rockets red glare
It's June. Which means any day now, I will start hearing the popping and booming of fireworks, both big and small, around the neighborhood.
They start early around here, amassing their motherload of pyrotechnics weeks in advance of the Fourth of July. It's kids, mostly, but plenty of them are grown kids, 30 year old men who still get off on lighting mats of firecrackers two or three at a time until the neighbors think they are under seige.
I never understood the appeal of plain old firecrackers. You light it, you throw it, it goes boom. How thrilling. There's not much to do with a small firecracker unless you are like the kids I grew up with, who used them to frighten frogs or to stick down my shorts, fuse lite and sparkling.
And there are those inventive folks who will put M80's in garbage cans, rocking everyone on the block out of their sleep, fearing for their lives. This was pre-9/11. Can you imagine what the sound of an explosion echoing in a metal garbage can will do to a person's nerves now?
Firework shows, on the other hand, are a different story. I know I can have my breath taken away by a shower of color falling from the sky. It's what brings people out on their lawns on the Fourth of July, what brings them to parks and beaches, willing to stretch their necks for hours just to be awestruck by the beauty of the fireworks, the swelling of the patriotic music, and the pride that comes from being an American on Independence Day.
Too bad people may have to find another way to celebrate this year. In our post-9/11 world, everything is a danger, everything is a potential weapon, including fireworks meant only to grace the sky with colors. We have regulated ourselves into boredom in an effort to keep terrorists at bay. I don't know any terrorists, but it doesn't take knowing one to realize that they aren't going to use Roman Candles and Bottlerockets to take out America.
Even if the larger, professional displays are smothered by needless regulations, there will always be the neighborhood displays, that guy from around the corner who drove down to Georgia to get a trunkful of whatever they were selling at the fireworks flea market; the cop around the corner who mysteriously comes home with a box of fireworks of Fourth of July. The skies above my home are never dull on that holiday. We pull chairs up on the lawn and ooh and ahhh our way through night, until the streets are covered with spent shells and torn paper and the beer is gone.
That's what fireworks are about. The displays, the colors, the ability to make you suck in your breath in awe. It's not about noise making or scaring the dog next door. It's not setting your lawn on fire or tearing your cousin's garbage can to pieces. If that's what you have in mind, and you live in my neighborhood, let it be known I will not put up with it this year. First person to set off a mat of firecrackers in my hearing distance will end up with a lit bottle rocket down his pants.