My Dear Reader,
I like Independence Day. It's the only day of the year when people don't hassle me about wearing my collection of Old Navy flag tees, which I have bought every year since 1999 and wear as often as I can. If you know me, you know that this is not a joke. I wear them because I love America, and also because I am simultaneously celebrating my independence from the fashion advice of others. This year, however, my Independence Day started on the third of July, not because I went somewhere exciting or because of my apparel, but because that's when people started pitching tents outside of my apartment. There was a parade the next day, and every year I live here I'm surprised at how big of a deal it is. Since the parade route was thirty feet away from where I lived, it was very strange to suddenly have a shantytown of parade enthusiasts join the neighborhood. I tried to imagine them all with lots of scraggly facial hair (yes; all) and a simmering hatred for Herbert Hoover, and they became instantly entertaining. It's pretty amazing what a little imagined facial hair will do.
The next day happened to be a Friday, when I'm scheduled to be at work from 6:15 A.M. to about 7:30 P.M. That means I have to catch the bus at 5:50, and as I greeted the young day with its pink clouds and purple sky, the squatters were still there. Watching me. And of course, you know what they were all thinking: that I was going to steal their primo spots. Well, I wasn't about to let them intimidate me. Does it look like I have a blanket? I didn't think so. And I kind of live here. It's hard enough to get used to waking up that early, but there's another element entirely when you have an audience. They eventually got back to doing whatever squatters do at six in the morning, which turned out to be playing Call to Duty 4 with an HD TV on the lawn of a stranger. I also noticed two trucks perched on the street, one selling pizza, the other selling slushies. And even this early, there was still a line for the Port-O-Potties.
The sad thing was that because of my work schedule, I wasn't going to be able to watch this beloved parade at all. Instead, I would spend the day indoors making sure that thousands of missionaries had food to eat and that their dishes got washed. But it turned out that the parade floats were all sitting in a parking lot that I cut through on my way to the bus stop, so I guess it was kind of like I got to see the parade after all, and I was thinking that it all worked out quite nicely. It wasn't until I got to the bus sop, though, that I realized the buses don't run on holidays, and I started to think that I was not working so nicely after all. And then I started my own personal parade.
I live a little ore than two miles from where I work, which is just great if you happen to have a car. Or a driver's license. Or a bus. I've had to take this parade route many times, in fact I had one it earlier that week while it happened to be a hundred degrees outside. It's times like those when I am particularly grateful that I'm from California, and therefore immune to some extent. Still, when you start your working day pouring with sweat, it's not exactly a good omen. I just don't know how those pioneers did it, because I believe that they walked about thirty miles a day, six days a week for three months. Considering that those were the days before deodorant, polygamy wasn't just controversial; it was a miracle.
My thoughts on the Mormon pioneers were incredibly fitting, I thought. I don't know if you've been watching the latest PBS specials, Gentle Reader, but apparently Mormons equal America. I should have my own national holiday. In all seriousness, though, I think that the pioneers embodied the kinds of things that we celebrate every July fourth: the fight for freedom. That is why they went to Utah, after all, in the hopes that people would stop killing their fathers and husbands in the middle of the night. I know for a fact that the Californian educational system would have you think that they just did it for fun and giggles, but it was quite the contrary. And at six in the morning, it occurred to me that the missionaries I was going to be feeding were our modern-day pioneers. After all, they do sacrifice a lot in order to help people learn how to free themselves from sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ. They're kind of spiritual Minutemen. And suddenly, spending up to fourteen hours that day feeding these guys seemed a very appropriate way to spend my holiday.
I got off in plenty of time to watch fireworks, in case you were wondering. One of the biggest Independence Day thingies in Utah takes place right in my proverbial backyard, which I don't actually have, seeing as I live in an apartment. The entire state was in an uproar because Miley Cyrus (a.k.a Hannah Montana) was going to be performing at the thingie, and she just so happens to be the biggest thing these days. I didn't notice; I've had to read Heart of Darkness every semester for the past three years. Luckily for me, though, it meant that there was more room to watch the firework show on nearby fields. Which was where I watched the fireworks show. I was at first worried that I wouldn't have anyone to spend the holiday with, since Petite Souer, my only relative this side of Salt Lake City, informed me that she and her boyfriend would be spending the evening on a picnic under that stars. It was pretty sad, too, considering how much I am America, especially in my flag tee. She felt sorry for me and invited me to come, but I was way too smart to fall for that trap. Instead, my Nigerian and Bulgarian co-workers invited some of us Americans to share the fireworks with them.* And then, they ended up not being able to find us, so we Americans had to settle for each other. It was fun, and the fireworks weren't bad, either.
We tried to leave right as the show was over so we could beat the traffic, but we grossly misjudged when it would end, and we were in the car right as the finale began. It was pretty cool, though, because we were actually getting closer to the fireworks, and they filled up the entire car window. It was quite a breathtaking experience. And as we drove past the MTC, we saw the missionaries, each standing outside intently watching the fireworks, and all with their hands over their hearts.
They are so America.
Regards, best wishes, and independence,
*They were at first mistaken about the fourth of July, thinking that we were celebrating the end of the Civil War. I soon put them to rights. We could never have a holiday for the Civil War because too many people are still upset about that.