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Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The Fourth of July, our country’s annual self-congratulatory pat on the back. Fraught with high-calorie cookouts, Revolutionary War reenactments featuring local pub patrons dressed in powdered wigs and tri-cornered hats, drunkenness and fireworks, the Fourth is perhaps the most enjoyable of all American annual family gatherings. Rather than Thanksgiving, which focuses on the actual biological family for the most part, the Fourth allows family and friends to gather in a tribal celebration that further cements the bonds of years gone by and forges new ones with those who are still new to the whole twisted unit.

For me, the Fourth in ’04 was spent in the woods of upstate New York in the lovely hamlet of New Paltz (question: where the hell is old Paltz?) at the incredible home of my old college buddy John and his redoubtable spouse Sue. The place is situated on five heavily wooded acres (the perfect place for kidnappings, murder and cannibalism), and the enormous wooden deck faces into the deepest portion of the forest, giving the casual observer a ringside seat for the after dark galaxy of fireflies. In all of my short life, I have seldom witnessed anything so beautiful, although the epic nudity of some women I know comes in pretty close... But I digress.

Seven friends from the Five Boroughs (including your humble raconteur) descended upon the woodland paradise on Saturday afternoon and those of us who had not been there yet were wowed by the location and the domicile itself; as most of you know I frequently bemoan my lack of an acceptable kitchen in which to get up to my culinary alchemy, and I now envy John and Sue for the marvelous operating theater that houses a kickass stove and oven, along with voluminous countertop prep space. Yeesh, I’m starting to sound like some hideous gene-splicing of Martha Stewart and some home improvement show idiot, so let it suffice to say that I was stoked by the kitchen, m’kay?

Saturday night was a cozy fun-fest of pals reconnecting in an adult slumber party replete with delicious grilled comestibles, frothy keg beer and liver-assaulting blender drinks, and yours truly was also treated to the delectable sight of a particularly attractive friend of the female variety sleepily attired in black shorts and a matching tank top emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, framed against her stunning brown eyes and dark curly hair (single guys out there who are not directly involved with our extended family, you really need to hook up with the lady in question, so get off your asses and take notice!).

On the day of the actual Fourth, people came from far and wide to bestow the hosts with housewarming gifts and contributions to the festivities, many with their children in tow. It’s always fun to see all of the tribe’s little ones running about and shrieking with childish delight, and this time around was a cavalcade of cubs for all to enjoy. The first of our tribe’s young’uns was Sadie-Rain, and she’s been a fixture at these gatherings since she was a babe in arms; nowadays she’s the elder statesman among the six sprogs who own our hearts. We’ve got Sadie-Rain, her new brother Nate, textbook example of little girl cuteness Lianna-Ray (who’s obviously going to leave a trail of broken hearts in her wake when she’s older), the cerebral and unfairly adorable Hannah (whose mother is learning the agonies of black people hair the hard way thanks to her daughter; the stories are hilarious to those of us who have lived them as kids), new addition by way of Korea, August (a game little guy who’s already a lady killer, and is interestingly reprogramming his language centers for English input; I love this guy!), and fresh-out-of-the-womb Cleonir-Rose (who’s still too little to attend, but she’ll be joining the family wackiness soon enough). I had a great time playing with and attending to each of the small humans in attendance, and someday hope for at least one of my own. Who knows what life has in store?

The whole day was a whirlwind of activity, with me at the grill as is proper, and with all of the kids and parents having a fun time; the only thing missing was a sloppy ol’ dog running around. But, no big deal, it was a picture perfect example of a family gathering gone right, with none of the painful dysfunction and infighting usually found at such functions featuring our biological relatives. Next comes Jared’s annual birthday shindig in early August, and I can’t wait to attend.

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