Independence Day: Past and Present in Historical Boston

The Fourth of July reminds me of long, dusky twilight evenings filled with conversation among friends I had seen all summer. It was a tradition while I was in high school to go out to the lake with a picnic basket and lots of Avon's Skin So Soft. (The mosquitos in Dallas are larger than most birds in Massachusetts). The fireworks lit up the modern skyline of downtown and reflected onto the lake. If we could successfully fend off the mosquitos and avoid the ants, we usually had a good time.

Boston offers a similar experience with the annual Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell, also known as the Esplanade. Throngs congregate on the lawn with their ice chests and settle in, anxiously awaiting the climactic "The 1812 Overture" which always ends the concert and is the cue for the fireworks to begin. Many of the radio stations in the Boston area broadcast the show so if you can't make it you can at least listen to it. And you can see some of the fireworks from Weeks Bridge.

But you can't spend your Fourth of July this way. I did it last year, and while I enjoyed talking to a three-year-old French girl who was visiting for the week, it just wasn't the same as being there. The dregs and creme de la creme of the Boston area come together for this concert. If you don't like classical music, pretend it's an elevator and don't allow the Muzak in the background to distract you from people watching.

So, remember: Pack a blacket, some beer and your binoculars, but you can miss the conductor because you'll be more interested in the slob across the way whose scratching his bum or the girl in the bikini who needs some help with her tanning oil.

July Fourth Weekend Events

Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra concert at Hatch Shell. Followed by fireworks at approximately 9:30.

Harborfest--Annual celebration Boston Harbor and its resources through July 4.

USS Constitution--July Quincy Adams Drydock, Charlestown Navy Yard. Tour "Old Ironsides" in drydock. July 1-July 4.

Discover Boston Harbor--Then and Now-Steps of Old City Hall, 45 School St. Guided walking tours. $5. July1-July 3.

Concert with Boston Baked Blues--City Hall Plaza, Noon-2pm July 1.

"Remember the Ladies"--Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center, 15 State St. Guided walking tour highlighting three centuries of Boston women's ideas. 1-3:30pm, July 1; 2-3:30, July 3.

Colonial Tea and Scones--Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum, Congress Street Bridge. 338-1773. Learn about 18th-century tea customs. $3-$6.2pm, July 1,2.

Concert at Paul Revere House--19 North Square, North End. 523-2338. Jigs, reels and classical music on hammered dulcimer by David Neiman. $1-$2.50. 1-4pm, July 2.

Chowderfest--On the Plaza at City Hall. Rain or shine. Vote for your favorite version. $6.11am-6pm.