Thursday, July 5, 2012

Another Independence Day

It surprises many of my American friends just how small a dot the 4th of July is on Britain's radar.  To answer your question: No, the British are not still upset about losing the revolutionary war, nor do they give much thought to it.  They concern themselves with the War of American Independence (which, by the by, is what they call it—it was no revolution for them) about as much as the average American concerns his or her patriotic self with Whitsun.

In past years, this day has received little notice from me, as well; being, as it is, a work day, I traditionally find myself in the office, on the road or otherwise in a position not conducive to celebration, causing this most American of days to suffer more than its fair share of neglect.  This year, however, I was able to do something about it:

On the day—that is to say, last night—the stars aligned and I found myself home at a relatively early hour, with the shops still open and my wife out for the evening (leaving me without adult supervision).  So I nipped into town where I bought the makings of a barbeque (a minimalist barbeque, at any rate) and a few sparklers.

Now, I have seen disposable barbeques before, but up to this point I had never attempted to light one, nor had I enjoyed the opportunity to cook on one as it sat in the middle of my postage-stamp sized balcony.  Sadly, I never did discover the delights of preparing burgers on a tinfoil packet filled with smoldering charcoal because the only advantage the disposable barbeque provided was to fill the sitting room with smoke, thereby giving it an authentic 4th-of-July-picnic aroma.  The charcoal may have smoldered, but it never got hot, so I ended up cooking the burgers and hot dogs on the stove and dousing the disposable smoke-machine with water before the neighbors decided to call the fire brigade.

Complete and utter rubbish

And so, after only minor inconvenience and suffering an acceptable level of smoke-inhalation, I dined on a 4th of July-type dinner: a double cheese burger, a hot dog on a roll, some really awful pre-made potato salad and a small packet of crisps (that's potato chips to you over in the Land of the Free).

I have to admit feeling a bit disconnected from my homeland these days.  With a decade of living in Britain under my belt, I find I know more about European politics than the upcoming presidential race, and in any practical sense—such as knowing the price of a pint of milk (come to think of it, I don't know the price of a pint of milk here, either), how you are paid (direct debit, check, barter), what the current cell-phone coverage is like (when I lived there, it was rubbish) or how many people are left to die in the street because they don't have health coverage (well, that's what I heard)—I have no idea what you are up to over there.  But I am still an American, and because of that, when the 4th of July rolls around, my DNA longs for hot dogs and burgers, potato salad and a warm summer night filled with fireworks and Lee Greenwood belting out "Proud to be an American" from the boom box sitting on the tailgate of uncle Bert’s pickup truck.

Well, I managed the hot dog and burger, and almost enjoyed the potato salad.  I couldn't conjure up a warm summer night (it was 50 degrees and drizzling) and I didn't have any fireworks, but I did have some sparklers.

"Proud to be an American..."

My only regret is that I didn't look up old Lee on YouTube and blare my laptop on the balcony as loud as the speakers would go before distortion set in.  I suppose that's just as well; like the store-bought potato salad, it might have just proved a disappointment.  Sometimes, nothing short of the real thing will do.
C'mon, sing along!


  1. I salute your salute to the 4th of July! It was an incredibly hot day and people stayed inside in droves. I went to see a movie in a packed air-conditioned theater with my daughter since her family wasn't doing anything either. I am the designated potato salad maker in our clan and I must say that I've never found any store-bought potato salad that wasn't awful. I wish I could make you a batch, but I wonder if one could even find Kraft Miracle Whip and French's yellow mustard in your neck of the woods.

    1. Thanks! I have to say I was thinking of my mom's home-made potato salad, so nothing was really going to measure up. I thought it would at least be eatable, though. The whole thing ended up in the trash.

  2. Yikes that song!!

    1. Sorry, but I had to link to it; I don't get to hear it that often over here. ;)

  3. Oh my, what a summer! You are over there suffering in the cold and rain while we're toasting in the 100s over here.

    Too bad you couldn't have been at our 4th of July celebrations--we had bison hamburgers and homemade potato salad with watermelon! Not to make you jealous or anything ;)


    1. Ooh, Bison Burgers (I do like them) and potato salad (the REAL stuff) and watermelon (the watermelons over here are the size of cantaloupes) -- now that's a 4th of July picnic. Could do without the 100+ degrees though.

      It's raining here again; and it's 47 degrees...

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