Oh, say, can you see..

..by the dawn's early light..

So, on the 4th of July, I'm up at the crack of dawn (about 5 a.m.) trying desperately to wake my seemingly comatose boyfriend while packing my beach bag and trying to ignore the ominous clouds gathering in the cold sky. Yes, it was madness, but there was indeed a method to it. The aforementioned boyfriend had signed up for a 4K race on the boardwalk at Long Beach, Long Island, and the only way to make the 8:30 start was to be on the very first train of the day. We were also hoping, weather permitting, to enjoy a little sand and surf after the race. The weather reports made it abundantly clear that we were hoping against hope, but it was Independence Day, damn it, and there was no room for pessimism in our emotional arsenal.

Eventually, I was able to extract my sweetheart from the tangle of blankets and pillows and set him to packing and getting into his racing gear. We made the train with plenty of time to spare, but naturally, the employees of the Long Island Rail Road did not know, or care to know about the urgency of our situation, and decided to operate our train at the slowest possible speed, possibly in protest of being forced to work on a national holiday. This precipitated a little pre-race sprint from the train station to the boardwalk, with me in flip-flops, with a painful case of plantar fasciitis, and lugging a very unwieldy (and totally unnecessary) beach bag.

I am quite happy to report that our efforts did not go unrewarded. My boyfriend won first place in his age group, and 8th place overall out of a field of 363 runners. These accolades were accompanied by some lovely hardware, which now sits proudly atop our television.

Since we had both worked up quite an appetite (he, from blazing up and down the boardwalk at a blistering pace, and I, from grasping frantically at the railings to keep from being blown into the dunes by the gale-force winds), we headed back in the direction of the train station for a delicious brunch at a local diner. As I finished up my glass of iced tea, I stared out the window at the darkening sky and the trees being whipped back and forth, wanting nothing more than to collapse into a three-seater row on the next departing train and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the engine. But it was not to be.

..thro' the perilous fight..

With salvation from the cold wind just within our grasp, my sweetie, no doubt still high from 'the thrill of victory' recommended a return to the beach, and I, no doubt still high from the corned beef hash with two eggs, home-fries, bacon and butter-drenched toast, agreed to give it a try. Half an hour later, as I lay crouched behind my beach bag, buffeted by high winds and sea spray and assaulted by frequent showers of sand kicked up by some horribly hyper-active little boy, I came to the realization, that I had been totally and utterly bamboozled. I bolted to my feet, and while scraping sand from my cleavage, began frantically signalling my boyfriend, who in some sort of adrenaline fueled fugue, was frolicking blissfully in the pounding surf like a pink, goose-pimply dolphin. I'd been intrepid enough for one day, and I was more than ready for a hot shower and a soft bed. As we beat a hasty retreat from the swirling sands, I was amazed to see that there were ever increasing throngs of people pouring out of each arriving train, and I hoped, for their sakes, that they really enjoyed the taste of sand.

And the rockets' red glare..

Back at the homestead, after a long, hot shower, I had hoped to sleep for a couple of hours before heading out to visit some friends of ours, who had invited us to dinner and to view the Macy's fireworks from their balcony. But in spite of my exhaustion, I lay wide awake, terrified that I would sleep through the alarm. The boyfriend did not share this anxiety. Before I had even stepped into the shower, he had already tumbled into bed, sandy and unwashed, and was snoring within a matter of minutes. As dusk, and rainclouds, descended, I again began the protracted exercise of waking the man, and, decked out in our holiday finery under our trusty raincoats, we ventured out yet again in search of fun. This time around, adversities were few and far between. We were treated to a delicious meal and wonderfully entertaining conversation, not to mention a great view of those amazing fireworks. Even the incessant honking of horns from the lunatics stuck in traffic on the street below seemed to add to the festivities. And miraculously, it never rained a drop at any time that we were outdoors, a phenomenon which is absolutely unheard of in normal life. Emboldened by our good fortune, I seized the opportunity to do some frolicking of my own, and insisted that we stop at a neighborhood bar on the way home. I knew I wouldn't be denied a nightcap, given the sacrifices I had made that day, but I do have my limits, and I was willing to call it a night around 1:30 in the morning.

And as I stumbled out into the world the following morning, with bleary eyes and aching bones, not quite ready to face the work day, I could honestly say that I had no regrets about how I spent my 4th of July. But I have been besieged since then by the grumbling of my friends who took one look at the weather forecast and decided to stay inside and do nothing, and are now wishing that they had made some attempt at making the day special. And while I have nothing at all against laying around like a lump, I think it should be a matter of choice, not necessity.

Though many may find the association rather trivial, days like yesterday are a reminder to me that there is nothing to be gained without some risk. Of course there's no real danger in getting sand in your hair, or losing a few hours sleep. But not all sacrifices we make in life are small, and certainly not all of them are rewarded, so we should appreciate the value of all the sacrifices we make, and the rare benefits we reap from them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained folks! After all, this is..

..the home of the brave!