Happy 4th — Getting Sentimental Already!

Happy Birthday America! I was in the midst of another “Prep Steps” post, but have to interrupt to get my thoughts down about this special day in American holidays.

After a long day of barbecuing/chilling/frisbeeing in Alley Pond Park in Queens, a classic July 4 activity, I headed straight back past Manhattan, and onwards to Hoboken, New Jersey.  Why NJ?? For an unbeatable view of the annual Macy’s fireworks show, which was being held on the Hudson River this year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s epic sail.

manhattan skyline

This is the view lucky New Jersey gets!

Namit and PJ, 2 total photo geeks camped out early on and got a spot right on the water at the esplanade, directly overlooking the Empire State Building.  It was perfect, and I arrived at about half past 8 — around an hour before the 26 minute show was to begin.

I had gone to the Macy’s fireworks extravaganza once before several years ago with my older sister, and it is most definitely an event worth checking out in person at least once, especially if you are like me, and for some uncanny reason, is somehow always mesmerized by fireworks. Being that I’m about to move to HK come September, I knew I could not miss it this year – and I was determined to grab myself the best view possible.

The news last night speculated that there would be approximately 2 million people out on the West side in Manhattan, and around 150,000 on the NJ side. Hmmm…. which did you think made more sense? Well besides the incredibly small crowd (I mean if that was meant to be “crowded,” then I really have lived in a big city for a rather long time), the gorgeous Manhattan skyline was my main reason to head out to Hoboken. Besides, it was incredibly easy to get out there – all PATH trains from 33rd Street go to Hoboken first before heading off for Journal Square on the weekends, and after the 4 stops in Manhattan, you’re there! Who knew? (Yes, Hobokeners, I’m conceding – you actually live in a really convenient spot, and have an amazing view!)

Once I emerged from the train station, I felt an immediate romance envelop me. All you lovers out there, take note – evenings on the Hoboken esplanade were made for you! After a very short walk, I was able to locate the pier Namit and PJ were camped out on, tripods, adjusted shutter speeds and all. Although about half past 8, nightfall seemed to come slowly.

Finally it got dark, but the lights of the city were twinkling.  Straight across the water was my city. My beautiful, shiny New York. My mind wandered as Namit was taking a panorama of the City and PJ continued to tweak his camera settings.  Oh New York, you are so beautiful. I wonder, will I see you come one year in 2010? Will I even be in a place that celebrates on July the 4th?

I then wondered how spectacular New Year’s (Chinese) will be in HK, and how the city lights there will look. That would likely be my next fireworks spectacular.

Before I could wonder much more, the show began, and it was a good one. Each year the pyrotechnicians seem to come up with still more to ooh and aah at, and this one was no exception.  I honestly felt rather overwhelmed this year, and I felt my eyes sting as the first few fireworks exploded up above the George Washington Bridge.

4th of july 2009 - 1

This photo, as awesome as it is (thanks Namit), only barely captures the intensity of the show.

In my mind I already began to get sentimental about leaving, thinking about what it means to be home, to be a New Yorker, an American. I started to feel a sense of nationalism that New Yorkers, who often feel so different from their counterparts in “middle America,” rarely feel (often it seems we’re New Yorkers first before Americans).

While I have plans to move to Hong Kong, I by no means was rejecting my nationality, nor who I am — that I actually did know that being an American was a big and special part of that, and it would never leave me.  It felt weird to have that realization, being a first generation Chinese American who often felt it rather confusing to identify nationality. I wonder, will I feel more “American” when I leave? Or might I rather re-connect with my Chinese heritage?

Feeling this extreme pang of sentimentality was in a way rather exciting. I think going to Hong Kong is a chance to get myself to feel things. I’m not sure how much or how clearly I’ve been able to do that in the past 7 years or so.

Oh, it’s time.

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