I love Independence Day, and I especially love a long Fourth of July weekend. It really is one of my very favorite holidays. As an American Witch, I tend to think of it, not the Summer Solstice, as my real celebration of summer. I nod at the Solstice; I celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and playing outside and those red, white, and blue bomb pops. But it's more than that, of course. I talk about the redneck side of my family a lot. However, my great-grandmother came here from Hungary to escape an arranged marriage. She was one of the last suffragettes in America--it outraged her that women couldn't take full advantage of American freedom. She drilled it into our heads that we were Americans and we should be proud of that fact. I never miss an election, and I never let the Fourth go by without thinking of her. Of course, even if she hadn't drilled gratitude to be American in our heads, Zimbabwe's sick, violent joke of an election would remind me to be grateful. Our election has been petty, ugly, racist, mean, polarizing, and stupid. But nobody's getting macheted to death in the streets, nobody's getting arrested, nobody's watching their baby get killed over it, and we're probably going to have a new president when it's over. That's worth celebrating.
The celebration looked a little different than the ones I enjoyed in Florida until a few years back. We went to L'Ailee's friends' apartment in Manhattan to watch fireworks. They have a hell of an awesome view, but there are five people in that apartment, and they pay dearly. I'm glad to be in an unfashionable part of Brooklyn, which is bad enough. We stayed overnight, too, though there wasn't much room. We stayed because it would have been hellacious trying to get back. It was a good party, though. We didn't have to bring much, just some chips and sodas. I went grocery shopping for a few last-minute things, too. I actually like grocery shopping, and this is apparently a minority taste, so I helped by going. We danced, we drank, we talked about national and international politics, we watched fireworks, and then we talked some more when we were tucked up in sheets on the floor. L'Ailee, as I've said before, is a 1.5 generation immigrant--she came from Russia at age 14. There were others like her at the party, and the rest of us had an immigrant parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent. We shared stories upon stories, of naturalization and the ethnic foods we grew up on and our ancestors' lessons to us. We came from such a variety of cultures, but there were so many commonalities. E pluribus unum--out of many, one.
I could have met several members of a really cool online forum that I (sorry!) have not had much time for lately. I could have, but I had to watch the Coke Zero 400, previously known as the Pepsi 400, previously known as the Firecracker 400. I almost wish I'd gone to the meetup. Now, I don't miss a Daytona race. The Daytona International Speedway is my home track. I spent some of the happiest moments of my girlhood there. I wanted to get married there, for Gaia's sake. My father proposed to my mother at the 1973 Firecracker 400. So it's sentimental to me as much as anything, but I also hoped to watch Tony Stewart snap his streak. That....would....not....fucking happen. I just now dried my tears, y'all. You may have heard that Smoke was much too sick to finish driving in that race. Tony is not a wimp when it comes to playing sick or hurt. He once left Victory Lane to barf after racing sick and has raced with broken bones. He had to be *bad* sick. And poor JJ Yeley, the former Gibbs driver who relieved him, probably has whatever crud knocked Tony out of his car now. Yeley really did a terrific job. Had Yeley driven like that when he was with Gibbs, he'd have kept his ride, and we wouldn't be hearing very much about Kyle Busch. I know some people wish that would happen. :-)
I am a very superstitious woman and proud of it. I am also pretty good at recognizing patterns. At this, the first Coke Zero 400, the Coca-Cola company promised coupons for free Coke Zero 20-ounces if one of their drivers won. Stewart is one of their 13 drivers. So are Elliott Sadler, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle, and Denny Hamlin, who all wrecked. I don't know about you, but there's no way in hell I'm drinking that stuff again. L'Ailee can have the one free bottle they're giving our household. She prides herself on not being at all superstitious. Yes, we even out.
Firecrackers are a wonderful Chinese export that makes summer that much better. So are pandas. Members of Pandas Unlimited, Flickr's cutest community, went on baby watch yesterday. The National Zoo's staff is officially doing it now. Their pretty panda matriarch Mei Xiang looked restless and stayed close to the birthing den all day Sunday. Very promising behaviors. Her son Tai Shan turns three this week, on July 9th; he may have to share a birthday week with the baby! :-) Summer is, of course, baby season for a variety of mammals, and July and August bring us new pandas. Remember how the Wolong panda reserve was at the epicenter of the Chinese earthquake? Wolong lost five staffers and two pandas, it turned out, after a too-optimistic early report. They have basically had to farm out most of their bears to other reserves and zoos around China while they rebuild. But this weekend, one of the earthquake refugees, Guo Guo, gave birth to twins! Babies bring such hope.
Freshly born baby pandas are not only shockingly small, but shockingly un-cute. In fact, I would venture that pandas have the highest neonatal ugliness to eventual cuteness ratio in the world. This is Guo Guo proudly showing off one of her new twins. Don't you just want to scream, "Oh my GOD[s], GET THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!"? But Guo Guo knows what she's doing, and she's careful with her big sharp teeth, and she loves that ugly little thing already, bless her heart.
Hopefully next week I will have a lovelier picture to post, such as Tony Stewart finally climbing the fence for the first time in 2008!
I'm actually going to post tomorrow or the next day about stuff that's been on my mind. Yep, it's either feast or famine here. But there are always links!
Lynn Johnston, creator of the formerly brilliant comic strip For Better or For Worse, got *served*, both by Stephan Pastis in Pearls Before Swine today and by Hark! A Vagrant a couple weeks back.
If you think Nanny Bloomberg in NYC is awful--and he is--check out these other horrifying incidents of food policing. I added WHAT IS GOING ON? to my blogroll based on this.
How to really piss off your cat.
Of all the dating sites, a bisexual dating site run by a gay-owned company has discriminated against a transsexual man for being trans. Yet another reason to be happy I'm not single. Most bis I know wouldn't mind dating a transperson one little bit!
Lastly, if you believe you can judge a person by what he reads, you'll love this article on Barack Obama's literary tastes.