Sunday, July 18, 2010

Surf, sand, and pyrotechnics

Sunday, July 4

After rolling out of bed and stepping into an already hot Fourth of July morning, the first thing I do is check Facebook.  Already, everyone is making patriotic postings which gets me thinking...and researching (sort of)... And this is the conclusion I come to (as posted in my Facebook notes): 

Happy 4th of July.  On this day, please consider "most Americans seem to think that God has some special investment in them when they hear 'God bless America.'  And this is easily interpreted as God bless us, all of the people." But we Americans are not ALL of the people.  There are Africans and Europeans and Asians and South Americans and everyone in between.  There are also Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists.  Remember the world.  Followers of a faith called Sikhism end every prayer with a prayer to help all of humanity.  The expression means "we wish everyone well."  So, yes, God bless my family and friends here in America.  But God bless everyone else, too.

The quoted material can be found at the link above.

I don't know exactly why I feel so compelled to do heavy thinking like this first thing in the morning.  But I suppose it stems from the fact that several years ago, I would have flung around the phrase "God bless America" without a thought, proud to call myself a conservative American patriot.  And while I'm still relatively conservative on certain political issues, and I am immensely grateful for my freedom as an American citizen, I think twice before invoking God's blessing on anything and everything associated with America and her people.  That just feels a little too presumptuous for me these days.  I'm thankful but certainly not entitled to anything I have.  I feel the same way about God's grace--full of gratitude and completely undeserving.

I spend the latter half of the morning lounging around the apartment and going back and forth between two options for the day: sit at home spending the holiday like a bum or go to the beach.  Good thing I packed my swimsuit!

The trip to Rockaway Beach in south Queens is a long one, but it's one I can do entirely on the metro system which is great for my wallet.  By the time I quit getting turned around and ending up on the wrong subway line, I've clocked nearly two hours of travel.

It's totally worth it.  Here's a shot from the shuttle train out to the beach.  Who thought it could be this beautiful so close to Manhattan?

The beach itself is a pretty happenin' place, probably because everyone else had the same great idea to spend their holiday on the water.  There are people of every size, shape, color, age, and beach-going motivation.  There are sunbathers, sand castle-makers, swimmers, life guard-seeking flirts in skimpy bikinis, and soccer fans playing barefoot pickup games in the hot sand.  

Corporate America makes great use of the beach's popularity, flying banner-bearing planes along the sandy stretch for all to see. I get the feeling that this happens regularly, and I chuckle to myself as I think that as a kid, it was a really big deal to see a plane flying a banner like that.

The water is lovely, but I don't get much past my waist; as hot as it is--a 95-degree scorcher--the water seems a little chilly.  I spend the afternoon making dashing back and forth between the water and my spot on the beach, reading, texting Nanda, and gossiping with Mom.  Perfect way to spend the day. :) Around 5pm, I head for home to get cleaned up for the massive 26-minute Macy's fireworks show on the West Side.  

Every year, Macy's shuts down about thirty blocks of Twelfth Avenue right alongside the Hudson River.  Six barges shoot fireworks from the water, and as if the pyrotechnics aren't enough, they're synchronized with music for those close enough to hear.  

I don't arrive early enough to make it all the way to Twelfth Avenue, but the view is still great from Eleventh.  There must be thousands of police on patrol here.  It's impossible to estimate how many people are with me in the mob of spectators, but the number has to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.  

While standing under a street lamp at one corner, I look up at a sign that reads "NO STANDING ANYTIME."  Um...we're standing.  Me and about 50,000 other people.  I love irony.  It's hot and crowded and stuffy as all get out, but it's still fun.  How many people can say they've done this?  But the adventure is just starting.  

Walking back to the subway is absolutely insane.  Block after block is choked with crowds attempting to disperse.  It's virtually impossible for any traffic to get through, so the taxis lean on their horns a little more, and anybody else with a car just parks it until the roads open up again.

Along the way, I try to make a pit stop in McDonald's for an ice cream, but it's hotter in there than it is outside, so I just keep walking.  Eventually, I end up at a Wendy's with air conditioning and a (relatively) shorter line.  I have my heart set on a chocolate Frosty, but I get to the counter only to find out the chocolate is gone. :( So I settle on vanilla.  It's still a nice treat and a great way to round out another exciting day in the city.

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