The river being the one you might not know about: the Anacostia River, which for all intents and purposes runs from Bladensburg, Md., into the Potomac. Poor Corps of Engineers engineering and poor agricultural practices= silt, the river being tidal = mud, low tide = pontoon boat stuck in mud. The pontoon boat Dan and I and his Anacostia Watershed Society colleagues are supposed to take downriver to see D.C.’s fireworks. A mighty pushing-and-tugging effort does not release the boat, so we take the smaller pontoon boat, which is not stuck in mud but which only drives forward, not in reverse.
It’s maneuvered out of its slip, and off we go into the just-becoming dusk. The river looks beautiful, treed on both banks, serene down the middle. We see many blue heron and geese, some egrets, a fawn. We go under an old railroad bridge, the Benning Road bridge, the South Capital Street bridge. We pass Kenilworth gardens (the lotus blossoms are now in bloom, we’re told), the Arboretum, the old Pepco plant, Nationals Park, many parcels of land and buildings and even ships owned by the Navy. We round the bend into the Potomac and start to see other boats. Some boats are tied redneck-yacht-club-like, except the music is hip hop, and people are dancing. We pass people sitting all along the river, waiting for the fireworks. We anchor not too far from the 14th Street bridge. I turn on WETA and stream the concert on the mall. Finally, the fireworks come, and we hear a chorus of ooohs and aaaahs from all the boats, all the land-locked onlookers. When they’re over, we make our big circle to head back and discover a boat in distress: their battery has died. We lash their boat to ours and tow them over to their slip. We pause for a potty break. Back in the boat, we make another forward-facing arc and head for home. All the way, we are amazed at the high-quality fireworks being set off presumably in streets and parks in communities on both sides of the river. They, and the half moon and the stars, follow us all the way back. It’s dark and after 11 when we dock. It has been a most lovely way to celebrate the Fourth, along with an entire country of millions. I consider myself a global community member, but even I can understand the impulse to shout U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!