If you didnt realize that the Fourth of July is upon us, youll likely know it by the ka-booms and rockets red glare Saturday when the city has its fireworks show at Santa Monica College at 9 p.m. Personally, I much preferred the fireworks from the Santa Monica Pier but, inexplicably, the city once again did not consult me.
July 4 already? I swear, the older I get the faster time flies. In what may seem like only a few weeks, Ill be writing about Thanksgiving.
In any event, next Wednesday marks the 236th anniversary of a truly remarkable, though flawed document, the Declaration of Independence. It begins, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Of course that didnt apply to African Americans, Native Americans and women. Apparently, the only ones who were created equal were white men who owned property, but thats for another column.
How fireworks became part of Independence Day celebrations may date back to July 2, 1776. In a letter by John Adams, he predicts that the holiday would one day be filled with illuminations. It should be noted that Adams was referring to lighting candles, not cherry bombs.
A more recent July 4 tradition involves eating an obscene number of hot dogs. According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathans Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument over who was the most patriotic. (With the Russian revolution the following year, it appears demonstrating ones patriotism would go from eating hot dogs to hating Communists.)
Somehow that 1916 contest morphed into a giant Fourth of July Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest which, in 2011, was attended by 40,000 spectators with an additional 2 million viewers on ESPN.
Talk about having a lot of free time.
Thanks Jennifer, but Im going to pass on the hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, I want to sit home and watch guys stuff hot dogs down their throats until they get sick. (Speaking of sick, last year Joey Chestnut won the competition by eating 62 Nathan hot dogs in 10 minutes and was awarded the first prize of $10,000, much of which Im guessing might have been spent on Pepto-Bismol.)
Out here, not to be outdone, Lenny Hoops, a friend of mine, is staging the second annual Santa Monica Hot Dog on a Stick eating contest on July 4 at 3 p.m. just south of the Santa Monica Pier. To be entirely accurate, as Ive told Lenny, I think it should be called the first annual only because last years event was BYOHD. (Bring your own hot dog.) This year Ive been assured that the Hot Dot on a Stick stand will provide free hot dogs but on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, if youre up to the challenge, get there on time.
I say challenge because Lennys contest involves giant, hand-made hula hoops. (He provides them to contestants.) An entrant has to keep the hoop twirling while eating the hot dog. Remember the saying, Hes so dumb he cant walk and chew gum at the same time? Ive given this some thought and, frankly, eating a hot dog and twirling a hula hoop simultaneously may not be that easy.
Hot dogs aside, in addition to his drumming on an African djembe drum, Lenny has been a pied-piper/teacher of hooping down by the pier to kids and adults since 2010. His spirit is so upbeat its impossible not to be entertained.
Originally from Savannah, Ga. and after serving in the Navy, Lennys performing career began in 1987 in stand-up comedy. He appeared on Showtime At the Apollo eight times and was the house M.C. at Rodney Dangerfields in New York City. Lenny also appeared on HBOs Def Comedy Jam with Martin Lawrence and performed in Las Vegas before coming to Santa Monica and finding more joy in street performing. He frequently entertains at childrens birthday parties and is available for bar mitzvahs. (Actually, I made up the bar mitzvah part, but it isnt a bad idea.)
But back to wolfing down hot dogs. Whereas Nathans gives out $20,000, Lenny will be awarding hula hoops and T-shirts. Clearly these dont match $20,000, but the hula hoops are fun and colorful and Lenny reminds me that the T-shirts are handmade and one of a kind.
Frankly, Im still thinking about those immigrants arguing over who was most patriotic. Maybe the founding fathers werent the super patriots weve always been led to believe. I dont imagine they ever ate hot dogs or hated Communists.
In summary then, it would seem that not only is the Fourth of July an opportunity to celebrate our heritage with fireworks, hula hoops and hot dogs, but it also gives us time to reflect on an important issue that divides our nation mustard or ketchup.
To reach Lenny go to www.lennyhoops.com. Jack is at firstname.lastname@example.org.