Monday, July 6, 2009

A Uniquely New York Fourth

What a fun Fourth of July we had! I was really looking forward to this one because Eric and I have not spent a full Fourth of July together in YEARS, and I love this holiday. Last year, I was at my cousin's wedding in Michigan while Eric studied for the bar exam in D.C. The year before that, he was working in New York so I spent the evening on my friends' D.C. rooftop. Before that, Eric was working in Ft. Lauderdale while I was in D.C. He did come to surprise me for the Fourth that year, but had to leave to fly back to Florida in the afternoon. And so on. Basically, we've been due for a fun Independence Day celebration together, and this one certainly fit the bill!

We left our apartment at around 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. We took an hour-long subway ride out to Coney Island. Neither of us had ever been to Coney Island before, so we were really looking forward to it! We arrived shortly after 10:00 a.m., and crowds were already growing for the Annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. We decided to wander out to the boardwalk first to take a quick look around. What a place!

The original Nathan's, and the site of the Hot Dog Eating Contest

Coney Island scenery

On the boardwalk

More boardwalk

After checking things out a little bit, we went back to the Hot Dog Eating Contest stage to stake out our spot. We waited there for over two hours! It was so crowded, too - even being two hours early, we were way in the back.

Eric in front of the board showing the countdown to contest time

Me with the stage behind me

They did have some entertainment while we waited, including an absolutely ridiculous Master of Ceremonies, dancing hot dogs, cheerleaders, and various circus acts, including jugglers, jump ropers and a Strong Man who laid on a bed of nails while holding an anvil that his sons hit with sledgehammers. You know, the usual.

Jump rope act

Strong Man laying on the bed of nails, holding the anvil

As the countdown wore on, things started to get REALLY interesting. First, they swore in the judges, then soon the contestant introductions began. That was highly entertaining, because they described what other contests each of them had won. For example, one of the female competitors recently ate one tenth of her body weight in cranberry sauce. I mean, seriously??? Of course, the highlights of the intros were the two Hot Dog Eating heavyweights: Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, who held the title from 2001 to 2006, and Joey Chestnut, the American, who dethroned Kobayashi in 2007 and held onto his title in 2008. Who would be victorious this year?

Swearing in the judges

Takeru Kobayashi

Joey Chestnut, holding the famous Nathan's Mustard Belt

Kobayashi fans

After the introductions, the contestants got all lined up and started preparing their plates of hot dogs to their liking. Then we counted down, and off they went! It was neck and neck between Kobayashi and Chestnut through most of the 10-minute contest, though Chestnut was generally ahead by a hot dog or two. The ridiculous announcing continued, and the gross face-stuffing was kind of hard to watch, but ultimately after ten minutes passed, Joey Chestnut of the U.S.A. emerged victorious! And not only did he win, he set a new record - 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Oh my word. Anyway, they draped him with the flag and played the National Anthem and we were all proud to be Americans. It was beautiful.

Stuff those faces!

Chestnut wins! Go USA!

VIDEO: First and last minutes of the contest from our point of view.
If you want to see a video of the contest highlights from a better vantage point, click here.

I have to say, the grossest part of the whole thing was after the contest was after they gave Kobayashi his second place trophy, and they asked him to lift his shirt to show his enlarged stomach. It was RIDICULOUS. So gross. I'm sure you're all pretty happy right now that we don't have a picture of it! Instead, how about a picture of me and Eric after the contest?

Another interesting New York experience under our belts!

After the contest we met up briefly with some friends, then parted ways from them once again to explore more of Coney Island. We checked out the beach and all the rides, including the Cyclone Rollercoaster, which is one of the oldest rollercoasters still in operation in the U.S. They've been talking about closing it because it's so old for years, but it somehow still remains open. Coney Island was really quite an experience - in addition to the rides and delicious fair-type food, they also had all kinds of side shows, weird games like "Shoot the Freak" (live human targets! Score!), and an awful lot of interesting characters roaming around. Definitely an experience!

On the boardwalk

The beach (before it got crowded, of course)

Shoot the Freak

The Cyclone

Amidst the rides

A large side show. Eric and I decided that side shows are a pretty low point for our society, but what can ya do?

After our roaming around, we waited in line at Nathan's (for 40 minutes!) to get some hot dogs of our own, then found a spot on the beach to sit and eat. In our own hot dog eating contest, the winner was Eric with two and a quarter hot dogs, to my one and three quarters. Yay Eric!

Mmm, hot dogs and cheese fries

Eric demonstrating the proper technique

After our lunch, we made our way back to the train to head home. We were having a great time and I would have loved to stay longer, but 1) we wanted to get home to rest before the fireworks, and 2) I forgot to bring sunblock, and I could tell I was already FRIED. And I was. Owww.

We hung out at home for a bit, then made some sandwiches and headed out to the fireworks. The fireworks were being held over the Hudson River this year (as opposed to the usual East River), which was great for us because we are only two blocks from the Hudson. So, we figured we would leave around 7:00 and have no trouble walking two blocks east and finding a decent spot. Well, we forgot about how ridiculous the cops get with blocking things off and funneling people different ways. We had to walk about three blocks north just to even get over to the water because they had all the streets blocked off, then we had to walk back six blocks south to find a spot. It just doesn't make sense!

We did finally find a spot along the Westside Highway at 51st Street. There was a little open space around us, but within 5-10 minutes of us setting up camp, the area was PACKED. Like, people sitting on other people's blankets packed. Crazy! But, we were happy to have a spot so we settled in to wait 2.5 hours for the show to begin. I realized that we really have spent a lot of time waiting for things to start since living in this city. Crazy New Yorkers - always so early for things!

Eric on our blanket. All that empty space around him was about to fill up like you wouldn't believe.

Waiting for the fireworks

Crowds - something totally unusual for New York.

Camped out on our blanket. Can you see my shoulders starting to be red? Not cool.

Finally, at 9:26 p.m. on the dot, the fireworks began, and they were spectacular. Six barges along the Hudson set them off in perfect unison. We were lined up with one of the barges, so we were able to see them coming off the barge and then bursting in air, if you will, which was very cool. They were so beautiful and lasted a good half hour. Plus, we had a flag in front of us as our focal point, so it was very moving to see them going off behind the flag. I just love fireworks. They almost always make me teary as I remember so many Independence Days past, where I've been and what I've done for each. It's so nice.

Hudson River fireworks

Oooh, ahhhh

The fireworks were set to music performed by the New York Pops on the deck of the Intrepid, but we weren't able to hear that, unfortunately. I did see this clip of it online, though, and it looks like it was amazing:

VIDEO: Clip of the fireworks from the Intrepid

After the fireworks were over, it was nice to walk just a couple blocks back to our apartment. We went to bed pretty soon after that, because we were so exhausted from our long day! It was such a great Fourth of July.

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend as much as we enjoyed ours. Today I have a very busy day ahead of me as I prepare for our trip TOMORROW! Can you believe it?!

1 comment:

Dad said...

Loved watching the fireworks and was somehow there with you guys without the crowds. Must be that afinity I have for things Macy's after the parade. :o)

Have a great time on your trip. Enjoy the wedding and say hi to the family in Scotland.