How I Spent my 4th of July, by Kit Russell, Age Thirty-Nine and Seven-Eighths

Ever since I was a  kid, my family has been spending the 4th of July down at my grandmother Margy’s house in Long Beach.  She lives right on the canal in Naples, and we would take her sailboat, Starlight, out to watch the fireworks off the Queen Mary.  There, my dad would engage in the traditional battle of wits against the Harbor Patrol that his father had begun, to see how close he could get to the fireworks barge.

Margy is 101 years old now, and Starlight was sold several years back.  My aunt and uncle are in Hawaii, one cousin was one a road trip, and the other had to work.  Still, a few of us made it for the traditional gathering.  I rode down with my sister and her younger son, Bug, and met my dad and stepmom there for lunch.   We had fried chicken and pasta salad and tabouli and deviled eggs, and some super-yummy garlic bread made from Zankou Chicken’s garlic sauce.

After lunch, my dad and Bug  went kayaking, and got in a few water fights.  Though the city has closed off the canals to non-residents, which has stopped the flotillas of beer-drinking, water-balloon-slinging partygoers that used to fill the canal on the Fourth (and leave the canals full of empty bottles and cans and red plastic cups, and bang into boats and floats, and sadly the actions of a few dipshits ruined it for the responsible people who didn’t pollute or ram other people’s property), there were enough locals to engage in battle.

(Margy’s neighbor had a hand-held propeller straight out of James Bond, but did not, sadly, use it to launch hit-and-run water-balloon attacks.)

After they came back, they jumped in the water, my sister and I jumped in the water, and we all swam out to the buoy that marks the end of the canal.  Bug brought his water cannon with him, and found a few people to use it on.

After we got back there was pie, and discussion of the old wives’ tale about getting cramps and drowning if you swam within an hour of eating.  And then there was a little more swimming and I got into a one-on-one water cannon battle with Bug.  And then we went home, because my sister had a party to go to with her fiancé.

The rest of the day was pretty low-key; nobody really felt like fighting crowds to drive anywhere for a fireworks show, and when you’ve spent your childhood being close enough to have ash fall on you, watching fireworks from the “safe distance” that they allow is kind of meh.  So we stayed home, and gave Zip her Doggie Valium.  Snoop has gotten too deaf to hear the fireworks anymore (mercifully).   Princess grew up next to Disneyland, so she’s completely desensitized to fireworks, Batcat is jumpy about everything, so fireworks were nothing new and we kept Crog (the only cat who isn’t 100% indoors) inside for the evening.

My mom and Bug went out for a walk, hoping to find someone with fireworks that they were lighting off.  (They’re illegal in the city of Los Angeles, but there are plenty of nearby cities that don’t have the same restrictions, and nobody bothers enforcing the law.  The police officer who lives down the street had some of his own, last year.)  I stayed on the deck, and watched the illegal fireworks from the next street over, and listened to the mariachi music floating in from somebody else’s backyard.

There was a bit of panic when Zip didn’t come for dinner.  Usually if you say the word “cookie” anywhere in the house, she comes running.  But we found her, curled up between the sofa and the chair, completely zonked.  Yay Doggie Valium!