4th of July

To those who are not familiar with US history: July 4th is their big holiday, Independence Day. On July 4th 1776 they declared their independence and became the United States of America.  So it was not quite a normal day.

One thing happening every year on 4th of July is Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Nathan’s is New York’s most famous Hot Dog place, founded by a Polish immigrant in 1916 on Coney Island. From the very first year on the Contest has been taking place there. There is a men’s and a women’s contest. Competitors have to eat as many dogs and buns as possible in 10 minutes.
So I took the subway all the way down to Coney Island (takes about an hour), where I found a crowd gathered between the subway station and Nathan’s, on Stillwell Avenue.
The Contest had not started yet, they were doing entertainment. Soon after I arrived a woman was singing the National Anthem. I could not see her, just hear her. Her name was Daniela and according to the power of her voice she could only be black. White women cannot sing like that.
I found a spot where I could watch the final of women’s contest of a huge screen. The record holder, Sonya Thomas managed “only” 36 ¾ Hot Dogs in the given 10 minutes. Her record was 45. Nevertheless she won. The second only managed 36. She is not big however. A normal sized young woman. Crazy, isn’t it.
I stood in line to get myself a Hot Dog with sautéed onions and homemade lemonade and took a short walk through the amusement park to get to the boardwalk. For some reason part of it were fenced off by police. A yellow ribbon said: “Crime Scene do not cross”. Will have to check the newspapers to find out what was going on there. Lots of people were walking towards the beach, carrying chairs and big bags, pulling carts containing half their households and enormous cool boxes. The boardwalk and the beach were full of people of course. I will come back there on a quieter day.

On my way back to town I made a stop in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn’s traditional Italian neighborhood. I didn’t have any information and no map with me, so I just walked some streets, looking like small town America. Will have to come back here as well, to find Italy.

The B train took me right to Greenwich Village, what I thought would be a good place to stroll in the afternoon of July4th. I started with Caffé Reggio, and old fashioned and famous literary café.
It is a small place on Macdougal Street, dark inside and all brownish. The ceiling has brown iron tiles, the walls are painted brown and hold old paintings, plates and figures, the floor is dark brown wood, there are carved wooden benches in the corners and lots of tiny tables with brown iron chairs. A huge old coffee maker is standing on one wall. Above the door to the tiny toilet a quote of Edgar Allan Poe is hanging: “To look a fool is the secret of a wise man”. I had an iced Chai Tea Latte and my very first cheesecake, with strawberries on it. Delicious!
I was walking along Bleecker Street over to Hudson River Park to check out if watching tonight’s Macy’s Firework, the real big event on 4th of July, would be possible from there. I head read that the High Line and all waterside parks would be closed (why?). All rooftop bars were having parties you have to pay a fortune for. In Hudson River Park a lot of police was all around and they just started to set up barriers. So I thought the park would be closed as well. Lots of people were sitting in the park or lying on the grass, having picnics. I walked north to the Meatpacking District, which was pretty busy as well. People were sitting in restaurants and cafés having a late lunch or just a drink. It might be a spot to catch at least a glimpse. I walked along 14th Street over to 5th Avenue. There it got commercial. A girl was selling little flags and other stuff showing Stars and Stripes on it. A couple offered painting – that is painting the flag onto your face. I turned south to Washington Square Park.
Again a lot of folks were hanging around there. A dance group was performing, children happily played in the fountain. Skaters found their way through the crowds and the lawns hosted groups having a picnic. I sat down on a shady bench, got rid of my sweaty shoes and started reading New York Stories on my smartphone. A guy nearby was feeding pigeons. He had a bill asking passers-by for food for the pigeons. So all the birds crowded around him.
At half past six I walked up to Becker Street again to see if the Risotteria I had a gracious invitation for had tables available. It had several tables available – but they did not give me one, because it was a holiday and on holidays they don’t give tables to just one person. So I just could sit at the bar. I should have left, because this was nonsense. But I had planned to have my risotto today, so I accepted a seat at the bar while some tables behind me kept unused. I had risotto with shrimps, peppers and spinach and it was really good.
After dinner I walked over to the Hudson again. Don’t know why – I expected it to be closed. But surprisingly it was not. People still were sitting and lying around. Even more people than in the afternoon now. Police was present, but their barriers were not in use. But it was still two hours until the firework would start. So I was walking north again, following a stream of people just to see that starting in the Meatpacking District all access points to the river in fact were barred off and the High Line was closed. So I walked back. Hudson River Park was quite packed now. I could conquer a little gap between a couple with a little boy in a stroller and two young girls – and herewith had my net to perfect viewpoint right at the water. I stood there for an hour, watching night the coming in, the lights going on. One World Trade Center got illuminated in white, red and blue. Lots of boats and dinner cruisers were lying on the Hudson, waiting for the spectacle as well. Moving was limited. I would not give up my premier spot. After half an hour I felt like on a ship slowly moving. But it was just the river right in front of me that was moving. New Jersey came up with tiny fireworks at 9 pm. Macy’s kept us waiting until 9:30. But what they came up with then was worth all the waiting. It was really a great show. It was not just simple firework, it was arts in the sky. They showed hearts, satellites, other shapes and patterns and huge raining balls. Simply stunning! It was fired from boats on the river between 23rd and 59th Street.
When the spectacle was over it was a slow procession to the subways I headed northeast to catch the L on 14th street. It was just a bulk of people flowing into given directions. The L trains were packed but running with a higher frequency. New York was going home.
At my home the party was still going on, but only a few guests were still there. The barbecue was finished, the roof deck abandoned. I was too towered to join them. I fell in my armchair, checked emails and today’s weather – and fell asleep before even going to bed, disregarding the noise outside. So this is why this post is a little bit delayed…

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One Response to 4th of July

  1. Martin says:

    Why don’t we Germans have fireworks on October 3rd, Reunification Day? I remember wonderful fireworks on a hot summer night on July 14th at the Cote d’Azure in France. Maybe it’s because we’re allowed to fire millions of Euros into the sky at New Year’s Eve? But that is a cold, frosty night, while 4th and 14th of July are warm and cosy. We must be mad!

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