My first and hopefully not last major holiday outside of the U.S. has been a great adventure. Although it was a pain to find a store selling fireworks, I managed to pick up 40 poundsí ($60) worth of cool ones at lunch. The salesperson didnít understand why I wanted fireworks in July, as Brits blow stuff up in November to commemorate Guyfaulkís (sp) Day, an odd holiday celebrating a nearly successful plot by a guy named Guyfaulk to blow up Parliament. I guess everybody needs at least one excuse a year to play with fire...
After work, coworkers, friends, and I went to the Texas Embassy. Formerly the Republic of Texasí official representation in London, itís now a popular, American restaurant and was a great place to start celebrating. The doorpeople were a little perturbed by my garbage bag full of fireworks, but a manager held them for me without a hassle. One fellow American inside the bar had a patriotic idea so great that I just had to copy it: ran to a sports store and bought some American flags to use as capes. If I was at home, I wouldnít be making half as big of a deal about Independence Day. Maybe a lot of it is the novelty of being different and a desire to brag about Americaís independence, but I definitely feel much more patriotic today than I ever have before. Yeah, that involves wearing a flag all evening...
The work permit program Iím here through organized a 4th of July cruise which was a huge success. A boatful of Americans, with the odd wannabe from Canada thrown in, drank, ate, danced, and drank some more up and down the River Thames. Seeing my cape, someone informed me that the boat was flying a British flag off the back and gave me a very bad idea: why not replace it with my Captain America accessory? I wasnít about to sacrifice my supercool cape, so I Indian gave one of the flags Iíd lent out to another superhero imitator and began my mission to raise the stars and stripes. All was going well at first: the knot untied easily, the rope slid smoothly down, and then, with the British flag almost within reach for desecration, the rope hit a snag: I pulled, it snapped. Wanting to remain on the cruise and not get thrown in the River Thames by angry British sailors, I hastily tied the American Flag above Britainís and did as much running away as you can on a boat.
Returning a few minutes later, I found no flag flying. Getting my flag back was almost as fun as putting it up: I told the captain that one of my friends had borrowed a flag like I was wearing and lost it; had he seen it? He handed it over, gruffly informing me that my friend had climbed out on the flagpole attempting to raise it and "if it had snapped, he would have been killed." This was a nice story and I wasnít about to get in trouble challenging it: replied with an "oh, really? Tsk... Thatís ridiculous." and left, flag-bearing and scot-free.
After the cruise, I ran around with a fellow drunken, temporary expatriate who happens to be my boss lighting off our fireworks. We had asked about doing them on the boat but decided not to upon learning that the police would be called faster than quickly... The sparks started in the first dark alley with multiple escape routes we could find after docking, with sprints to new locations every 10 ignitions or so to avoid any run-ins with British cops. Some building nearby had an alarm going off, so Iíll think wishfully and hope that my fireworks had something to do with it. I have a nice souvenir blister on one of my thumbs, but the thrill of running through Londonís streets shooting Roman candles between buildings was worth the slight scorch.
Because I have to be at the airport for my 6am flight to Spain, bed for the night is the train station. Laying on concrete in the cold isnít exactly conducive to a good nightís sleep, but Spain will be well worth the sacrifice. I can go home to my nice, comfortable bed anytime; how often can I fly to try and outrun potential hamburgers?