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chad slacker




7/07/04 -- Of Family And Fireworks.

the Fourth of July didn't get off to an auspicious start. It was pouring buckets outside and thundering to boot. I was having family over, and I had it in my head that I was going to make a red velvet cake with white icing and blueberries on top for that patriotic look. The recipe I had was incredibly complicated, but I'd tried it once before and it turned out fine. Recipes almost always do if I'm cooking just for me and Bill, I've noticed. But on Sunday morning the frosting curdled and looked pukelike. I had the ingredients on hand for the simple buttercream frosting on the side of the confectioner's sugar box, so I didn't panic.

But then the cake decided to get into the act. One of the layers broke in half coming out of its pan, and I could see that the batter hadn't mixed well; there were lumps of uncolored cake mixed in with the vibrant red. And the red color was uneven. It looked terrible. It tasted okay -- in fact, Bill and I were stuffing chunks of the broken half in our mouths while discussing its unappetizing appearance -- but I didn't want to serve it to guests.

And this was very, very bad. I'm usually smart enough to purchase an Emergency Backup Food Item to take the place of any cooking projects of mine that go horribly wrong. I learned to do that after what I fondly remember as the "Turkey Breast Turning Into A Smoking Alien Corpse" Thanksgiving disaster I subjected my poor in-laws to a couple of years ago. But I didn't have anything for dessert except the fruit I'd bought to top the cake.

And then serendipity happened -- my niece called to firm up plans for the day and without even hearing my tale of woe about the cake volunteered that her husband made a mean lemon bar and they'd be bringing along a pan. Thank God.

After that, things looked way up. My nieces and one spouse and one grand-nephew showed up and we had a wonderful time. The rain even stopped long enough for us to explode some fireworks outside in the parking lot. We did it during the daytime and I was convinced a neighbor would come running out with a shotgun and order us to cease and desist, but I guess people know to suck it up and deal with the noise on the Fourth. A couple of parents even brought their kids out to watch the "show," and a beautiful little neighbor girl clapped her hands and jumped up and down as much as my grand-nephew did every time we fired off a particularly loud and sparkly one. We got into a noise contest of sorts with a gaggle of kids across the street who were setting off their own fireworks, and we created a tremendous cloud of smoke. I had a heartburn moment when a fire truck rolled down our street, but the firemen inside just waved to us and continued on their way.

This was the first time in a long time that Bill and I actually did anything for the Fourth, and even with the rain and the ruined cake, it was a great time.

On becoming a person I don't recognize.

I got way too caught up in this whole "Who Wants To Be A Vice President?" frenzy over the last few days. It reminded me of the insanity surrounding the final episodes of every "Survivor" season: My friend's uncle's cousin's neighbor's dog walker's husband works in the business and he said he heard from a cameraman that Dick Gephardt is going to win ... Now that I don't watch "Survivor" anymore, I guess I needed to get that adrenaline fix somewhere else.

I'd already signed up at Kerry's site to get one of the Soopah Secret Supporter emails announcing his decision. After a Monday spent trying to keep up with all the wild speculation, I couldn't wait to get to work on Tuesday to find out the news. When the "Kerry-Edwards" email showed up in my Gmailbox, I did a gleeful little dance in my office chair. Yes, I was pulling for John. The folks I liked almost never won "Survivor", so it felt good to back the winning horse for a change. Especially because the veepstakes actually matter. I don't know that the vice presidential candidate can help a ticket, but I do believe the wrong pick can hurt it. Edwards won't hurt. At all.

And as if getting all caught up in a political contest wasn't sufficiently unlike me, later that day I sent a cranky email to the Washington Post Express, a little free tabloid they hand out every morning at Metro stops. I generally like it, but after the third LTTE they printed in which the writer slammed "Fahrenheit 9/11" as nothing but dastardly lies (never citing so much as one example, of course), I'd had enough. It probably won't get printed, as the F9/11 story is running its course, but I felt damn good when I hit the "Send" button.

I was probably a happier person when I went out of my way to ignore politics. I just believe that I don't have the luxury of ignoring them anymore. It's too scary out there.