Last July 4th, my friend Nic and I spent the evening on the Manhattan side of the East River, stuffing and drinking ourselves silly at Zum Schneider’s outdoor Biergarten. The grill was sizzling and smoking with bratwurst, frankfurters, whole fish, and corn on the cob. All accompanied by free-flowing kegs of German beer and soft pretzels. The place was packed, we had to be creative with our seating arrangements, and made new friends in the process.
When the fireworks started, everyone stood on the picnic benches, some danced on the tables, and we all enjoyed one of the best fireworks in memory. The after-party continued at another German establishment that was a small trek downtown and that’s all I can remember of the evening other than our crowd being a mix of random nationalities including one American who then claimed to be German pretending to be American. He talked a lot about football and David Hasselhoff. Go figure.
This year, fourth of July was a family-oriented affair with my kids Wee Scotch and Li’L Ginger joining Nic, myself, and some friends on the East River to watch the fireworks. This time on the Queens side.
Instead of German sausages we had Hillshire farm Italian ones cooked on a stove top, no grilled fish but we baked up some chicken legs that were elevated to awesome-tasting status thanks to a blackening spice by Whole Foods which imparted a smokey spicy flavor to the meat.
Nic also threw together party staples of salsa and cheese dips plus her special spinach and fresh corn salad. I was rather useless – my duties included sprinkling blackening spices on the chicken and taste-testing the food.
And instead of German beer, we had a variety from the US including a refreshing-citrusy grapefruit beer and Pittsburgh’s best, Pabst Blue Ribbon. When asked what I wanted to drink for the evening, my only reply was, “Whatever I can’t get in Dubai.”
I mean, look at that beer photo – this is one of the things I miss most about New York. Being able to get a variety of beers – largescale and microbrews – at the grocery store with no additional hassle of a liquor license or visiting a designated liquor store.
Around 8pm, after making sure the children were well-fed, we herded them downstairs towards the river. There was still an hour and a half to go before the fireworks started so we lay a picnic blanket on the cobblestone and let the kids sit and stare at an iPhone until the rain started to come down hard.
I was really proud of my kids. None of them complained about being wet. Maybe because it was such a novelty for them since it so rarely rains in Dubai (on those special rainy days, we go OUT to play).
The fireworks started around 9:30pm and both kids were entralled with the colors and sounds. I was worried that it would be too loud for Li’L Ginger who’s two (and a half) but she wasn’t bothered one bit.
The show lasted only 20 minutes and the finale wasn’t as exciting as last year’s (maybe it was cut short this year due to the rain). Wee Scotch must have thought the finale was a bore because he fell asleep while watching the show on Nic’s back. That kid can sleep through anything…and apparently, anywhere.
Getting home was an adventure. First we had to deal with finding a lost shoe and had to head back against the flow of people traffic.
Then the skies completely opened up and there we were, one big kid asleep in a stroller meant for a baby, one baby asleep on my chest, two adults, no umbrellas nor raincoats and still two trains to take to get back to my car for the hour-long drive home.
At each train station there were no elevators, so to navigate up and down the long flights of stairs Nic would shout at random strangers over the noise of the downpour, “Hey! Hey you! Could you guys please help us with this stroller?” And thank goodness everyone was kind enough to oblige.
New York is always full of adventures for the kids and me. July 4th was only our first weekend in the city and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more adventures in the coming weeks.