Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fireworks are better than puppies!

In past years, it used to be a given, the long hike down to Edgewater to watch the city fireworks they set off from the beach. The spot itself would change occasionally, but wherever I was that day, we walked with the crowd towards the water, 105.7 Oldies playing from various stereos, kids being dragged by tired dads in wagons and strollers. The radio always played the Top 500 songs of all time, all weekend. I think I knew the words to every song by the time I was 9. Then there was the uncomfortable wait on the grass or asphalt for it to go dark. I think July 4th is the one holiday where even though I have off all day, I want the day to end as fast as possible. So we’d sit. When I was a little kid, this inevitably meant I had to go to the bathroom as soon as we got there. As an adult, this interim involved drinking warm vodka fruit juice from plastic water bottles, and therefore definitely having to go to the bathroom. Those were hot, irritating days, but I always thought the fireworks made up for it.

2 years ago, S. and I went to a party that was nowhere near the beach, so instead we ended up off Abbey Rd above the river flats, by the cat clinic under the bridge, which turned out to be the perfect spot to watch the fireworks set off from Voinovich Park. There was hardly anyone there, and the fireworks went off right above the city. We were closer to the display than I had ever been, and best of all, when it was over, we just got in the car and left. No walking, no horrible traffic jam. Driving home though, through W.25th and the near West side, the sulfur fog hung down on us like a disaster. We were confused by all the smoke. Where had it come from? Was it maybe actually normal fog, cause there was so much of it, there was no way it came from the fireworks we’d just seen. Ignoring the almost certain health risks, it was kinda awesome. It made the city into a horror movie, a sepia toned moor with demon dogs lurking in the corners out of sight. Of course, it had to have come from the neighborhood fireworks, the ones lit off from backyards and side streets. This is what I had been missing every year when we walked to lake. Behind us was Fallujah.

Last year, there were parties, but I couldn’t go. Instead I had an allergic reaction to something (never determined), and my entire body erupted in giant red welts. So when it got dark, I went out on our second story deck to see if I could catch a glimpse. As soon as it got even semi-dark the displays started. As a city girl, I’m used to the small time backyard show, the rattlesnake, machine gun noises from the bombs with lots of noise but no pay-off. I was even familiar with the spectacle of driving down 90w and seeing the occasional big blast. But this show was insane. The entire neighborhood was blowing stuff up. There were at least four houses that had spent hundreds thousands on gunpowder, and the results were spectacular! Amazing! Wonderful! Giant gold plumes, red within silver within blue spangles! And best of all, it was right on top of me! If the wind blew right, the debris landed in my hair! Sulfur in my mouth, my eyes, the proof of chemical awesomeness!

So of course, this year we knew where to go. The neighbors, M. and C., had a party on the deck. We all sat around drinking and eating, while M. and C.’s brother lit off fireworks from the roof. They had tons of them, like 300 dollars worth, but we were no comparison to this guy a few blocks away. He was lighting 5 at a time, and they were all professional grade, and he went on for hours. Not to mention everyone else from last year who outdid themselves again. We had a couple moments of “stupid things to do with gunpowder”, a few times of yelling at M. to not light fountains on the tar roof (“the height of stupidity”), but the only mishap was S. burning his hand with a bottle rocket and someone misplacing the trash can. There were rumors of a “crackdown” on illegal displays this year, but we never even saw a cop drive down the street. The food was great (thanks C.), the drinks were neon (malibu, orange vodka, mountain dew?), and nothing is better than loud technicolor explosions right above your head that could burn themselves into your retinas if you were only 8 ft closer. S. and D. were going to have a bottle rocket duel (yes, where they shoot each other with them, like goggles are going to help anything), but I managed to shame them out of that by referring to it as a Wizards Duel and threatening to shout Harry Potter spells at them while they did it. It was one of the best July 4ths ever, coming in second behind the time we camped out on the edge of the pier, dipping our toes in the water, out of our heads, watching the fireworks from all around the edge of Lake Erie. But it’s a very close second, and that’s only because certain things transpired that day that I can’t talk about here.

And of course, as I was driving home, the city was once again turned into a dark empty smoke filled battlefield, and I could still hear the bombs going off around me. I’ve met people who complain about the noise, who despair that for days before and days after all you hear are rockets and blasters and blam blam blam crack crack crack. I can’t understand it. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, and July 4th in the city is way cooler than sitting in some field somewhere, being eaten by bugs and having to piss.


  1. man, i used to bottle rocket duel all da time!

  2. And you're a see, it was training.


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