Reluctance day

Ah, Independence Day. It's the time to ponder our good fortune of living in this great country of ours; the time to give thanks for our freedom; the time to patronize overcrowded lakes and eat potato salad. What a grand day, when we can find some really good bargains on cars and household appliances. And don't forget, it's the one day out of the year when we can choose between such all-American television marathons as The Twilight Zone (on the Sci Fi channel), rock movies (American Movie Classics), and musicals (Turner Classic Movies). And we have the freedom to enjoy all of these things, especially if we have a white-collar job or belong to a union and get the day off to do so. Go U.S.A.!

Of course, the Fourth of July has changed some over the years. Back in the day, say a hundred years ago, people were limited on this holiday to having the only kind of fun that had as yet been invented--the old-fashioned kind. And while that may still have included crowding out onto the lake and getting tanked, we like to think of old-fashioned fun as something a bit more wholesome. That's right: no theme parks, no Willie Nelson picnic, no summer blockbuster movies, no founding-father-sponsored sales at department stores. For those of you who'd rather pitch horseshoes than watch Tommy on television to commemorate England's butt-kicking, Old City Park is the place to be. The nostalgic patriots there have organized for this first Independence Day of the century an Old-Fashioned Fourth of July, which will attempt to re-create a turn-of-the-last-century celebration.

That's right. Tuesday you can escape the modern world for a few hours with a bit of old-school entertainment. For instance, if you're into music, you can enjoy the tunes of the Dallas Banjo Band, the Texas Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and The Boys Next Door (don't let the name scare you; it may sound like the next boy band, but it's actually a barbershop quartet). Those with an oral fixation can participate in such wholesome activities as pie eating and watermelon-seed spitting. The athletic can join in ye olde exercises like sack races and the aforementioned horseshoe pitching. If you bring the young-uns along, they can enjoy pony rides, a petting zoo, storytellers, and the time-honored practice of face-painting. Add to all this classic foods like turkey legs and snow cones, and you've got yourself a virtual time machine just south of downtown Dallas.

Don't be put off by the sarcasm directed at this noble and kindhearted attempt at reviving the past: It's just sour grapes. Independence Day, you see, is not a favorite holiday of mine. This attitude has nothing to do with commercialism or the frequent attitude of my fellow Americans that the Fourth is just an excuse to get a day off work and engage in water sports. Conversely, it's not because I'm unpatriotic or unappreciative of living in the United States. Most of the activities associated with this holiday don't bother me; after all, it's none of my business if people want to stand in line for an hour to ride a roller coaster or put on a powdered wig and tricornered hat. Fireworks are the problem: They're scary, scary things. They're loud and unpredictable. They catch things on fire. They put people's eyes out. Firebugs who have no business messing with such things seem to be especially fond of them. Sure, fireworks can be quite pretty and elicit a few oooohhs, but for some of us, the anxiety they cause cannot be overcome by mere beauty. As a child, I expected every year that one of two things would happen: My dad would blind and disfigure himself, or a bottle rocket would land on the roof and destroy our home. Subsequently, Independence Day is not a holiday I look forward to.

But if you're willing and able to get in the spirit, Old City Park may be a good bet. You can get your patriotic juices flowing and leave in plenty of time to watch the neighborhood re-enactment of the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air. I won't be there, though--I've got a date with Rod Serling.

Larra Ann Keel