holy crap Dad, that’s was loud. And sparkly.”

The Fourth of July is a cool holiday and the girls and I had a conversation on the way down about our favorite holidays. The Fourth came in third for me. Right behind Thanksgiving and Christmas. The girls were stunned that anything came before Christmas. Riley was equally perplexed at my hostility towards Valentines Day. She had me down to 11th on my rankings before I got to Valentine’s Day. It came in right behind Pulaski Day and just ahead of National Mustard Day.

“Dad, how can you not like Valentine’s Day? It’s like Christmas, but in February.”

You see what corporate marketing can do if you aren’t paying attention.

But my rankings did give me a chance to talk about other days like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, D-Day and Pearl Harbor Day. To my surprise, Rye tells me she knows when D-Day is and what it is about.

“It’s June 6th and it’s when the American soldiers went to France to fight the Germans and help the people there become free.”

How cool is that?

Plus the Fourth gave me a chance to fly my new Betsy Ross flag and explain to the girls why the stars are different than on our regular American flag.

So we had a good weekend and snuck in some history lessons amongst the greatest tunes of 1988 and the lessons about leaning against bathroom counters.

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment