National holiday: The 5th of July

Woke to regrets: Forgot to grill shrimp! And little-neck clams! A true grillfest needs seafood. A clam off the grill, teased from its shell and dipped in butter, is the true taste of summer. So that was a major missing element from my Fourth. Otherwise it was culturally appropriate in every regard. As usual I helped judge at the neighborhood parade — a position of responsibility that obviously leaves me drunk with power. Have to make a mental note not to lord over the neighbors my special stature as parade judge. Also, mowed the yard, fiddled with the garden, made the traditional big pot of beans, and then drove downtown to park illegally and watch the fireworks. My favorite part of the fireworks exhibition is the crescendo, by which I mean the moment when I get back to the car and find no ticket.Yes!!! The unadorned windshield fills me with childlike joy.

On Gawker this morning I see a screed against Independence Day, by Ken Layne, which some will find offensive but I sense is a classic case of tossing chum in the water to get a reaction. Much funny banter in the comments. Say something outrageous and let the fun begin.

Here’s the truth about the Fourth: It is a low-stakes, easy-going holiday. Yes, it is a patriotic holiday, and we celebrate our freedoms, but in the main it is just a mid-summer break, with minimal commercialism compared to some holidays. There is no shopping frenzy in the days leading up to it. There is no requirement for a heroic sit-down dinner anchored by The Perfect Turkey. Even Halloween is more fraught with demands than the Fourth. And although you could make a similar argument for Labor Day or President’s Day or Memorial Day, they tend to be in busier times of the year. On July 4 you can do pretty much whatever you want, in shorts and a T-shirt.

And now it’s the Fifth of July, effectively a second-tier holiday, a “work day” in quotes, nicely sandwiched this year between an official holiday and a Saturday. I’m heading to work a bit late here, and I’m guessing that downtown DC will be post-apocalyptically empty, which is how I like it, provided the emptiness is for the right reason (and not because of, for example, an actual apocalypse). And you know what I’m really looking forward to? The Sixth of July! It’s all good.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | July 2, 2013