Yesterday was independence day, one of my favorite US holidays. I spent it with my great Aunt Sally, in Topeka, Kansas. There are a couple of differences between Topeka and Evanston in the celebration of the Fourth, but the most noticeable one to me was actually one of the more subtle ones. In Topeka, a lot of people set off their own fireworks. The night of the fourth, and even the night before, there were just a ton of fireworks going off late into the night. In Evanston, there’s a city fireworks show, but other than that things are pretty quiet at night. Adding to the noise were the sirens of firetrucks. You’d think that people would stop setting off fireworks when it becomes apparent that the fireworks are causing FIRES… but no, they kept right on going. When I was smaller I thought fireworks were pretty cool because I was big into rocketry, but I was still pretty afraid of the things. Here’s hoping no one was injured. On a more positive note, one similarity between Evanston and Topeka is that they both have parades. Granted, the Evanston parade lasts over an hour and the Topeka parade lasts about fifteen minutes, but the spirit is the same. I almost like the shorter one better, because I have a tendency to get bored at Evanston’s fourth of July parade when it gets past the hour mark. There are only so many interesting types of float! Anyway, Aunt Sally and I went to the parade, which goes right by her house. There were a lot of kids in the parade, and they threw out candy as they went by. The highlight of the parade for me was the antique cars. My favorite was one from 1930, pictured below.
Another impressive aspect of the Topeka parade is the Topeka high school drumline. We only got to see half of the drumline because the other half were performing at another parade, but they were really professional! They’re all high school students, but apparently they have toured throughout the country. They had some really cool effects. At one point, they even used some white powder (maybe cornstarch or flour) to create the illusion of smoke. That’s creative! After the parade, my aunt and I returned to her house to do some genealogical research. She showed me her genetic profile, which was very interesting. Then, we dove into research on my father’s line, which was kind of her because she is not related to them at all. She is my maternal grandmother’s sister. After we found some draft cards, we took a break to look at the wartime memorabilia of my great-grandfather, her father, who served in WWII. He saved so many things, like menus from Thanksgiving meals and his letter from President Roosevelt which he received after enlisting. I have been thinking a lot recently about the degree to which large geopolitical events affect the course of individuals’ lives. We like to think that everyone determines the course of his or her own destiny, but of course that isn’t wholly the case. So much is affected by luck and situation. What prompted this philosophical thought? Watching a masterpiece theatre series called Poldark, about an Englishman who comes back from the American war of independence to discover that his father has died and their house is in shambles. Not exactly the most academic point of entry, but hey, I’ll take it. After all genealogy, Aunt Sally and I went to the Potwin picnic. My neighborhood in Evanston also has a Fourth of July picnic, so that was another similarity between the two areas. At the picnic, they had a very long winded speaker who reviewed the entirety of American history. He was clearly very well versed in his history, but it was still boring as shit. The food was really good, however. People brought a large variety of foods, many of which were vegetarian! There was even my favorite food, macaroni and cheese. Sadly, I couldn’t eat too much, because I participated in the Watermelon eating contest. I was given a three pound slice of watermelon, and allowed to eat as much as I could in sixty seconds with no hands. I ended up eating a half pound of watermelon, which left me tied with the winner from the first heat (I was in the second). Then, we had a spitting contest to determine the overall winner, and I won by a hair. The prize is pictured below:
I’ve been a slow eater all my life, but I actually won two pie eating contests in high school. This suggests that I can eat quickly when I want to! Today, my aunt and I are going to a painting studio. This should produce some good photos. Thanks for reading!