A mid-80s Fourth

happy4thSchool has let out and I’ve celebrated by wearing the same pair of shorts for the last five days. I don’t really seem to wear shoes these days, and I lounge and eat a lot of watermelon in front of my fan. My shower is a dry basin in a distant land. I crave baseball. I have exactly no idea what day it is today.

Summer is here.

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for my summers as a kid. I’m talking something like 1985 or so, when at eleven years old, I spent a great deal of my time in no shoes, no shirt, and no air conditioning. My mother brought my siblings and I to the community pool a lot, we ate peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and drank Capri-suns. We got ticks and poison ivy and stitches. I watched the Phillies get slaughtered by anyone they shared a diamond with, and was as brown as a ferret from July until September.

With the Fourth of July today (I looked at a calendar), this nostalgia has been exacerbated. And I wondered if perhaps a good old mid-80s Fourth of July picnic celebration might help me scratch that nostalgia spot.

The city of Prague sets off a series of fireworks every night. There is plentiful beer, booze, and soft drinks to be found. Local trends in dining have made hotdogs, American-style sandwiches, and hamburgers more ubiquitous in Prague than in the entirety of Langhorne, Pennsylvania. But this isn’t exactly what will satisfy my Fourth of July nostalgia cravings. I want it like I remember it, and I remember it from when I was a kid.

So I think that today I will strip down to a bathing suit and run around the neighborhood barefoot. I’ll find a neighbor’s sprinklers, and run back and forth through them, mostly judgment free.

Then I need to find a picnic. It’s easy enough to find hotdogs and hamburgers in Prague these days. It’s just as easy to find other picnic fare, like potato salad, pickles, fruit salad, and corn. But I want a hotdog that looks like ET’s finger: long, thin, crusty, sort of burnt, and covered in mustard. I want a hamburger that has been left on the grill too long because the grill master needed to fetch another Genesee Cream Ale from the cooler. I want that burger to have a half a strip of white American cheese bubbling on top of it.

I want to battle the bees and wasps guarding the fruit salad as I fish for pink chunks of watermelon and avoid the melon pieces. Then I want to surround myself with a semi-circle of discarded seeds. After that a dozen or so Deviled Eggs would hit the spot. As would a pound and a half of potato salad with mayonnaise that’s been in July heat for so long that it’s lingering dangerously between tangy and lethal.

While I am surrounded by delicious Czech beer, this won’t do at all. No, today, to fully remind me of an American Independence Day from the mid-1980s, beer has to be light, American, and slightly reminiscent of urine. If it’s warm(ish) that’s even better. I’ll sneak sips of it while nobody’s looking. I’ll marvel at the tang of diesel in the back of my nose and wonder why in the hell people seem to like it so much.

This picnic needs a radio with half-bad reception broadcasting a baseball game. The home team cannot be good, in fact, it has to be bad. So bad that all of the people over the age of twelve seem to extract great enjoyment from complaining about the team, the decisions of the manager, and each action that takes place during the game. Throughout the day, the adults will have formed a fortified circle of pool chairs on the driveway and discuss all sorts of things that the kids couldn’t care less about.

The kids are too busy playing badly-organized games. A few races followed by a lot of crying and arguing about who won. A six-on-five game of cul-de-sac baseball would follow, with the man-advantage going against the team with the oldest kid on it. There should be a game of Freedom or Tag in the woods nearby the house, but it’s hard to play those games alone (trust me), so I’ll need to enlist some neighborhood kids. I’ll do that as long as nobody calls the police on me for being a potential pervert. (On second thought, maybe I should put on a shirt before talking to kids).

As the light dies in the late (late late) evening, there will be a fireworks display. This is done almost every night (for some reason) in Prague, and there’s the aesthetic benefit of it being done over a gorgeous river, in front of an age-old castle, and under a red-streaked sky.

But that’s not the way it was in Langhorne, Pennsylvania in 1985. I want it like it was. So this might entail some of the neighbor dads shooting off Roman candles and some red spiders from the cul-de-sac. Then the five-minutes of insurmountable glory as the kids are let loose with sprinklers. The smell of carbon and sulfur in the air will linger teasingly for just another few moments. The sudden desire for eggs.

If someone could then pour me screaming and kicking into bed, that would be sweet. Despite my initial resistance, I’ll be asleep fast, because tomorrow is another day of summer, and there are lots of things to do which involve no shoes, no shirt, and no air conditioning.

  1. #1 by Leslie on July 4, 2016 - 1:26 pm

    I love everything about this.

  2. #4 by Eddie on July 5, 2016 - 4:37 pm

    Oh man… you nailed it Dame!

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