Monday, July 05, 2010
Thank You, China, For Your Explosive Technology
I never grew up with the fireworks tradition. Yes, we'd have a Fourth of July cook out every year. We'd swim and eat hot dogs and potato salad. Sometimes, we'd go to a parade. Sometimes, we'd make our way to Fullerton for some professional displays of glowing metal and gun powder flares. A couple of years, someone would even procure some bottle rockets or fire crackers and light a few off in the backyard. Where Monkey and I come from, however, fireworks are verboten. There are no stands, no tents, no sales. You buy sparklers at the grocery store, if you want, but you are not buying, or legally lighting anything else, in the Old Line State. As a result, July 4 is a holiday that troubles me. Certain aspects of it, at least. I expect, here in the corn belt, where they celebrate America's independence with an orgy of flaring paper tubes and exploding sticks, that someone will either be seriously injured, or that someone will set a car or house on fire. Don't mistake me, I am all for celebrating our nation's independence from the "bad king" (as a friend of ours' four year-old once put it), but I had a few moments of fear and loathing last night, once the rain stopped and the sun went down.
It has been mentioned here before that our oldest dog, Ripken, is a bit on the skittish side when it comes to noise. A rattle of pots in the cupboard will send him bolting for the living room, head down and tail between his legs. It makes it easy to distract him if he ever does anything wrong. All I have to do is raise my voice, and he immediately stops doing anything. This is only a problem when I am correcting Parker, the puppy, since Ripken is then the one who immediately goes into "submissive" mode. If only Parker were as quick to get the message, but he'll learn.
As a result of this skittishness, Ripken hates hates hates the 4th of July. For him, it's three days of scary noises which cause him to hold all bodily functions until the coast is clear. It can't be healthy. He's been this way since as long as Monkey and I remember, and neither of us can think of what might have caused this personality trait in our handsome old boy.
Yesterday, the actual Fourth, was of course, expected to be the pinnacle of bangs and booms, of high pitched rocket whine and foundation-shaking shell bursts. We held out hope, however, that it wouldn't be too bad. The previous two days had been acceptable, as far as the volume and density of explosives-related noise in the general vicinity. On top of that, it was raining heavily from the early AM hours, and the forecast was for unrelenting rain and storms all day. Surely, that would put a damper on the fireworks, we thought. Ripken would be able to spend a wet, but anxiety-free holiday for once.
Unfortunately, around four in the afternoon, the rain broke, and by seven PM, the sun was out. Like roaches in the dark, the pyros filled the streets almost the minute the last raindrop fell. As a result, our after-dinner walk was curtailed, as nearly every corner in our little neighborhood was stationed by an army of children and adults with that wild red-eyed look they get when shit is blowing up.
Truth be told, Money and I had an invitation to a party, so we snuck out for a few hours. We left the stereo playing for Ripken (he spends the loudest parts of the fourth in our relatively sound-proof basement), and could tell by Parker's behavior to this point that his time in the crate would have no detrimental effect upon him...he is, to this point, fearless to a point of stupidity.
At the party, as the sun began to set, boxes and bags, crates and truck beds full of fireworks appeared. In the cul de sac on which our party was being held, a seeming free-for-all of children and "supervising" adults were firing off every kind of air- and ground-based entertainment explosive that could be bought, smuggled, or finagled from the various tents and stands around town. Who was I to complain? Part of the tradition of the holiday is the lighting off of fireworks, and IT IS LEGAL in our town to shoot fireworks on July 3 and 4, until midnight. If it's legal, then okay.
But, honestly, it's still annoying. Especially when Monkey and I arrived home at 9:30 to find our entire street engulfed in gun smoke, and populated with cars and people there to watch the fireworks at the country club down the street and to explode the rest of their soon-to-be-illegal stash. The video above is from the street right outside the Monkey House. It doesn't capture the scene as it truly was. The sounds in the background, while difficult to hear throughout the video, were constant and everywhere. The pall of smoke, visible in the streetlight's glow, was more prevalent, in truth.
The funny thing that dawned on me this morning: all of this mayhem (welcome to the war zone, it seemed) is legal (albeit for two days) just outside my front door, but I have to keep my chickens fifty feet away from your house? My chickens are not going to explode and set your roof on fire, are they?