It's difficult to remember a prettier day than today has been for the Fourth of July in Pacific Grove. With the merest hint of a cool breeze nudging my wind chime, the day is idling quietly by. A few hours ago, we celebrated Independence Day along with our fellow townspeople the way we do here - very modestly and with no fanfare whatsoever.
Now it's time for a nap.
In years past, the City of Monterey, our neighbor to the east, hosted a popular fireworks display over the harbor that the whole Peninsula enjoyed. Thousands watched the exciting spectacle from the circle of beaches around the bay. Not this year. Like so much of the state and the whole country, cutbacks in the city budget have forced cancellation of the show. And, to add boredom to dullness, home fireworks are not being allowed either. This, say officials, is to prevent fires and injury. Seaside, the rougher, more blue-collar town on the other side of Monterey, is allowing fireworks to be sold by civic groups, but there are no fireworks allowed in public places.
At this time of year, and on into the early part of November, California's native plants are in a dormant state in order to survive summer's drought conditions. Grasses and scrub oak as well as chaparral are usually crispy dry and snap into open flame with very little provocation. Fireworks and sparklers have been problematic in the past, so nearly all cities have put the kibosh on them. Oh well.
In spite of the lack of explosive excitement we've come to consider a tradition in most parts of the USA, each town here on the Monterey Peninsula is hosting a public barbecue. Pacific Grove's was held in Caledonia Park behind the Post Office, a small neighborhood park squeezed in between two narrow lanes of tidy Victorians. A band played heart-felt covers of favorite rock hits, while barbecued chicken, beans and salad with garlic bread was served up for $10 a pop for adults, $5 for kids. Pagrovians, young and mostly old, strolled over to the park sporting red, white and blue and then sat down to visit and blink and gaze around at the festive bunting and bright balloons.
A young blond boy named Tanner was chosen to pick a winner from among dancing citizens who were interpreting music in their own special way (proving once again white folks can't dance but sure do try). Tanner will one day be Mayor of Pacific Grove. He did just fine as judge and had the confidence and spark needed to perform his duty with aplomb.
The celebration lasted from 11 until 2 when the band stopped and packed up and left. No, indeed, Pacific Grove is not a town that celebrates wildly, but the simple charm of ordinary citizens turning out for a traditional day at the park was quaint and true to itself. No fuss, no muss. Three hours is quite long enough to be celebrating anything, thank you.
There are several small events and parades that come out of hiding, each taking their turn during the year, peeking out for a quick look, and then retiring to some obscure place to think it all over. Is it that this town is contemplative? Shy? Listless? Or just fine with itself and needn't howl at the moon at all? A bit of all that, I suppose. The sunshine felt good to everyone and for whatever odd or groovy reason, PG was out in its low-key force, happy to be warm for a change.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way