I usually spend the Fourth of July at my brother’s compound near the Louisiana/Mississippi border hanging out in the woods around a massive swimming pool, slurping frosty beverages and arguing politics while my sister-in-law’s many siblings, their children and their children’s children (“Did someone kick over an ant hill?,” a guest once asked) splash and scream.

For the first time in at least 35 years that bash has been cancelled. As of June 27 it was still on but the following morning the boom came down.

“Big gatherings, even outside, are just too chancy,” said my ultra-conservative older brother, shocking me. I wholeheartedly agree with him but I was stunned as he was only too eager to take his nearly 69-year old – albeit extremely fit and youthful – self to Bay St. Louis on Memorial Day weekend.

Yes, we are all tired of the dragging COVID Thing but I take solace in witnessing people of all political persuasions stepping back and reconsidering their actions. Our response to this plague should never have become politicized but, like seemingly everything in this country, it did. Could it be that we are now, collectively, taking a wary look around and starting to get on the same page as The Thing rears its ugly head anew? I hope.

A unified approach to public health and consideration for others is the only way we are going to get through this communal challenge. So, the limited gatherings, social distancing, masks in public indoors, washing your hands and scrubbing light switches and doorknobs will remain the order as we celebrate Independence Day from the Brits if not the ‘Rona.

Since pickings are a bit slim – even fireworks displays have been cancelled – I conferred with Beth D’Addono, author of “100 Things To Do In New Orleans Before You Die,” for some suggestions. She offered six ideas for a good time:

  • Catch the sunset by the lake. Thanks to improved streetscaping and plenty of shelters and benches, watching the pelicans and counting sailboats on Lake Pontchartrain is a fun way to pass the time with an adult beverage.
  • Have a crawfish boil for a few friends and family.  ‘Tis the season and getting your boil on with the radio tuned to WWOZ is a guaranteed good time.
  • Head to The Fly, a strip of frontage high enough to actually deliver river views, an anomaly in a city built below sea level. Tucked behind Audubon Zoo across the Mississippi River levee, the Fly is the go-to spot for  family barbecues, Frisbee throws and the perfect perch for watching the river traffic flow by.
  • Explore City Park, the 1300-acre Eden known for its stands of live oak trees and outdoor recreation includes a manmade lake with swan boats, kayaks and stand up paddleboards for rent.
  • Bike on the levee to Rivertown. Also known in cycling circles as the levee bike path, the 22 mile flat paved trail is usually free of crossing traffic on the weekends, making this a popular training route. But don’t go too fast, you’ll miss the views along the way, cruising along with the mighty river on one side and scenes of industry and family life on the other.
  • Rediscover the French Quarter.  This most historic neighborhood has never looked better, with plenty of room to move around on foot or bicycle.  It will never be easier to park, get a restaurant reservation and appreciate the 300-year-old city’s amazing architectural details, then right now.

For a festive meal  Executive chef Chip Flanagan of Ralph’s on the Park is offering Meals To-Go and a selection of Patriotic-themed pies for intimate Independence Day celebrations. Fourth of July Meals are designed to feed two  and come packaged cold and ready to reheat. Each kit includes one starter (chilled Gulf shrimp with crackers and zesty pickles), two entrees (hearty braised boneless short ribs with a red wine and veal glaze, and a classic herb-marinated bone-in chicken breast with sides of freshly baked cornbread  and dirty rice with Andouille) and one pie. Pie choices include luscious Strawberry Jam Pie – flakey  handmade dough, vanilla pastry cream, Louisiana strawberry jam  topped with and fresh strawberries; festive Blueberry Crumble Pie – handmade dough  with Mississippi Blueberry Crumble; or Coconut Cream Pie with a buttery graham cracker crust, coconut custard, and fresh whipped cream.

Orders must be received tomorrow (Friday, July 3) by 12 p.m. Orders may be placed online HERE. Pick up curbside on Saturday, July 4, anytime between 9 – 11 a.m.

Have a great week and a wonderful holiday, everyone. Use this time to celebrate the people and the community you love, even if you are doing it from afar, digitally, or over the telephone. We need each other more than ever so take the time and make the effort to reach out. While you are at it make an effort to forgive past misdeeds and share some love. Please reach out to me if you have something to share or I can help in some way because You’ve Got A Friend in Me.