This past weekend was, undeniably, the best July Fourth weekend I’ve ever had.
Thursday my sister, four friends of hers I’ve gotten to know here, and I went up into the San Jacinto wilderness to camp until Saturday. The campsite was 14 miles up a winding paved mountain road, and then another 6 miles up a one-lane dirt path; the site we reserved was the “group camp” site, which has enough room for a group of 100. For whatever reason, it was the only site available to rent so the six of us had the whole place to ourselves. More than a mile up in the air, pretty much right at the top of a mountain (close enough we climbed to the top in about an hour of pretty strenuous bouldering)… it was such a calming and spiritual place to be for a short while. We built fires and drank and talked and had a really spectacular two days.
Then, upon coming back Saturday afternoon, we went to a party at my sister’s boss’ house up in the hills near Pasadena. It was interesting coming down from a mountain wilderness camping experience and going right into a Hollywood party. Swimming, alcohol, food, hot tub, fireworks, even Nicolette Sheridan (I’m pretty sure we shared a moment when we locked eyes on the steps by the pool). Then crashing for a few hours of sleep before going to a farmers’ market and eating empanadas for lunch.
And then, to cap the whole weekend off, one of the most special experiences I’ve had on this trip. Death Cab for Cutie with the L.A. Philharmonic at the famous Hollywood Bowl. After finally getting into the venue just in time to catch the last couple songs from openers The New Pornographers, and seeing a good set from Tegan and Sara, Death Cab walked out on stage and played for about 45 minutes by themselves before taking a break and coming back out with the orchestra. By this time the sun had set and all 18,000 of us sitting in the cool Los Angeles air, in the middle of a valley with hills all around us, play another entire set with an orchestra backing.
My mom called me as I was walking into the Bowl to ask me about camping and if I got to see any fireworks. I can’t remember a July 4th without fireworks; going to a big fireworks show is one of the things I really enjoy. I was disappointed to tell her I hadn’t gotten to see any this year because we went to the party Saturday night, but I figured it was okay because my weekend had been good enough without the fireworks show. But I kind of wished I had seen some anyway.
The last song Death Cab played with the Philharmonic was “Transatlanticism” from the album of the same name. One of their best songs, by any measure, and probably their most epic. If you’re going to close out a show at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic on a summer night, this is the one to do it with. They’re playing, the orchestra musicians behind them on the riser are playing, the song starts to swell as it begins its second half, and suddenly, fireworks from the top of the amphitheater. The crowd gasps in surprise and then begins to cheer in awe and joy as each new round of light explodes in the sky with the timing of the song. The band extends the end of the song and the fireworks keep going off; finally the music fades to silence and the rockets stop shooting up into the Los Angeles night. The crowd explodes in cheers and applause.
And Oh My Holy God I Saw Heaven on Earth.