Monday, July 07, 2014

Why Fireworks are Like Christmas

I love fireworks. With a qualifier. I love fireworks in a similar fashion to the way I love Christmas.

You see, for Christmas to be special it needs to be confined to a season concise enough to make it special. I suppose the length of such a season differs from person to person. But for me it lasts about three, maybe three-and-a-half weeks. Much longer than that and its exceptional qualities wear off. It becomes ordinary.

I know a family that loves to set up a grand Christmas tree each year around the first week of October. They tend to keep the tree up until sometime in February. Others like to begin listening to Christmas music the moment the leaves start to change colors in the autumn. Some of these people tell me that their penchant for keeping these holiday elements around for such an extended period is proof of how much they love Christmas. I suppose the guy that takes his exterior Christmas lights down in July could say the same thing.

Far be it from me to tell other people how to observe their holidays. But for crying out loud, the folks that prominently display their large Christmas tree in the full length corner window of their house, which sits on a corner of one of the city's busiest streets are kind of rubbing their neighbors' nose in it, don't you think?

I am not opposed to fireworks. I kind of like a certain amount of fireworks. Every year we blow a little bit of cash on some of our own. But they're pretty modest. Snaps, sparklers, tanks, flowers, snakes (Whose stupid idea were those things?), and a couple of cheap fountains.

But I'm Mr. Responsibility. I have a bucket of water and a hose with a spray nozzle ready to go. We douse every firework as soon as it is spent. We push the debris into the gutter and then I clean it all up in the morning.

For years our local city has done a fireworks show to commemorate Independence Day. It might be my imagination, but I believe that these shows have tended to become more elaborate over time. When I was a child the show originated in one of the city parks. It lasted for about five minutes. Years ago they moved the show to the local high school, which is actually in a neighboring city. This allowed for better parking and viewing.

A couple of years ago the school district increased the cost of using the high school's facilities. While looking for ways to cut costs, the city council decided to move the show to a local park where costs were already sunk. The addition of two parks since the olden days made the show readily visible from two other parks. A nearby church increases the available parking. It's a win-win situation.

Given that the park where the show originates is about a block and a half from my home, we have a grand view of the show from the bay window in our dining area. We don't hear the music that accompanies the show unless we open the windows or sit outside. But we also don't have to battle crowds, traffic, and mosquitoes. It's a pretty nice arrangement for us. Not so much for our dog. He hates fireworks. But he tolerates them if he can lay on the floor at my feet.

As the city's fireworks show has become more elaborate, so have the private fireworks events sponsored by various neighbors. A family in the adjacent cul-de-sac must drop $1-2K on noise, flashes of light, and smoke every firework occasion (which around here is the week of July 4, the week of Utah's birthday on July 24, and New Year). While other families also have increasingly grand displays, most of those pale in comparison.

Until this year. Then a family in the neighboring cul-de-sac (our home is situated between these two rather close road pockets) put on an event they labeled The Cul-de-Sac of Fire! These two families graciously avoided putting on their shows at the same time that the city's show was being staged. But one of them did shows two nights in a row, with last Saturday evening featuring dueling cul-de-sacs for about an hour. It was all very spectacular.

But this is where fireworks are like Christmas for me. Except that what makes for 3-3½ weeks of Christmas enjoyment boils down to about 15 minutes for fireworks.

Fireworks are all very thrilling when you're in the oooh and aahhh stage. But that interval passes relatively quickly. Expressions of wonder soon devolve to analysis of what makes this one different than the last one or the one five before that. Eventually the murmur of even feigned curiosity fades away to people staring rather blankly at burst after burst of colored light. After a while I start to feel like, "Yup, there goes another one. When is this going to be over? I'm ready to go to bed."

Only you can't go to bed when your whole neighborhood is raucously shaking and brightly flashing for an hour straight. OK, you could go to bed but there would be no sleep involved. No earplugs on the planet would adequately reduce the noise. Even if you could sleep, your kids can't. And when you've got kids that can't sleep, neither can you. They won't permit it.

Another neighbor did fireworks last night just as I was preparing to hit the sack. Fortunately, the fireworks season is over for a couple of weeks. Although I cleaned up our firework leftovers on the morning of July 5, my yard, driveway, and walks are now littered with various bits of cardboard shrapnel and firework remnants. I suppose my neighbors figure that it is my duty to show my gratitude for their unsolicited shows and the fact that they miraculously didn't burn my house down by cleaning up after them. What could be better?

No comments: