We were eager to see the fireworks and 4th of July Parade in Washington, DC and so we left Thursday night for a friend's house in Silver Spring near the Capitol. On our way we stopped at a Burger King to get the King of Burgers: a Whopper with cheese. These burgers are the best, I'm telling you ; big, round and scrumptious, with juicy tomatoes, pickles, onion rings and American cheese melted on a grilled patty and of course, the famous BK sauce.. hmm. To die for. Well, it's been 7 weeks since I ate my last Whopper. I guess that makes you appreciate a good burger even more. They have these BK commercials where they fool customers that they've discontinued the Whopper and people start to freak out. I found two of these commercials for you. The first one is a real live short commercial, the second one is filmed at a BK in one of Minnesota's Afro-American neighborhoods. Note that the second movie is a parody, full of profanity and so not suited for sensitive people. ;)
Some how, I think I'm in love with about anything that is an American icon. I love baseball caps, T-shirts with any kind of logo on (colleges, sports, etc), a comfortable sweat shirt and pants, converse all stars, pick up trucks, yellow school buses, and of course the star spangled banner. I don't know if it's the stars or the stripes but the flaunting flag mesmerizes me every time.
I vision myself sitting in my future apartment, surrounded by hundreds of vintage Cola glasses and model pick up trucks, and life-like posters of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Mickey Mouse hanging on the wall. Well - I don't think it'll ever come that far.
Another thing that often strikes me are the huge distances in this country. Here we are, driving down to Silver Spring and taking Highway 70 going West, when we come across a sign that states the mileage to the next cities along this Highway. Last one: Cove Port - 2200 miles ! (3520 km!). Take that, Michelin !
So Friday morning, we go to this quilted diner, one of the many authentic American restaurants around the East Coast, and have breakfast. Hits from the sixties and seventies are playing through authentic table juke boxes, waitresses in skirts run around like chickens and I'm freezing my butt off because the AC is going full blast. You can tell people are getting ready to celebrate Independence Day; some of them are dressed in a red, white and blue-outfit, especially their kids (hey, if you have a kid, why would you make a fool out of yourself, right). Platters stacked with Blueberry pancakes, Benedict eggs, sausage links and bacon zoom by while my nose lingers after, but having had a Denny's grand slam for breakfast every morning (scrambled eggs, toast, sausage links, hash browns (potatoes) and two fluffy pancakes with maple syrup) during my trip at the West Coast, I opt out for the American Breakfast and end up ordering a Philly cheese Steak.
This hearty meal was well worth it, because after taking the Metro to downtown Washington, the humidity was excruciating. Also, by the time we reached Constitution Avenue (the street that runs parallel to the National Mall), the Independence Day Parade seemed to be running to and end; we barely reached the sidewalk to see a floating eagle hovering by and dozens of smiling Krishna's yelling "We love you" to the crowd, waving and tripping over their robes.
We had to go through one the security check points before we could walk the green lawn of the National Mall. They spend millions of dollars on security; every visitor needs to go through the security gates (just like in the airport), bags are checked and suspicious people frisked. When you walk around Washington, you do think about the possibility of a terrorist attack. I mean, it's the 4th of July, you're in the Nation's Capitol with hundreds of thousands of people, what better time to be bombed by the Al Quada, right ? But you try not to worry about this and enjoy the festivities around you.
Not that there were much during the day. The Smithsonian Institute had organized a Folklife festival. Texas was the state of honor, the country of honor was Bhuton, and NASA was also present. I still don't know how NASA would have anything to do with Folk life.
Bhuton was the most interesting section on the Mall. They had built a Buddhist Temple out of wood and metal. I didn't go in there. It was 35 degrees Celsius outside, sweat was dripping down my spine and dozen of people were lined up to take a peek inside a shack that was decorated like a Buddhist temple. If I had to sweat this much to see a temple, I'd rather go for the real thing and travel to Tibet.
So I ended up doing what most Americans would do when they're too hot ; I fled to air-conditioned buildings. Thank you America for having free Museums in Washington.
I visited the contemporary Art Museum, the Smithsonian Castle and the National Air and Space museum. Pretty impressive this one with authentic satellites, rockets, space shuttles and a bunch of airplanes from the era of Grimm to World War 2.
Of course, this all American Day would not be complete without a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Diet Coke from Mc Donalds. 7 bucks for a meal ! Very undemocratic, I thought.
The real reason we wanted to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington DC was to see thousands of Americans going out of their minds on the National Anthem and of course to see the fireworks that this celebration is famous for. But not one hyper, beer drinking American sang the American National Anthem or yelled out crazy stuff into the direction of the White House.
By 5PM, thick dark rain clouds rolled in. We were hot, tired, and soon to be rained out and since it wasn't until 9:30 PM that the fireworks would start, we decided to just head back home and go for the best seat which is in front of our own TV. And we were happy we did, because the show was disappointing. The fireworks seemed to vaporize into the misty rain clouds looming above the National Mall. Hell, the NY fire works above the Hudson river turned out to be even more impressive on TV.
What a bummer this day was. But, I did get to be a part of this big Nation's National Independence Day.
Check out a few pictures :
In 2001, Aki and I celebrated our first 4th of July with the Edlefsen family in LA. First we went to the famous Hollywood Bowl and then there was a fair at El Segundo with pie eating and hoola hoop contests. That night we watched the fire works in El Segundo. This is we're we've seen the best fire works show so far. Best part: I made a movie of it back then: stick with it till the end, you'll see why (and see a 19 year old Aki).