Summer, if anyone is wondering, has arrived in New York City. The humidity crouches outside every store, office building and Duane Reade waiting to accost each human being who leaves the comfort of air-conditioned heaven. Every afternoon, there is a Mister Softee truck selling ice cream cones on Wall St. for the hot and sweaty traders. Back at home, I spend countless evenings on top of my covers while the window fan blows thick, wet air around my room in vain. Yes, summer has definitely arrived.
This past weekend was July 4th and despite my excitement for fireworks and beaches, I learned the hard way that no self-respecting New Yorker stays in the city. No one. These forward-thinking individuals make plans for the Hamptons, New Jersey shores and literally anywhere else in traveling distance in order to avoid the swarming locusts affectionately known as TOURISTS. But despite the mass exodus, our little apartment on 41st St. gathered the last remaining souls of a Friday BBQ and a perfect start to the long weekend. We played games, drank beer and generally lounged. More than one neighbor slowed down while walking past and I’d like to think they approved of our kick-off weekend activities.
The summer I interned in Washington, D.C., I spent the entire afternoon lying on a blanket and staking my claim for a prime grassy spot near the Washington monument. As my friends arrived and the sun set, we listened to a big brass band and clapped for the best firework show I’d ever seen. And while there were crowds and noise, I felt like I was at the heart of America celebrating with the forefathers’ newest generations. This perfect memory of our nation’s capital was in no way related to another very American showing five years later (July 4, 2015) on Coney Island: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The ride to Coney Island itself is an epic journey, almost 1.5 hours from Queens through Manhattan and out to the southern rim of Brooklyn. Thousands of families, couples, young kids and enthusiasts sporting live snakes and colorful outfits showed up for the event. The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy, small children and sweat mixed and floated through the crowd. Above the din, I could just make out the screaming voices coming from the various theme park attractions and roller coasters near the beach.
There is something simultaneously inspiring, revolting and ultimately patriotic about watching grown adults try to stuff as many Nathan’s hot dogs into their mouths as possible. In only 10 minutes with the aid of water and jumping (to assist gravity), Matt Stonie ate 62 hot dogs to beat out the reigning champion, Joey Chestnut. The crowd went wild in the remaining seconds and I couldn’t help but feel like all of America was cheering for something grander than the simple consumption of wieners.
As the event ended and our little party neared the beach, it began to rain. The drizzle was enough for us to roll up our damp towels and hop back on the N,Q bound for Brooklyn. While the original plan was to watch a movie in A/C (decidedly American), we stumbled upon Patsy’s Pizzera and immediately fell in love. The pizza was glorious and we had the back patio all to ourselves. The service was only second to the personalized visits from the owner, naturally named Tony, who gave us sangria and shots of Grappa on the house. Full of delicious food and a slight buzz, we made our way to the grocery store to purchase necessary snacks for the evening firework stake out.
I want to tell you about the visit to my friend’s apartment in Park Slope and the angry taxi driver who navigated the streets of Brooklyn to bring us toward the East River but there just isn’t time. Sufficient to say, we found a beautiful location between the Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge where we laid our towels and waited for the rest of our party to arrive. By 9:30pm, our group of 11 looked south with eager anticipation as the first firework lit up the sky.
The confusion and disbelief last approximately 15 seconds before the majority of the crowd realized the fireworks were being shot off directly behind their line of sight. The very sturdy and thick foundation of the Manhattan Bridge completely blocked our view from all but the edges of the largest explosions. Immediately, the masses made their decision. The crowd split into those who began running south for a better view and those who simply laid back down and cracked open a beer. Our little group did a combination of the two and I was able to capture the finale from my prime location behind a small tree.
A small wish to you, dear readers:
“May your humidity be low, your spirits high, and your stomachs full in all the days following our country’s birthday until July 4th returns one year later bringing new Old Navy flag shirts and iffy promises of sunny skies.”