Thursday, July 6, 2006

Gettin' Sweaty with Strangers

Dear God was it hot here on the 4th of July.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that DC tends to be less than comfortable in the summer. It's a swamp. I can deal. But this past Tuesday bordered on inhuman. The heat index was well over 100, and it was muggy muggy muggy. It was not the ideal day to go watch a parade with people I barely knew, but by golly, that's what I did.

In three years in DC I had rarely done the 4th of July properly. One year we went down to the Mall to see the fireworks, and the preceding two years I had seen them from my semi-obstructed view on my roof. But I had usually spent the day hours hiding from tourists. But a new friend that I made while kayaking last month insisted on seeing the parade, and I was keen at the time. I don't think I need to do it again.

Maybe since it was my first big-city holiday parade I had higher than ususal expectations (not counting Greenwich Village's Halloween parade, which is less of an organized public event and more of an eventful public orgy -- you should really check it out), but I was underwhelmed by the DC Independence Day parade. It seemed to be heavy on marching bands from Wisconsin and Asian-American community groups, though the all-girl marching band from Taipei was incredibly intimidating, and had fabulous boots. I don't know what it is with the Taiwanese and DC civic events (see the previous entry on dragon boat races), but they like to come here to kick ass and drink bubble tea -- and they're all out of bubble tea.

They did have a lengthy section dedicated to Vietnam vets, complete with helicopters on trucks going through the streets. It was nice to see everybody cheering for the hundreds of vets that turned out to march, so that was worth enduring the heat.

Despite the inclement conditions, I was in unusually gregarious spirits, and new friends were made. One particular companion of Kayak Friend seemed to have the scoop on all kinds of get-to-know-your-neighbors events, and invited us all to a friend of a friend of a friend's house on Capitol Hill. It's not uncommon for the young singles scene in DC to include going to a complete stranger's house for some kind of potluck, so off we all went. I'm not sure I ever did meet the people who actually lived in the house, but that also is par for the course. I did run into Old High School Friend Alex Angert, whom I last met at a similarly random house party around Halloween. DC is too damn small a town.

Having partaken of somebody's hospitality long enough, it was time for fireworks. By this time we were a merry, sweaty band of people who had known each other an average of 10 hours in total, and were very chummy. We found a semi-undiscovered vantage point on the steps of the Library of Congress to watch the festivities, and all found seats on the Metro afterwards. Good times.

I have no idea how many of those people I will ever have contact with again, but it was a fun, spontaneous holiday. It sure beats watching it on PBS. And since the DC social scene has proven to be so damn insular, chances are I'll be seeing some of them at some other stranger's house sometime on Labor Day.