The Fourth


I said I was missing the chaos and bustle of Istanbul and the Fourth of July celebrations here did not disappoint in delivering a good dose of both. My sister-in-law Alex and I were supposed to go to see Edward Sharpe in Pilsen, but after getting pushed back a few times, the show was canceled altogether, and we decided to still head out to Pilsen for dinner and 4th celebrations.

Before being lured by the ongoing booms and bangs that were sparking down every street, we popped into Perez Restaurant for some tacos and beer. I never really yearned for cuisine that I couldn't get in Istanbul while I was there, but it was really nice to get some Mexican food after such a long time and to remember some of those flavors.

After dinner, we headed to a block party a few streets down on a friend's block, courtesy of a local biker gang. As we walked down the first few blocks towards the epicenter of the explosions, the sidewalk was lined with their large metal steeds. From the dense smoke in the air, it looked like people had been warming up for the celebrations for a while. Kids had their own section from which to set off firecrackers and adults had an adjacent square of asphalt for their bigger, louder toys. One man- Cesar- was particularly enthusiastic. He let it be known that the fourth was his favorite holiday and he had stocked up for the occasion. Every time we looked down, a new box of fireworks was at our feet, with hurried instructions to unwrap each one left hanging in the air as Cesar attended to the business of keeping the night sky well lit with showers of pink, purple, and gold- a doting lover keeping his mistress decked out in bling.

I’d never been to a celebration where people took the matter of fireworks into their own hands, having instead gone to the lake to see the city-sponsored fireworks or out of the country as of late. This block party carried with it a sense of excitement. The explosions rattled your insides, shanking each molecule to the core, the bangs were impressive, and each cascade of light as delightful as if it had been the first. It was nice to see kids running around in their own private kid world, setting off firecrackers with minimal supervision. This is the stuff that childhood is made of, I thought- staying up past your bedtime, carried by the frenzy of celebration and sugary foods.

After some time, the ground was littered with the carcasses of explosives and the air breathed a muted gray from the fog they produced. Ashes rained down on us and, for a second, I was brought back to the Gezi protests in Istanbul, except that the air didn’t carry the scorpion sting of pepper spray to assault the eyes and throat and these explosives were self-inflicted and for entertainment. We stood, sipping beer, chatting and taking it all in. The festivities were not showing any sign of slowing down when we decided to head for home. The popping explosions resounded from neighboring streets, making me jump each time, and the night carried with it a sense of lawlessness, though it was all perfectly harmless. For a few hours, I got the sense of being abroad again, in a place very different from the world I’ve come to expect and know in Chicago. And, as we drove off and left the explosions behind us, I sighed a sigh of satisfaction for injection of chaos they had provided.


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