Although I had originally planned to finally have another 4th of July party this year, Justin and I both received invitations to other events, so we decided to spend our day out in the burbs and leave the planning of festivities to other people.
We spent the first part of our day with my parents and their good friends Mike and JoAnn at Arlington Race Track. Dad likes to go to the horse races once every summer, and his friends, whom I view somewhat as grandparent-like figures, had been clamoring to meet this boy who I've been getting so serious about, so he figured the 4th of July holiday would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
In the past, we've always gotten outdoor box seats for the races, but given the more delicate health of our elderly guests, we decided to get a reservation for the track's Million Room, their most upscale dining option. Tables there are set in tiers facing a huge glass wall that overlooks the track. The room was bright and pleasant, if perhaps a bit too assertively air conditioned, and the food was marginal but not terrible.
Dad, as always, employed a very elaborate system for selecting his bets. In the past, he's referred to four different sources of advice and predictions, but this year he upped the ante and and consulted no less than six. He was somewhat disappointed in the efficacy of his system this year, as his winnings were not as high as they have been in years prior, but I think there's still something to be said for his methodology, because he still came out on top as the biggest winner for the day. I managed to leave the track up $10 for the day, and Justin more or less broke even, which isn't bad considering this was his first foray into betting the ponies. I think he had a fun time learning about all the different kinds of bets, and studying up on the various horses to try to predict a winner.
Justin spent a brief period of his life living on a horse farm, so I made sure to take him down to the paddock area so he could get a better look at the animals. I think he had a better appreciation for their athleticism than I did; I was mostly amused by how well-groomed the beasts were, and how silly their jockeys looked, all tiny and clad in ridiculous outfits. Not to mention their uncomfortable-looking riding stance.
Overall, I believe a good time was had by everyone in attendance, and I was happy to introduce Justin to another part of my "family." It was pretty clear that Mike and JoAnn thought our "young love" was adorable, though in true Italian fashion they warned Justin not to take me for granted, because he's landed himself a nice girl in me. Considering they've got nearly fifty years of marriage under their belt, I think they know a thing or two about making things work over the long haul, but I think it's safe to say that neither Justin nor I have forgotten for a second how lucky we are to have found each other.
For a more traditional Independence Day celebration, we parted ways with my family and traveled down to Evanston, where we attended a 4th of July party with Justin's parents at the condo of some of their friends. Located on the 24th floor and overlooking basically the entire lakefront, we were treated not only to an amazing view of the Evanston fireworks, which were more or less at eye level, but we could also see pyrotechnic displays being launched all along the North Shore over the lake, and all along the city's west side. It was very impressive, I must say, and Justin took a prolific amount of photos to capture the experience, not that I can blame him. It was definitely a special opportunity, and I'm glad we got to share it.