The Cost of Independence

5th of July

I am writing to you from the wilds of Independence Day Hangover. By the time you read this, there’s no telling what shape I’ll be in. I’ve heard tell, however, that year after year people try to travel to this faraway land. Perhaps you are already planning a trip for 2014? Thusly, I will share with you my journey so that you might be better educated on yours.

While some might begin with a parade or day at the beach, I chose to get to IDH by way of a rooftop barbeque in Brooklyn, NY. This becomes a more accelerated trip, as you must wait until the sun is almost down before beginning—the tar-topped locale is almost impossible to navigate under the blaring light of the sun. There are also additional preparations one must make before setting out. Along with the outfitting and cooking I will discuss later, there is a cleansing that takes place. In my case, there was the possibility that dogs and children might be encountered on a leg of the adventure. As such, I, along with my fellow hosts, had to comb the roof for any cigarette butts and bottle caps past travelers might have left behind. The roof was riddled with such filth and you never know what, at the peak of the expedition, an adult, let alone child or animal, might stick in his mouth.

In the extreme heat, we also had the pleasure of finding an inexplicable amount of broken glass. This brought a real element of danger to the foreground. Broken glass is not something you want around whilst heading towards the famed IDH. True, sharp objects can come in handy when you’ve misplaced that knife you swore you brought up with the condiments, but this is not a time for innovations. Since you don’t know who might abandon their shoes or what might fall from a precariously stacked card table, you want to make sure that blunt plastic knives and the three kinds of pasta salad other excursionists brought without proper serving utensils are the only things one might get under foot.

I have just realized that I forgot to start you off with the most important piece of advice I have: acquire ice early. It is imperative to the quest. If you wait until the afternoon of July 4th to buy that frozen staple, you’ll find yourself aimlessly wandering from bodega to bodega wondering how a cooler without it will possibly be able to keep your chardonnay cold enough for comfortable consumption. Four bags of ice will fortify you and your beverages through your migration from cheerful get together to that moment at 3am when you find a bag of unopened sour cream and onion chips and sneak off to the other corner of the roof so you don’t have to share.

Now I shall discuss the aforementioned outfitting. While it is important to be comfortable when setting out for IDH, if I’m to be honest, festiveness trumps all. In my case, the best pair of American flag booty shorts I could find was, unfortunately, made of sweater material. Did this stop me from wearing them? Of course not. Just as one cannot be sidelined by bottoms that ride up your bottom, one cannot dismiss a pair shorts simply because it might make your undercarriage a bit swampier than usual. Red, white, and blue is the uniform for this day and if you find a piece of clothing with all three of them arranged as a flag, you wear it, goddamnit. Gentlemen take note: this is one of the few instances where wearing a tank top is acceptable, embrace it.

There are two phases of cooking that occur on the way to IDH: preparatory and charcoal-driven. Preparatory cooking goes best with a healthy dose of teamwork, as this is salad time. Pasta, mixed greens—no matter what your base is there will be plenty of chopping to go around. You want to make sure all the ingredients to your dishes are well balanced throughout, so never forget the importance of a good salad tossing.

Once you get to the roof, you will encounter the second cooking phase. With charcoal, lighter fluid, and a platter of raw meat in hand, here is the moment for leaders to be chosen. Yes, the Grill Master is an important role, one not to be taken lightly. However, as the adventurers begin to reach varying levels of inebriation—inevitable—it can become necessary to shift to new, fresher Grill Masters. I’ve seen up to three or four in a single trek. What is important is an ability to piece together a meat puzzle that fully utilizes the surface area provided, as well as a healthy awareness of the power of fire. I’ve found that the latter tends to lessen over the course of one’s post, which is why it is especially good to hand the tongs over to a new Master.

With time, more and more people will drift to your barbeque, seeking IDH. As the sun sets and true night occurs, things will feel as if they’re starting to get out of control. Though chaotic, this is normal. Therefore, your best course of action is to embrace what is happening, barrel through it, and know that you will survive—probably.

You can expect light shows (termed “fireworks”) battling each other in every direction: neighborhood versus neighborhood, local versus the city at large. Though you might see more elaborate lights in the distance, your affinity will likely be for those closest to you, as they will create a boom in your chest and a glow on your face.

While the illumination wears on, the dogs you’ve decided to keep in your apartment below will run wild. There is so much noise at this time of the trip that they can tell something is amiss. I bid you to be prepared, if you also have a pooch, to clean up excrement, likely evacuated from the body, and then trampled by paws. Do not blame them; they are a more nervous species than you and I.

People will dance. People will kiss. People will fall and cut themselves, creating the emotional and physical scars that can last a lifetime.

People will yell out into the night: “Where’s my box of wiiiiiiiiiine?”

People will fill empty beer bottles with the offerings of such boxes.

This is when passage to IDH is finally guaranteed. Before it was just a notion, a place you suspected you might arrive at. Now it is a certainty.

On the morning of the 5th, you will wake-up. Your refrigerator will have one beer, many bread products, but no hot dogs or hamburgers in sight. Though you counted at the start to make sure there was the right amount of each, you will not despair. For you, good friend, are in IDH: the land of sweating in heavily air-conditioned rooms whilst watching Law & Order marathons. The land of three-hour naps and the occasional debate of whether or not now is the time to throw-up. Where the only thing you can do is look to the positive: one day, maybe later today, you will leave Independence Day Hangover, but for now, if nothing else, you are bun rich.