In my experience, the 4th of July is one of those holidays that is generally better when you aren’t living in a big city thousands of miles away from your family. Because I grew up celebrating the Fourth on a remote beach on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, being a 20-something in an apartment just hasn’t proved effective for having a fantastic summer bash centered around lighting food & explosives on fire. Especially in LA, where the beaches and parks are crazy busy, you aren’t allowed to grill most places, and the fireworks shows are busy (and sometimes pretty cheesy), so unless you happen to have a friend or family member with a backyard and a pool (or you go out of town), your options for celebrating Independence Day are limited.
Mostly, I haven’t even attempted to celebrate since I moved to LA five years ago. It just doesn’t feel right to me unless we are shucking corn with dogs running around, kids with sparklers on the roof of the beach house, Dads breaking out illegal fireworks, and fireflies buzzing all around us. (J’s family also has a enormous annual bash at a local park – complete with REAL fireworks – it’s kinda his Grandpa’s thing.) This 4th of July, however, I was determined. As of 10am on the 4th of July, that is (as I mentioned before, J and I didn’t make a single plan beforehand. But I woke up determined.) For starters, we’ve been a little busy with preparing to move, preparing for family visits, and preparing for a new dog (more on that soon). We couldn’t go out of town because of our busy-ness (though we had an invitation to go tubing in Palm Springs – would’ve been amaaaaazing), so an LA 4th of July was as good as it was gonna get. Usually, that involves watching movies all day and driving around at dusk hoping to see some sort of a firework. But seeing as we’re about to move into a house that would remedy the no-pool-no-backyard syndrome, we decided to make it count as our last non-house, lazy LA 4th of July. Kinda bittersweet in a way, it feels like I’m becoming a ‘real adult,’ whatever that is. This was the 4th of July we wouldn’t have a cocoon to nestle into and pretend we don’t live in Los Angeles.
So we looked for plans. As luck would have it, Hall & Oates was pulling a double header 4th of July Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl, and tickets just happened to still be available for not outrageous prices. So we bought a couple. But that didn’t start til 7:30pm, and we had the entire day to kill. And it was hot. And we don’t have AC (yet). We must have been feeling a little insane, because we decided to hop in the car and drive all the way to the luxurious Paradise Cove in Malibu (for non-LA readers, this is not a close beach – nor a cheap one.)
We had it all mapped out – 4 hours at the beach, just enough time to come home, shower, and get ready for the Hollywood Bowl. But then we got to Malibu and noticed we weren’t the only ones who made plans to go to the beach today. Whowouldathunkit? After driving up & down the PCH for longer than I would like to admit, we finally finagled our way into a parking spot at Paradise Cove – which we only paid $3 for, thanks to validation after eating a meal of questionable quality. The beach was packed of course – the worst kind of packed, too – frat boy packed. Plus, we had all the double nipple piercings, Swarovski crystal-embossed bikinis, and full back tattoos we could handle. Instead of searching for a spot to lay on the hot sand, we splurged & rented a couple chairs & an umbrella thinking it’d allow us some degree of relaxation. And it was nice – that beach is gorgeous, after all – and had it not been for the constant grunts & howling from our rowdy neighbors screaming “Party fouuuuuul!” over spilled buckets of calamari, I think it would have been quite perfect. After 2 hours of driving, 1 hour of eating, and 2 hours of reading & sleeping (& me applying layer after layer of SPF50), we decided we’d had enough holiday beach time, and headed back to civilization. It wasn’t quite the beach excursion we had in mind, but hey, we tried.
The second half of our 4th of July plans were even better. Despite horrendous traffic (partially due to the police arresting Paris Hilton’s stalker/intruder outside her Malibu house on the way home – ahhh, life in LA), we made it back & began the trek up to the Hollywood Bowl with time to spare. The show was packed, but even our cheap seats were good seats (one of the reasons the Bowl is amazing), and it was so much fun. I’ve never had a desire to see Hall & Oates live, but I can say this – I’ve had “You Make My Dreams Come True” stuck in my head ever since we left. I also finally got to hear that song that older folks sing when they meet me (imagine going through life having people sing you a mysterious song whenever you say your name… it’s kinda weird!) Additionally, both of our mothers were extremely jealous and went all squealy on us when they heard our plans (apparently Daryl Hall was quite the dreamboat in his day?)
Best of all were the fireworks, which were truly spectacular when backed up by the LA Philharmonic Orchestra… somehow they timed it all perfectly and the fireworks went off on the right beats of the Star Spangled Banner & other patriotic tunes. They were probably the best fireworks I’ve seen in my whole life and I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a little bit when they lit up the cheesy backdrop that said “America” and had a picture of an eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and some other patriotic icon that I can’t quite remember at this moment. To top off the night, we even made it home in time to watch an episode of House Hunters. We are a couple of party animals.
All in all, a perfect little last non-house Fourth of July. And I normally don’t do recap posts on here with play-by-plays of our daily life (who wants to read that anyway?) but I felt compelled to document this for some reason. It would have been easy to do the usual lazy LA 4th of July, and I’m proud of us for making some kind of effort to celebrate a holiday just the two of us. Perhaps it’s just a reminder to myself that just because you live an entire country away from your family, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate holidays the way you would have celebrated them back home. Sometimes you just have to put in a little effort!
Except next year. When we’ll be sitting by the pool eating grilled corn & (turkey) burgers. With a dog.
Photo: Greg Manis / me