Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Jimmy, Matt and me in our red, white and blue.  Gotta love that automatic camera timer.  

Happy Birthday, America!  Our 4th this year was kind of a big mess, but in any case, it was definitely better than my Chinese celebrations of the last 2 years, not that it would take much to beat it.  (Kindly think back to the events that transpired in Urumqi on the 5th of July 2009, consequently cutting out our Internet and phone communication for the remainder of our stay... ) But to really understand this year, I think we must begin at the beginning.  Here is an excerpt from an email I sent last year from Dushanzi, entitled "Happy Birthday, America!"  (It seems I'm not quite as original as I thought.)

happy 4th of july, everyone!  i hope everyone had a great day doing various patriotic things.  i hope you did a little extra for me.  i wore some red underwear and a blue dress.  that's about as patriotic as i could get here.  we did light off some fireworks that the wives of the guys in the hydrogen plant bought, and although they weren't anything super special (sparklers, bottle rockets and a couple roman candles) it was really fun to be around all those americans and have some fireworks cheer.  all in all, waaay better than my last year's 4th, but not quite as good as new year's.  i have to qualify all these holidays i'm spending outside the u.s. i think i've been gone for every major u.s. holiday in the past year.  well, except st. patrick's day, of course.  

Also, it would appear I didn't write any emails about the 4th of '08, which was also in China, but if you'll think back with me again on that one, you'll remember I sat on a train from Xi'an to Tianjin that took 19 hours.  It was supposed to take 11.  It was miserable.  All in all, I think it's better to celebrate the 4th in the U.S. if you can.  You full-time Amurcans don't know how lucky you have it!  

Anyway, we left Florida Saturday and spent the night in Nashville so we could party down with Trace Adkins at the free concert on the river for the 4th.  I was expecting it to be somewhere along the lines of Riverfest in Little Rock or Memphis in May, with lots of speakers and space so you could see and hear the music from wherever... Ahh, how young and naive I can be.  My friend Jimmy (Xu... he's Chinese.  It seems I had a little China with me this year, as well) came to meet us for the celebration even though he's totally not into country music, and we spent the day sightseeing around Nashville.  We drove outside of town in the morning to the famous Loveless Cafe where we ate hands down the best biscuits I've ever had (and I'm really into biscuits, so that's saying a lot).  
Loveless Cafe sign.  It used to be a motel, but now just a restaurant and shops.  

Later we went to see the Parthenon, which is a full-scale replica of the original one in Athens.  It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial celebrations, and it was amazing.  False.  It was not amazing, but rather only moderately interesting to me... that may have something to do with the fact that Matt and I were too cheap to pay the $12 entrance fee.  However, Jimmy got a student discount and went in with my camera, so it was almost like I was there anyway.  After all our sightseeing, we spent some time at the hotel pool with our good friend Yuengling (an East Coast beer that I've grown quite fond of... can't get it in Chicago or Arkansas, but they had it in Tennessee and Florida aplenty), and then headed out on the long trek to fill our hearts with song.

Us at the Parthenon, and a statue of Athena inside.   

Too bad we didn't realize our two greatest obstacles: #1, the show was a three mile walk from our hotel, and #2, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD goes to the Nashville free concert.  EVERYONE.  Also, there is only a small grassy knoll (I'm not even sure if that's what it was, but that's what I'll call it.  The word has a sort of poetic charm that lends itself nicely to my story) in front of the river where they set up the stage, and apparently that small knoll was full of people by 11 a.m.  We got there at 6 p.m.  We never even had a chance.  Not only could we not see the stage, we couldn't really see either of the big screens set up, and we definitely couldn't sit down, as we were standing with the thousands of other people in the middle of the street.  
Matt and me in the street.  This is the cowboy hat that I just HAD to have... you know, to fit in.  It lifted my spirits considerably.  He's so good to me.  

Eventually we abandoned all hope of the music and trudged up a hill to a bridge that crosses the river for a view of the fireworks.  And there we waited.  For two and a half hours.  Ahh, but at least we had good company.  And we got to see a lot of super trashy drunk rednecks.... I know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes, we fit in just fine.  We couldn't hear the music, but we could hear the screams from the crowd, and every once in a while we could see a glimpse of a tiny Trace dancing around onstage.  
View of the stage and crowd from our perch on the bridge.  This is probably only about a quarter of the entire crowd.  Gotta love a free concert.  

Having nothing to do while we waited, we played with my camera and eventually killed the battery... before the fireworks started, so I have no pictures of that.  Too bad, because it was the most amazing fireworks show I've ever seen!  The city of Nashville must have the big bucks because they pulled out all the stops.  The show lasted maybe 30 or 45 minutes, and it was incredible!  So the night wasn't a total bummer.  
River boat near the stage.  I bet THOSE people could hear the music.  

After the show we walked back to the hotel, my legs and feet shaking with every step (a word of advice: don't EVER wear flat-soled gladiator sandals on a walk... I don't care how cute they look.  It's not worth it).  Jimmy made a pit stop at White Castle, only to discover that only the drive through was open.  He hitched a ride with a couple who had already eaten, but kindly agreed to take him back through the drive through so he could get his fix.  He offered to buy them something because they had so graciously driven him through, and they proceeded to order $15 worth of sliders.  That's a lot of White Castle, but I guess that's the going rate for a ride through the drive through these days.   Anyway, our night was pretty much over after that and we crawled into bed around midnight.  Then we headed out early Monday morning for our 8 hour drive back to Chicagoland.  The end.  Oh yeah, and we had a great time in Florida.  I'll post more about that later.  I hope everyone else had a very wonderful and patriotic 4th!  I have pretty high hopes for next year, although I'm pretty sure we'll be in China again.   


  1. caitlin, cool blog. It must be depressing when u write something really long and nobody reads it. But, I think you write well.

  2. and plus it'll be good to have one day when you wanna look back at your memories. Hope india is going well.