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Dead-solid summer - WIll Durst

Here's hoping your Independence Day was beyond terrific. Got to love the loudest and most American of all the holidays. Just one of the moments that makes a person prouder than papaya punch to be a citizen of this fine country.

The greatest place on the planet, which is why we have all those darn problems with our borders. After all, you don't see a lot of stories about the teeming humanity streaming across the border into Kazakhstan. Or Kyrgyzstan. Which many experts claim are two different countries.

Although the Summer Solstice was but a few weeks ago, the Fourth of July is still dead-solid summer. It means baseball and hot dogs and picnics and suntan lotion and ice cream trucks and road trips in the back of a station wagon, bouncing around like a fleshy pinball, begging Dad to turn up the air conditioning and screw the gas mileage.

Being a native of the Midwest, I am used to celebrating this noisy and sweaty occasion by intensely charring immense amounts of flesh, both mine and that of assorted animals, then drinking a cooler full of suds and shooting off firecrackers. That's right, we drink beer and handle explosives, explaining why this is the day many nicknames like "Lefty" and "Patch" are christened.

No matter what side of the political spectrum your team plays on, this is a non-partisan party. Hippies and hawks both can be seen exercising their freedom by flipping Frisbees and firing up the grill, although it's a lot easier to keep a rack of baby-backs from slipping through the grates than it is for bean sprouts.

Hard to think of a snapshot of the USA more iconic than a small-town Fourth of July parade with kids stringing bunting in their bicycle spokes, and streamers doing their streaming thing from the handlebars. Where tricycles and Big Wheels careen between crawling convertibles containing beauty queens waving with one hand and holding tight their tiaras with the other. Where hardware stores sponsor Uncle Sam floats, and politicians are good-naturedly booed.

Speaking of which, the Fourth of July also signals the apex of the marching-band year. This is their day to shine. Good marching bands and bad marching bands. Which admittedly is hard for the layman to tell the difference, but no whining. These poor people practice all year long and get one lousy day. Be honest, how many John Philip Sousa albums do you own?

Even as a transplant to the West Coast, my wife and I will attempt to do the red, white and blue thing so big and bad that the ghost of Patrick Henry slaps us an imaginary high-five. It's the perfect time to forget the troubles facing this nation and concentrate on the good things. Food, family, friends and fireworks.

So get in your summer licks, people. Buy a new bathing suit. Wear white shoes. Fly a flag. Eat a roasted cob of corn and let the butter slide right down your arm and drip off your elbow. Snore in a hammock. And blow some stuff up real good. Because it won't be long before we're stuffing the flip-flops back in the closet and hauling out the school backpacks and pumpkin-carving kits. Happy 234th birthday, America. And I got to tell you sweetheart, in the right light, you don't look a day over 195. Oooh. Aaaah.

Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comedian who often writes. This being a festive example. He has performed around the world, and is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at durst@caglecartoons.com.