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   Is is really Achenblog when it isn't Achen? I always used to wonder whether it was right to call TV shows by their given names when the title of the show was the host's name and the host wasn't there. So was it still the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour if neither guy was on hand that night, or was it really the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when Johnny was off? In the latter case, it was, but you'll notice that Letterman doesn't do the substitute host thing. They just do reruns. (The whole concept of the rerun seems so 1960s and 70s. All of cable is essentially one big rerun, so the redundancy has made the word seem dated.)

   Anyway, this is Achenblog and I'm not Achen. He'll be -bach next week. For two days, you get me--which is somehow fitting since Joel and I have led strangely parallel lives for almost thirty years. Same college, same internship, same first job, same move to same second job, similar series of assignments at second job, first kids born within a few months of each other, and so on. When we were mere pups living in South Florida, Joel spent a year or so working in the Palm Beach bureau of the Miami Herald and when the weekends rolled around, he'd come down to Miami and crash on the couch in my living room. My girl friend and I loved having Joel around--he made a mean chili, and as you know, he's a funny guy. But at some point, the girl friend and I decided to get married. Joel was thrown for a loop. He got all serious on us one night and asked if this meant he would no longer be permitted to sleep on our couch. We explained that our change in status would have no bearing on the crashability of our couch, and that he was as welcome as ever. Achenbach seemed skeptical. Which goes to show you that as cool as he is, Mr. Achenblog is a traditional values kind of American. (Though, come to think of it, he had never overtly objected to our living in sin.)

   In any event, we were able to persuade him that he should continue to weekend in our living room and we've all lived reasonably happily ever after.

   So I guess this is Achenblog, and it will always be The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in my mind, no matter how many years Leno stinks up the joint. I now have an image of myself as David Brenner here today, and I'm sure one of you will know whether he is still alive and working some Improv club somewhere, possibly in Canada.

   Speaking of Canada, I bet they don't do Independence Day nearly as well as we do. The Fourth on the Mall last night was somehow more stirring than any Fourth since '02, which was the first one after 9/11, and felt wonderfully empowering and uniting, even though the size of the crowd was considerably down because of all the new security measures that year. Last night's was the least humid, sticky and uncomfortable Fourth in at least a decade, and that made it all the more fantabulous. But the crowds still remain smaller than they were pre-9/11, and that's sad, as is the overbearing and often quite ridiculous security net, which includes overzealous police chopper pilots buzzing the crowd over and over, even after the fireworks started. Really, now, let's just put our toys down and let the crowd enjoy the show. (Some cops had the right spirit--some very nice Park Police at the Jefferson Memorial let the kiddies go into their patrol cars and play with the lights and sirens.) And we all had a nice time examining the biochemical death-ray detector that's been positioned outside the Jefferson. (Big white box with an antenna on top, just west of the Memorial.)

   The bad news is that the security net is much more silly than it is effective. The predictable news is that last night's experiment with the District's evacuation system for a major bad event went poorly--traffic getting home from the fireworks was a bit slower than most years, mainly because of cops standing around in intersections, clearly having communications problems with their colleagues at the next corner. And the good news is that the fireworks were terrific, with a stunningly pretty and subtle ending in which the toss-em-all up into the sky lollapalooza was finished off with a sweet and quiet willow of pure white light cascading down from the sky. Beautiful.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 3, 2005; 10:57 PM ET
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