July 4, 2004

I’m not certain how many years Annie Crotts has been singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Bolinas July 4th celebration, and I’m not certain how many more years she left in her to do it – though I sure hope it’s a lot! What I am sure about is that Crotts’ rendition of the American classic with all of its rockets red glare, and the high notes, is something that hundreds of people come to see her do each year. I’ve been coming to hear Annie sing since my family moved to Bolinas in 1968 – and it seemed like she had some experience doing this even back then.

The temperature was cool this July 4th — one lady was wrapped in a sleeping bag until about ten AM. The fog was beautiful in the distance coming in over Mt. Tam. I had driven in from Sonoma County early, parked my car in the cemetery, and rode in quietly on my bike. Though once again permeated with out-of town law enforcement – this year’s Independence Day celebration was right on track with what a Bolinas Fourth of July is supposed to be about. There was plenty of good food supplied by the Briones Lion’s Club, along with hundreds of people from Bolinas past to reminisce with old friends.

As many of us know, Fourth of July is the town’s biggest “catch-up” day, where old and new meet and mingle, and those that have moved find themselves wishing they had never left.

At the tug of war, the Bolinas women’s team pulled the Stinson Beach women’s team into the water with ease. The men’s team won, too, though it took about a minute longer than the women, sparking speculation in the crowd that Bolinas women were stronger than Bolinas men because they spend less time at Smiley’s Saloon and are usually far more responsible.

The floats in the parade were amazing ranging from a troupe of nearly-naked samba dancers to a living tribute to the Bush White House. I don’t know where they came up with the Bush/Cheney/Rice/Powell, or even Reagan masks, and the weapons of mass destruction, but the political mocking was on target, and had many in the parade route in stitches. Local bon vivant Rick Klaes managed to muster up his dancing skills as the samba dancers passed. There were also three floats in a row that urged citizens to vote.

By contrast, that afternoon, 40-miles away in my adopted Rohnert Park cul de sac where we had recently moved, the neighbors were throwing an all day “block” party, to celebrate the Fourth. They pulled lounge chairs and tents out in front of their homes and blasted rap music from tinny sounding boom-boxes while the children rode in circles on scooters in the street, or jumped around in the air-filled rubber castle that had been set up on one lawn. The men were primarily decked out in wife-beater T-shirts, the style of the day in the suburbs. The women appeared to be serving food or delivering beers every time I peered out from the upstairs window.

The block party went on all afternoon and late into the night. At one point it looked as if everyone was bored and that it would peter out. At around 8 P.M. people started to get their second wind, and the music amped up again as they prepared to launch fireworks.

Fireworks falling from the sky put the roof at risk of catching on fire. I imagine none of this would be happening if a wrestling program, a Republican rally or perhaps NASCAR, was being broadcast. I drank wine, and reflected on the excellent July 4th morning I had spent in my favorite town.