Photo via MissEmelie/Flickr (CC-BY-ND)
The most patriotic Fourth of July I've ever spent took place more than 8,000 miles from home.
As to be expected, I woke up on Independence Day drunk and on the verge of a hangover, wearily sauntering over to the Mercator (supermarket, turn up) only to stumble upon a naked drunk man sunbathing on a plastic chair outside his horse stable—the epitome of celebrating freedom.
Coffee and candy sustained me that afternoon as I took in the sights of the city on a photowalk with many other patriotic DSLR camera lovers, snapping this shot of what it means to be a woman in the United States.Like a good little American, I also managed to work that day. At the time, I was a freelance writer and photographer. The combination of traveling, making my own schedule, and being desperate for cash made it so that I barely had a day off. My big fear was that I'd miss the big America bash a group of Slovenians were hosting that my travel compatriots had lovingly dubbed the "fourth of Ju-Ljbuljana."
The forest-based party, in its fourth year running, was dubbed "ZZZ FOURTH OF JULY: RETURN OF FREEDOM" because I guess even freedom needs to take a powder every once in a while. Photos of bacon, McDonald's, shitty pseudo-patriotic rap tracks, and more flooded the Facebook event page. Though I'd wrapped up work just past midnight, I simply had to go.
I mean, fuck, if the founding fathers were putting it on and Mt. Kushmore was set to be one of the DJs, it'd be simply treason to not turn up, right?The only problem was I had to go it alone. Without a buddy to split a cab with and with little cash in my wallet—as well as no way to actually get on the phone, (thanks, SIM card)—I decided to take my chances by biking to the center of town, withdrawing some euros, and hailing a cab like I knew where the hell I was going and what the fuck I was doing. The experience went from maddening to comical to awe-inspiring.
My driver spoke zero English save for one song: Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You," which came on the radio midway through the drive. He started off slowly mumbling, then turning the volume up and up and up. It was the only English song out of a smattering of semi-traditional Slovenian tunes, and he loved the hell out of it.
Soon, I'd made it to the forest. I tipped my cabbie kindly, bid adieu, and walked straight into a shitshow. Befuddled, I paid my €5 entry fee as a friend continued talking animatedly with the doorwoman. To my right was a swing set, my friend Terrell, and a bunch of racist dudes who'd apparently already physically injured another friend.
This ranks as the No. 1 worst way to walk into a party for me. Still worse, one of the fighting mad Slovenians who'd attacked my friend wound up sauntering over to me as I was waiting by the bar to get my drink on and contemplate a shitty hot dog.
Our words got heated, he repeatedly grazed his palm across my breast as if to test the waters and establish power. Somehow our conversation drifted toward Biggie and Tupac, and he spent way too long looking for a Biggie freestyle on YouTube after we'd rapped a few bars of B.I.G. favorites together. It was enough of a distraction to allow me to order a drink, turn around, and find him gone. Who knew that knowing the right rap lyrics would aid me against getting sexually assaulted?
From there, I managed to race over to some friends, my heart pounding in time with the syncopated shitstorm of iconic presidential speeches juxtaposed with air horns. Then, I did the only sane, reasonable, and calming thing I could do: I got insanely high.
People drifted by in waves of far more fucked-uppedness. Some were rolling, others were drunk, many were in a 1-2 combination of states. I lived it up along with the sun, rising to dance 'til the morning light. Shortly after, it was time to head back to the dorm where my travel group was staying.Watching the sun just start to shine on the city felt like a glimmer of energy from the country I'd left beamed straight to our cab full of Americans. There's something comforting in knowing you can sardonically celebrate the United States' founding so far from its shores and yet feel as if you're pounding beers in a state park. All that was missing were fireworks.