This Friday begins a long weekend that culminates in the Fourth of July, the annual celebration of everything American.
It's a time when many of us feel the need to do things up the right way, with big barbecues or big public events.
There are pitfalls to be aware of, however. Here are five:
5. Watermelon -- The cotton-candy of fruits Every "traditional" Fourth of July barbecue has to include a watermelon. A huge, heavy, pale-green boulder that has to be carried around and then cut up with a machete that will probably end up in some kid's hands. You laboriously cut a huge chunk to give to everyone, and they take a big bite that quickly turns to water in their mouth. Fun!
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4. Bad music If you go to any kind of public event, rest assured you will hear some of the most annoying music possible. Slow-building country power anthems by some husky-voiced patriot extolling the greatness of America (except for that part where people are free to criticize it). Rockin' tunes about kicking foreign ass. And, God knows, "Proud to be an American." Is any fireworks display worth that?
3. The flag cake Someone will bring a cake or other dessert to your barbecue in the design of a flag. Which is very nice and all, but the cake has to be left out so people can see it, and when it's 102 degrees, that's not really primo cake-storage strategy.
2. The amateur fireworks Someone will decide to relive his childhood or impress the kids with his macho sense of fun by lighting off firecrackers. He will do this even though one very little kid will start crying, his wife will beg him to stop, and he's holding his fifth beer as he launches the biggest one he has. It's what America's about.
1. The political arguments You should hope desperately that some point in your barbecue a relative or relatively unfamiliar guest doesn't solemnly announce that "we all should keep in mind just what this day is about." Because whether his e-mail forwards are filled with items from Free Republic or Daily Kos, it's just not going to be pretty.