Monday, July 6, 2009

On picnics, fireworks, and fire trucks...

Another July 4. Usually it's the sizzle of barbecues and sun. This year in New England we’ve had the wettest, darkest, dankest June and early July ever. But still we pack up our swim suits and towels and head down to Long Pond in Plymouth where friends own a slice of an old Girl Scout camp situated on Long Pond. They sleep in what was once the camp’s infirmary (there's still a red cross on the door).

Get there early enough (we don't) and you’d be in time to attend the annual flag raising and a reading of the Declaration of Independence, an event that has taken place in a little grassy clearing every July 4 for more than 50 years. It’s an informal affair with maybe thirty people. We walk back after and our friend Joe turns down his outdoor smoker where he's been smoking brisket and ribs for the last 12 hours. Patty-Joe Bakes the world’s best blueberry pie. Lots of grandkids arrive.

This year we were afraid we be getting another kind of fireworks--thunder and lightning. Turned out to be a spectacularly beautiful night. On the drive home, we enjoyed the splashes of fireworks that erupted from the sides of the road.

What are your July 4 traditions?

JAN: I have a confession to make. I hate fireworks. Mostly because my kids were terrified when they were small and it was always a problem. But also because they just seem like the same loud thing over and over. My poor husband, who loves fireworks, thinks the rest of us are killjoys. Which we are.

We don't have a single tradition, but we either go the (Martha's) Vineyard to barbeque with friends and check out the Edgartown Parade, or go to my sister-in-law's house here, outside Boston, to swim. This year I'll be packing all weekend to leave for France on Monday. That's not very patriotic, is it?

HALLIE: Fireworks scare me, too. If only they didn't go boom. And hanging out on the Esplanade there are always a few idiots who think it's cool to toss cherry bombs into the crowd. But watching a great fireworks display is truly breathtaking. If only you could hit the mute button.

LATE BREAKING BULLETIN - Jan broke down and braved the Esplanade Fourth of July Fireworks, and had a great time. "They were terrific!" Here's her photo.

ROBERTA: Oh I'm so jealous of your trip to France Jan!

As for the holiday, I love living in our small shoreline town where the Fourth is thoroughly celebrated. I started with the farmer's market yesterday (crammed with summer tourists who can sniff out a good thing,) then the fireworks, which we watch from some rocks on the beach nearby. It doesn't provide quite the same oomph as close up, but you can't beat the spot for no traffic and crowds. The mosquitoes were wicked this year because of all the rain. And finally this morning, our town parade. We get everything from Jazzercize to the town selectmen, to the Shriners, to fife and drum bands, to our very own fire engine. We hoot and holler at everyone we know as they go by.

HANK: As a reporter ,there are no holidays. So for years, I worked on the Fourth--but sometime was lucky enough to cover the fireworks (I love them!) on Boston's Esplanade. It's a truly different experience to go as reporter. Instead of waiting on the incredibly crowded lawn for hours and sitting with--what, half a million people? You just zoom up in the news van, park right behind the Hatch Shell (where the performance is) and stand in the front row. Of course, you have to be on the air five or six times, so there's no relaxation! And when the fireworks are over, you're still at work. But I loved it.

But now, we sit with friends in our back yard, listening to the Boston Pops on the radio, and have lobsters and corn and rose wine and ginger ice cream with raspberries. And--if you look in just the right spot between the branches of the sugar maple--you can see the tops of the Newton town fireworks.

HALLIE: Ooooh, that sounds (and looks) delicious.

RO: I was more of a sparkler kid than a firecracker kid. I just didn't get what was so great about something that sounded like a car backfiring and left little bits of paper all over the sidewalk. (I was a tidy child.)

Serious fireworks on the other hand are pretty nice. I don't go out of my way to see them but I usually watch from my terrace in NY on New Year's Eve. And last week I saw some pretty cool ones when I was on top of the Eiffel Tower.

Nothing but noise this year in Connecticut. And my husband forced me to sit through the movie 1776, which is one of the worst musicals I've ever seen - and over three hours long. That's what I get for making him watch Easter Parade every year.

HALLIE: Ah, yes, sparklers. I loved them, too. And we used to get these little things we called a teensy weensy, miniature hockey pucks that you lit and coils of ash erupted from them. Mesmerizing.

On the side, is anyone watching the new Miss Marple on PBS? Last night it was "A Pocket Full of Rye" -- such a clever, intricate plot. The actress playing The Marvelous Miss M (Julia McKenzie) doesn't quite match the standard set by Joan Hickson--but who could?

Independence Day traditions? Any baton twirlers out there? Miss Marple? Where are you this Monday after?


  1. I, too, watched the Miss Marple last night and loved it. I usually have a huge problem with televised mysteries (to me rather boring) and never really liked Miss Marple in general (blasphemy!) but truly liked this protrayal and will watch all six episodes I think. The casting was good in all aspects, IMHO.

  2. Sorry i didn't chime in on this. I had a house full of guests and a book launch this week and seem to be rushing around clearing up after massive meals.

    We did go to friends for spectacular view of fireworks over the Bay. They seem to go over the top these days, don't they? I remember as a kid being impressed with one rocket at a time, not a whole sky full. The age of excess.

  3. I've TiVo'd Miss Marple and can't wait to watch it.

    We traveled and had a small-town Independence Day--complete with fire trucks spraying kids with water cannons, bike decorating contests, and cookouts! :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I loved many of the older PBS Mystery series. David Suchet as Hercule Poirot is perfection. John Thaw as Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse and Kevin Whatley as Lewis. Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. Leo McKern as John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey. Wow, wow, and wow....

    And then there have been some ringers, mystery adaptation for public television that are sooooo bad I almost tore up my pledge (but I didn't). Including the last set of Miss Marple dramatizations on PBS with Geraldine McEwan whose version of the sleuth is too ditzy for her angora. Or Diana Rigg as the abysmal Mrs. Bradley (and I'm a major league Avengers fan).

  5. Hubby loves fireworks, hates crowds. We usually watch the fireworks from Universal Studios from our driveway, but they were much later than usual this year, so he'd given up.

    It's so dang hot, we just vegged.

    I'd forgotten all about those snakes! You could see the little black circles in the sidewalk for a long time after.

  6. We had sparklers as kids--we used to bend them, and spin them, and then get yelled at.

    Tivo'ed Miss M--can't wait. Oh, loved the Avengers. And The Prisoner. Blogs for another time.

    Rhys' pub date tomorrow!! And I don't mean "Pub" I mean "PUB"!
    Congratulations..and watch this space. (Okay, not this actual particular space. But come to JR tomorrow for Rhys' news..and confessions.)

  7. Our town (population 22,000) has an annual parade, not in the center of town but around the green at one of the earliest parts. This year it was short and rather sweet--there were floats for waste disposal and a hairdresser. The high point was a Boy Scout float recreating the Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima--on a mount of dirt on a flat-bed truck.