Fourth of July is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. Firstly, because it’s not religiously affiliated. Secondly, because it generally involves some combination of the following three items: fire, grilling meat and alcohol. All in the name of patriotism. I’m not sure how our fourth of July traditions evolved to include these potentially disastrous things together, but I’m thankful they did.
However, there are few songs that connect with the holiday for me. Sure, there are all the patriotic anthems if you want to get stereotypical. There’s really only one song that reminds me of a particular fourth of July.
While I was still summering at home on the West Coast, it was something of tradition to go out to the cabin of some family friends on Harstine Island, which is in Puget Sound. It’s right on the water, so it cools off at night, and it’s far from any big cities, so it gets really dark. Because it’s so quiet and woodsy, everyone is shooing off fireworks. You can stand on the shore and be surrounded by bright, colorful lights in every direction — including an Indian reservation. They always delivered. Big time.
I was more or less left to my own thoughts at these holidays, and often I’d clear my mind of everything associated with my life in the cities, my life in New York, my life in Seattle, and just spend hours using as many senses as possible.Â Watching the water roll in waves, skimming my hand on top of soft, pointed blades of grass, listening to the sounds of voices from far away, smelling the musk of the forest and the smoke of barbecues in the air… the taste of alcohol.
Drinking in the country is a joy, particularly because there’s little to no ramification. You have a few drinks, you soak up the surroundings, you lay down in your tent — done. Then came modern technology. Like cell phones. Bringing the possibility of a drunk dial to your fingertips, even in the most remote of places.
One particular fourth of July, my brain found it hard to escape the mental prison of thinking about an ex.Â It all started so simply, remembering what I had done fourth of July the year before. Ah yes. Last year, I was wrapped up thinking about so-and-so, because we were just starting to get things together. If you don’t cut the path off at the earliest signs, next thing you know, you’re heading full speed to a place you’d rather not return to. And there it was. The Dismemberment Plan’s “The First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call.” On the mix CD I had made for the drive out (this was before iPod days, unfortunately). At the time, I couldn’t explain what had compelled me to put it on there, it just seemed to fit with the mood and tone of everything else I was including, so there it was. The third song.
Several hours (and drinks) later, I found myself, in the car, searching for my phone. I locked myself in and started singing “The First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call” — out loud, of course. I found the phone, held it firmly in my hand, and began to scroll down to the name of my ex in the address book. I stared at it. And stared at it. I closed the phone… then opened it again. I listened to “The First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call” on the car stereo. I had made up my mind. It didn’t matter that it was late, that my ex was in a time zone three hours later than I, I was resolved. But, as I finished listening to the song, and picked up my phone, something happened.
I frantically struggled, turning it on and off, taking out the battery, taking out the SIM card, charging it in the lighter, to no avail. It was dead. Not only could I not call my ex that night, I couldn’t call him any other night, because no phone numbers were saved to the SIM card. Just the phone’s internal memory. Which was now dead.
It only took a night of sleep for me to decide that this was some sort of sign disguised in technological breakdown and, not to mention, probably for the best.
And I was never tempted to drunk dial an ex after that.