Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th, Not Asbury Park Even A Little Bit

I've only been away from the States on July 4th one other time.  We were in Amsterdam, and had decided to visit the Heineken brewery, where there is a hard-drinking beer sampling at the tour's end.  Around went the mugs and the small bits of Dutch cheese, and there was a Special Prize announced for anyone whose birthday it was on that day.  Ken and I were sitting amidst a group of Very Dazed backpackers (one of whom had actually lit up a joint in the lift on his way up to the tour).  And the Very Dazed backpackers began to chant, "USA!  USA!  USA!" There were a few loud exhortations about how All Americans There should get a Special Prize because it was our National Birthday.  And then more drunken, stoned hooting.

O, Lord.  We stared into our beers.  This was just before the Bush administration ran our Ship of State onto the rocks. That episode also marked the first time I was ever out of the States and really REALLY embarrassed to be an American.  This was before Iraq and torture, though.  This was before Ken and I had our conversations about how we should just let the nice folks at the Edinburgh Festival (our next overseas jaunt) assume that we WERE Canadians, as Scots often will, hearing an accent that sounds like ours.

We spent the rest of that day in Amsterdam pretending we'd never heard of the Fourth of July.

It's different this year in Berlin.

First of all, we have a brilliant statesman for a President.  OK, a lefty like me is going to have some issues with the guy, a man who's essentially a centrist Democrat who divides ideas into smart and dumb instead of left and right--but I refuse to be part of the circular firing squad that has been the American Left Wing for far too long.  Loyal opposition is one thing.  Essentially teaming up with the character assassins on the right without thinking about the results of policy is something else.  But this is no time to get into all that.  

Let's face it--Obama rocked Berlin, not too long ago.  And despite whatever qualms anyone might have about him, America looks  radically different over here than it used to, and it's a HUGE change for the better.  For real.  

Last night, we went to hear an organ concert.  I happen to love organ music, even when it's not mixed into the background of an Arcade Fire track.  Unfortunately, this one was a little bit like watching paint dry until the very last piece, Smetana's nationalistic "The Moldau".  That rocked.  And we walked back to our apartment.  At Alexanderplatz, a Michael Jackson impersonator was moonwalking amidst the roses and candles at the local shrine to MJ. 

Back at our apartment, a cool breeze blew in through the terrace, where we sat outside listening to Randoradio--Treavor Hasting's excellent July 4th show.  It felt good to hear something American and 4th of July-ish.  Treavor put on The Comedian Harmonists for us during voice breaks, and Robyn Hitchcock, of course, who defies national boundaries.  

And you are not going to believe this, but I swear it's true--somewhere in this city last night, there were fireworks.  We didn't see them, but we heard them for sure.

Off to Museum Island today...    


Toni Clark said...

Great to hear your take on Obama. I'm with you 100%. Glad you're having a great time.

chrispy said...

Thanks, Toni!