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BOOM go the fireworks!

The Washington Monument wreathed in smoke from fireworks
The Washington Monument wreathed in smoke from fireworks

What do Little Richard, gunpowder, Subway sandwiches and my dad have in common?

They all worked together to make my Fourth of July incredible.

It’s been an incredible couple of days with Dad, really. It feels like he’s been here a week, what with everything we got to do:

He arrived Saturday afternoon. We went to Tiffany Tavern, which I’d heard had live bluegrass. Bluegrass is very hit-or-miss for me. It can easily get too nasal and whiny.  But good bluegrass? Good bluegrass is unbeatable.

And it was good at Tiffany Tavern. I got so into the music that the bass player, when we left, told me, “I was getting a lot of energy off of you! If you leave here and you’re just like —” he feigned his entire body going limp ” — it’s cause I stole all your energy!” I am so going back there.

Sunday, we went to church at National City Christian, just down the street from me. The pipe organ will shake your teeth in your jaw, I swear.

Then we grabbed coffee at Peregrine Espresso and made our way to Ben’s Chili Bowl for half-smokes. After failing an attempt to explain what a half-smoke was, it was off to the National Geographic to take in the Race to the End of the Earth exhibit about Amundsen’s and Scott’s efforts to get to the South Pole. (Being the nerd I am, I couldn’t help but ooh and ahh over how the information was displayed, thinking the entire time about how I’d present the same information in an interactive infographic. NatGeo should hire me.) We were there a good two hours, if not more. We headed back to my apartment to regroup before leaving again to tour the monuments at night. No sooner did we come through the door than the sky exploded with sideways rain. I’ll never get used to rain in the summer!

That gave Dad the opportunity to give me an early birthday present: a fantastic lens made for shooting in low light. Perfect for our evening’s adventure!

After taking care of some email and other mundanities, we headed out in search of food. We tried Standard DC because we wanted barbecue, but the outdoor seating didn’t bode well with the rain. El Centro next door was too loud (and, frankly, being a Californian from Arizona, I’m a complete snob about Mexican food). So we headed to ChurchKey to kill some time before dark. It took a small age to elbow our way to a table and get food, but, boy, was it ever worth it! Delicious NC BBQ pizza (and the beer wasn’t half bad, either).

The monuments at night were a blast, especially with the new lens to document the tour. I think we must have walked at least four miles Sunday, with two miles to the monuments and back alone.

Monday, of course, was the Fourth. I made the mistake of thinking I had to work (nobody told me I got it off!) so I spent the majority of the day at the Post. It was productive, at least: I got to spend time tackling a JSON issue I wouldn’t have had time to figure out otherwise. Dad watched the parade down Constitution Ave., took pictures of classic cars, and got his picture taken with the Lone Ranger. We met for lunch in Eastern Market, where just about everything was closed. (We did manage to find Le Pain Quoitendantitentfrenchish, which was unpronounceable but had amazing sandwiches.)

That brings me to my next observation: why the hell is everything in DC closed on the Fourth? I would have thought it was a HUGE day for business!

The plan was for me to go back to work. Dad would toodle around the National Botanic Garden for a while, and then head up to the Capitol to secure our seats for A Capitol Fourth. I’d join him around 7 with sandwiches I picked up on the way.

Except…when everything is closed, it’s very difficult to pick up sandwiches on the way. Potbelly’s: closed. Corner Cafe Bakery: Closed. Au Bon Pain: Closed.

Even CVS was closed, so I couldn’t even grab snack food.

I will admit I was a little panicked. I’ve got some blood sugar issues that had hit me the previous day, and I knew that if I didn’t eat sometime in the next six hours, I was going to be miserable and lightheaded all through the evening. I called Dad to see if there were anything in the surrounding area — no such luck, it was all on the Mall.

Then, on my way to the Metro, I remembered there was a Subway nearby that I hadn’t checked.

I have never been so happy to buy Subway in my life.

So I hopped on the Metro, braved the throngs of people around the Capitol, and set out in search for Dad (who helpfully wasn’t answering his phone). While searching for him, I heard a female voice call my name — or the name “Heather,” anyway. I always make the mistake of thinking someone’s talking to me. So I did a double-take, realized there was no WAY it could be for me, and then saw one of the undergrads from a Cronkite class I lectured to *once* waving at me. Holy crap, the world is small.

I did finally find Dad. (More accurately, he saw me wandering around lost. Fortunate, as the policeman wouldn’t have let me up onto the steps if Dad hadn’t already been there!) We sat on the cramped marble steps for another hour or so before the concert started. I really don’t know how he had the patience to sit there for nearly two hours prior to the concert, but I felt bad that I hadn’t been waiting it out with him.

The concert itself was so much fun, especially when Steve Martin played the banjo with his bluegrass band. They opened with “a sing-along that has no words” and ended with the Orange Blossom Special. Between that, Little Richard blowing out his microphone, and the military marching bands playing the traditional marches (including, yes, the Washington Post March) while the fireworks exploded over the Washington Monument, it was hands-down the most amazing Fourth I could ever imagine.

We walked the more than a mile and a half home, detouring through Chinatown just for the hell of it. The entire way, little explosions and squeals went off in front of apartment buildings as people set off their own (likely illegal) fireworks. Dad commented that it was almost like walking through a minefield. And while it was the coolest thing to look up and see random starbursts overhead, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I could react with joy at the explosions instead of fear. America is beautiful because so many people face ugly things to preserve her. That is something that is so often missing from these celebrations, but it’s something we should never let ourselves forget.

Published in A Cowgirl in D.C.