My Greatest 4th of July Ever

By Denise Pace

my greatest 4th of july ever OK, first off, I remember a multitude of childhood 4ths at a park in Normal. Your basic TV 4ths: family, cool summer evening grass, fireworks that looked and sounded so near you were afeared you would be hit.

I remember a later 4th wherein a boy asked me to marry him. I said no. Duh. I remember another 4th wherein a friend and I broke in to the roof of Navy Pier, smoked up, and settled in to watch the fireworks. We waited a long time. Finally, while back on the ground wandering around trying to figure out what had happened to the fireworks, we ran into a nice policeman on K-9 patrol who explained that there were No Fireworks on the 4th in Chicago. Duh. Shortly afterwards, I got tangled up in a knife fight. Took me awhile to realize what was going on, but I finally managed to extricate myself from betwixt the youths with the beefs. But that's all in the past now. I want to tell about THIS year's 4th.

The idea was to meet up with the fARM folks. Got a place, got a time. Should be easy.

We agreed to meet on the 4th at the Taste of Chicago under the official auspices of the fARM flag. We even had a flag-making party the night before, which rapidly and predictably degenerated into merely a party, with the flag lying appropriately forgotten on the kitchen table after we'd made some solid efforts at hand-sewing the aforementioned 6' x 4' behemoth. We're just good-hearted folk, with every intention at possessing the kind of follow-through that necessitates great accolades, particularly when encouraged by beer.

So believe it or not, at 3pm, the appointed hour the next day, I could find no evidence of a flag-designated meeting place at the Taste. I hung around on a corner, reasoning that these are not the kind of people to be ruled by mere minutes, and that surely I would find someone. Sure enough, a few minutes later I found two—both also perplexed at the absence of the flag. And a few minutes later, we found another person. We discussed the topic of our mysterious inability to detect the beauteous flag, and finally hit upon a plan: we would look for Steve. Steve is a fellow who has a knack for finding people that he knows in crowded places. If we designated ourselves to be a group in the crowd, surely Steve would stumble upon us. And then we could control his powers, and harness them, and thus find the greater portion of our group.

We waited. It was hot. Somebody got hungry and left, promising to return to the corner soon. The group tactic wasn't working. We decided to send out an advance scouting party. Now there were only two of us left. Doop-dee-doop-dee-doo...small talk burdened by the weight of waiting. And what do you know, the advance scouting party returned with Steve. And Steve had already found the rest of the group. And we followed him to the group. And there was no flag.

There were reports of the flag. It was being worked on as of 10am, certain to be finished in time for the 3pm meeting. Someone else had heard that it was still being worked on at 1:30pm. There was one final, damning report: a contact had spoken with the flag workers (one self-described "Betsy Fucking Ross" and one "Hillbilly G") at about 2:30pm, and was assured that the flag would be complete and out of the house in another hour, at 2pm. Upon being informed that it was currently already 2:30pm, the flag workers raised much commotion and the phone went dead. We took this well. It meant the flag was on its way!

And sure enough, at about 5pm, there arrived via bicycle the flag workers, who were now our gods. The flag was raised, and we were blinded by its many colors. Across the top on both sides, hand-sewn mind you, were emblazoned the words "the fARM." In the middle were a crossed hoe and shovel. The bottom,

All the other homemade flags bowed in the heat to our flag's blinding glory. Yes, on your knees, crude Camp 7. Yes, prostate yourself, bedsheet with markered letters saying No Dan. And all you pansy store-bought flags, whatever country you may represent, prepare to be represented to by the fARM flag!!!

We settled in merrily, basking in the pride of our flag, brushing off passersby who wondered whether we were part of a cult, with hearty, knowing laughter. And then we drank some beer.

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Copyrightę2002 by Denise Pace.

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