Well, we survived another weekend 4th of July at the beach. We go back and forth about whether to go down to the beach to watch fireworks every year, and this year we decided to get on our bicycles and brave the Friday night crowd. The beach is a great place for people watching, and this year did not disappoint. Unfortunately, much of the good people watching was while we were riding … and not very conducive to taking pictures. Still, I managed to get a few.
Starting with … the actual beach. In years past, we’ve ventured down on the beach to watch the rockets red glare. It’s crowded enough on a mid-week 4th of July, but when it’s on a weekend … there’s really no reason to bother. People who only go to the beach one weekend out of the year choose this weekend to go, and I can’t say that I blame them. It’s open, seating is free, the fireworks are shot from the Jacksonville Pier, so it’s an unobstructed view from almost anywhere you’d care to go. On this day, the tide was coming in as the evening wore on, so all those folks who’d staked out spots below the high tide line kept pushing back and pushing back and pushing back until everyone was pretty much jammed up together on a 20 foot wide bit of sand. When people start shooting off their illegal fireworks down on the beach in that kind of a crowd, well, it doesn’t seem very safe. So we chose a different venue.
Of course, there was the usual compliment of funny hats and kitchy beads and light sticks and such in evidence. This “Cat in the Hat” wannabe was serving at a restaurant called “The Atlantic”, which is ocean front. I’m not sure what a table at The Atlantic was going for last night, but given the crowds that were stumbling up and down the sea walk, I don’t know that it would have been a particularly good place to be. By the time we got down to the beach about 7:30, there had been a whole lot of alcohol consumed, the band at the Seawalk Pavilion was croaking it’s way through the EP version of “Celebrate” (or maybe it just seemed to be going on forever), the saggy, baggy pants brigade was showing off their mostly almost clean boxer shorts, one little girl stepped on the cherry from a cigarette that someone had carelessly dropped onto the sidewalk, and thousands of bicycles were rolling through the broken beer bottles that were already lining the streets. Beach visitors at their finest. Needless to say, I didn’t ride this morning.
So, we paid to go up to the martini bar at Casa Marina for the fireworks show. It was about as civilized a place to watch as was going to be found, though a few drunks found their way up there as well. They were at least drunks who could afford to pay $30 a head to get up to the martini bar. Andie actually ordered a chocolate espresso martini, and then a second one a little later, which Jessica, our server pictured here with Andie, was only too happy to bring. We had a little tappas, I had a couple of beers, Andie had her martinis, and the fireworks were spectacular. I’d set up the tripod in the bar, and I burned through probably 300 frames during the show. The best ones are, as you might expect, up on Flickr.
Something tells me that there was more than one person who wound up like this before the night was out. He was passed out at the base of the steps leading up to the front door of the scenic and historic Casa Marina Hotel. While he didn’t have a crowd around him taking pictures, I know that I’m not the only one who decided it was a shot worth getting. Yes, he’s on Flickr as well, for all the world to see. I wonder how coherent he was when Sterling went to roust him off the steps, or if today, he’d see this picture and wonder “Damn, was that me? Was I that drunk?”, Yeah, dude, you were.
You’ll notice he’s a member of the Saggy Baggy Pants Brigade. I wonder if that’s prophetic.
As we rode home, the traffic on Florida Boulevard was backed up almost to Penman for people trying to get off the beach. The light at Atlantic must have been on it’s regular weekday short cycle, and they were creeping along behind the house. It was a really good thing we were on our bikes.
I know, this all sounds kind of negative, and in a way, it is. I’m not sure the best way to celebrate our independence is with drunken debauchery, bad bands, and mattress sales. I’d like to think that, as I wrote a couple of days ago, the people coming to the beach to celebrate might, just might, have a little respect for the place they’re visiting. That the wouldn’t get upset that there were tens of thousands of people at the beach, so its going to take a little longer to get off the beach. That the people walking and riding bikes have a right to be there too, and just because you drive a 3000 pound automobile doesn’t automatically give you the right of way. Or that the drunks on bikes might realize that just because they’re tooting their little clown horn or ding-ding-dinging a bell doesn’t mean that everyone else on the road or sidewalk has to get out of THEIR way. But that’s what they expect.
And then they wonder what causes the bad attitude in all those other people.
I love the 4th of July, I really do. I love the fireworks and the symbolism and what it stands for. I love that I live in the best, most free country on the planet. I just wish people would spend more time reflecting on what Independence Day means, and not just use it for an excuse to get howlingly drunk.
I know, Christians have been saying the same thing about Christmas for years, but that’s another post.