I don’t know how other non-natives feel when they’re in the States on the 4th of July, but for me, having been here for the past two Independence Days, I seem to self-define my role at celebrations as the jokey redcoat, still holding onto the idea that one day, we Brits will reclaim the colonies. Not something I believe in, of course, but, what other reaction is there when someone says “Happy fourth!” to me? The U.K. seems to lack a day of celebration like this. I guess that’s what we get for bombing around the world and taking all the good stuff back in the day.
My friend Jennifer and I went to a backyard party in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Nice do. Friendly people. Beer. We all went up onto the roof via the treacherously dangerous fire escape stairs and watched the firework show that was going on over the Husdon River, the other side of Manhattan. Seems a bit odd to me that the New York City fireworks were entertaining a bunch of people in New Jersey rather than one of the other boroughs of New York City, but there you go. It was pretty. And some folks on the street below got out their less-impressive fireworks and their incredible loud firecrackers for all to enjoy, too.
There was one moment, though, that captured the evening beautifully; a moment that made me a little sad that I’ll be leaving this wonderful country on Tuesday. I went to the bodega on the corner of the street to buy another six-pack. As I walked along the street, I passed a family sat in their front yard, listening to the loud Mexican music playing on their parked car’s stereo, and as I got closer to the store, that music blended into “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
That song was coming from a sound system outside the bodega. All manner of people were gathered outside in this traditionally Polish neighbourhood, drinking out of brown paper bags, and dancing arm-in-arm to a Stevie Wonder song. There’s no tangible reason why it felt like this, but it felt like such a perfectly American moment, probably a perfectly New York moment. I’m really gonna miss it here.