Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A True Independence Day

For the 4th of July this year, we went to Philadelphia. There really was no other logical choice, given the extensive history of the city and how it served as the birthplace for so many pieces of our nation's history. So, since it's only a half-hour drive, we felt it was pretty much our civic duty as Americans to celebrate in the very place that it all started.

Philadelphia celebrated the nation's birthday for 11 days this year, concluding Monday, July 5th. There were various events going on across the city during this time, but we just made it down for the big day. Our goal was to be there and ready to go by 10:30, so we could catch the parade. I was really surprised at how small the parade was... the maps only showed it going about 8 blocks, LoL.

We got down there with plenty of time, and planned to park about half a mile from the end of the route. But the lots there were empty, so we moved closer. We ended up able to park at the Constitution Center, which was a mere three blocks away. We also had front row to the parade (right about 5th & Market), which was pretty neat, since it was HUGE. As in, took two hours to pass by, even though the schedule read as if it would only take an hour. There were all kinds of fire engines and floats and dancing troupes. There were groups from Wyoming, Missouri, West Virginia, Washington DC, and more. I had forgotten to charge my camera, so after the parade I have very few photos of the rest of the day, oops.

lots of different cultural dancers
police van. really.
the German group had a gigantic bicyclereally old firetruck old dairy truck

After the parade we went to lunch in Chinatown. I was excited about a true Chinese meal (omg do I miss California food!!), but got silly-nervous about the prospect of not having any English again. Jonathan picked out a place called Joy Tsin Lau that was doing a discount for the 4th (10% off with events calendar), and we went in for dim sum. We were seated after a short wait, and had delightful service throughout. Our waters were refilled twice (very important when it's near 100 degrees out!), and the carts came by at pretty good intervals. The food was fresh and hot (at least three out of five of our dishes were fresh-out-of-the-kitchen), and very good. We had pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings (but a different kind), bacon-wrapped shrimp, pork fried rice, and something that now escapes me. The cart-pushers knew the names of the meats in English, and that's all we really needed so that was fine.

Then we did a little shopping. We browsed a Chinese bazaar and a Chinese bookstore before heading back to the Historic district. We popped in a giftshop and picked up some document replicas that we've been meaning to collect. Then we decided it was time to move the car. While Philly has a pretty decent public transit system, the morning events and the afternoon/evening events weren't really conducive to easy back-and-forth. Plus, the garage we chose in the morning had a 6pm limit anyway. We drove across town (and by this I only mean like 4-5 miles) and found parking about 8 blocks from the street fair.

We staked out a nice shady spot on a grassy hill and set-up camp with a towel and some books. We enjoyed reading and people-watching for a couple hours, then took turns getting dinner (to save our spot). I wandered the options and went with a sausage-peppers-onions sandwich. Jonathan tried a gyro, and we split a plate of fresh-cut potato chips. The chips could have used some seasoning, and it wasn't the greatest gyro for $9, but we didn't feel ripped-off, either. Around 8pm the opening band started, then The Roots came on about 8:25, but they played over an hour. We got up and moved toward the end of their set, as we realized that our shady tree was going to block our view of the fireworks. We found a good place to stand, and watched as Goo Goo Dolls performed next (again, a little over an hour). We were kinda disappointed in them as a live band (timing of songs, acoustic vs. electric, pauses, etc.), but overall they did an okay job.

The fireworks didn't get going until around 11pm, but they were magnificent. A full 20 minutes of beautiful works of art in the sky. I guess that's what a big city can do for you, LoL. Now, it wasn't Disney or anything, but it was darn good. Where they really failed, however, was with musical accompaniment. There was some, but it was quiet, unfitting, and ill-timed. Opening with Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" is one thing, but then straying from the patriotic canon was kinda unacceptable.

We beat the rush heading back to our car, but poor police traffic control made it beyond difficult to exit the city in a reasonable manner. I'll spare you the details, but know that it took about 90 minutes to go a mile (maaaybe a mile and a half) to get to the highway. Once we were on that, no problems and a straight and quick drive home.

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