Every year around this time an old song by the L.A. band X called "Fourth of July" comes to mind, and I always intend to look up the lyrics and add it to my repertoire of seasonal songs, and I always forget. The bit of lyric I remember and go around singing for a few days prior to the 4th: "On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone. Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below. Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July."
My time in L.A. ended nearly fifteen years ago, just after the Rodney King verdict left the city in flames for several days. I was living in Burbank at the time, far from any danger, and it wasn't the turmoil that sent me packing, it was the desire for an easier way to live. I told a colleague at my job that I wanted a more bohemian life. He laughed and said I was a few decades too late for that. But I hung up my Ann Taylor suits, shelved my high heeled shoes and moved to Boulder, where I went to work at a community radio station and tried to figure things out anew.
Circumstances brought me to the midwest a few years later, and lo and behold, things move so much slower here that living that bohemian life was not such an anachronism after all. I may have had a hard time finding an organic tomato in the supermarket for the first several years, but I could fulfill a long-time dream of opening a coffeehouse on a fraction of what it would have cost to do it elsewhere. And I could paint, and write, and have my daughter with me in a place where homeschooling didn't raise eyebrows.
For ten years Dragonstar and I have been following our bliss in this place where so much makes me crazy -- the sprawl, the billboards, the lack of small cafes and walkable neighborhoods. The coffeehouse has passed into other hands, and it still thrives, which is gratifying. I know all my neighbors, most of them by name, and when the fourth of July comes around, I'll wander to the river and watch the fireworks and sing those lines from that old X song. The organic tomatoes come from the garden now, and I wear t-shirts every day, and we're barefoot a lot, though I still have several of those suits and high heels packed away in the closet, along with a copy of the L.A. Weekly saved from those volatile days all those years ago. Souvenirs.
Dragonstar is off with her dad to a Renaissance Faire, and the neighborhood kids are shooting off fireworks. Hey, baby. It's (almost) the Fourth of July.