The Answer: Commemorate in one’s own special way.
As an American in Frankfurt, Germany, it was incumbent upon me to sing songs of patriotism and wag my tail in celebration of my beloved country’s independence on July 4th. Although the setting was different—stuffy trains, foreign smells, and ubiquitous Germans snacking on dry bread—the mentality was the same. It was the fourth of July, a time to celebrate America.
Friday, July 4th, 2008.
I found myself lacking the Fourth of July essentials: fireworks, barbecues, ballgames, family, friends, and public drunkenness. And, it was a regular workday to boot. But the decision was made almost instantaneously to let this serve only as a minor impediment. I would begin my morning commute imagining a Boston Pops performance with a spectacular fireworks display on the Esplanade. The child in me would have to surface in order to create a magical Fourth celebration—in my own head. I was off to a decent start, too, when halfway through my commute I realized that not a single soul on the U5 train was sharing my enthusiasm. Wax mannequins had more life than some of these people. But I needed to remember that this was not America, and that July 4th meant nothing to these folks.
The emotional trauma of having to work on this sacred day eventually subsided and I found myself with a leftover chunk of time in the late afternoon to do as I pleased. I wouldn’t be gearing up for the traditional cookout at a friend’s house, or the crazy boat party with my one friend that acted like a drunken pirate by shooting bottle rockets out of his arse, nor would I partake in an evening fireworks celebration. Instead, I was on my own with all of forty euros in my pocket, a chip on my shoulder, and nowhere to celebrate.
Step 1: Find something/anything to do:
Head over to the Zeil, Frankfurt’s shopping boardwalk that’s jam-packed with people who can’t walk straight, reckless pigeons producing copious amounts of pigeon poop, and surreal-looking beggars. That’s exactly what I did.
The objective was to keep busy, just enough to curtail any feelings of sadness associated with the separation from America’s Fourth of July festivities. So, in human fireworks-like fashion, such as your classic jumping jack, I hopped from store to store and even back to some of the same stores, looking for the holy grail of birthday gifts at an unbeatable price and a shipping profile that matched the weight class of a pack of gum. Much to my chagrin, the search lasted a couple of hours, only to end with me being close to throwing an adult tantrum due to the overzealous crowds and my unconscionably unoriginal buying decision.
Step 2: Pick up some goods at the supermarket:
On the way home, I made the mandatory Fourth of July grocery store items purchase, and since there’d be no grilling, my list was modest: frozen pizza and a new orange-flavored German beer. I even added an extra pizza baguette to the mix for good measure. Now I’d have something to work with for the evening’s celebration.
Step 3: Listen to a patriotic song:
I chose the ever-popular “God Bless America.” YouTube offers many different artists’ rendition of this powerful anthem. For some extra cheese, I watched the ending scene in the movie The Deer Hunter, which features a heartfelt sing-a-long of the song. “Here’s to Nick.”
Step 4: Watch the Red Sox vs. Yankees game:
This was the cherry on top to a somewhat bland Fourth of July celebration. But it is something to be cherished and remembered, solely for its personal touch. We ate baked pizzas, drank chilled orange beer, and sat on our butts for several hours, indulging in the wonderful television experience that was the long, somewhat bizarre—one player’s attempt at a ball that bounced out of his glove and then took a brief nap on the wall before falling onto the grass for a hit—sporadically exciting, and always entertaining match-up between baseball’s two great rivals. I reminisced about past Independence Day celebrations as the lady by my side struggled to keep her eyes open. And in between, I’d throw in a comment or two about my love of baseball. I’m sure she would’ve had more fun filing her nails instead of listening to me blab, but I really didn’t care. It was the Fourth of July, and it was my right to celebrate everything American, regardless of where I was in the world.