Happy Fifth of July

I live in an uneasy border area. Not between countries’e2’80’94no border crossings or ridiculous metal fence cutting across the landscape’e2’80’94but between what one side would call a way of life and the other side would call life style. Farmworker and techie; Folgers and Peets (Starbucks is far too common); tinned or organic-farmer’e2’80’99s-market; Toyota or Beemer; General Foods or’e2’80’94well, you get the picture. And that’e2’80’99s without throwing ethnic differences into the mix.

But the one thing everyone agrees on is their right to blow themselves up come Fourth of July. I live on a hill overlooking the valley in which Watsonville is set, and last night, from dusk until nearly midnight the expanse was a series of exploding lights from one side of the Pajaro Valley to the other. None of them very high’e2’80’94this isn’e2’80’99t a professional demonstration of pyrotechnics, just those that look great from directly underneath. And many of them duplicates, for the same reason. But if you told me this county set off a million dollars worth of fancy gunpowder last night, I wouldn’e2’80’99t call you a liar.

There are, of course, the naysayers. Which is good, because without them, my neighbors would still be using their 9 millimeters and their .38s to express their patriotic fervor, followed the next afternoon by outraged articles in the newspaper about holes in roofs a foot from where little Jessica was sleeping. And without them, we wouldn’e2’80’99t have all those proclamations for Safe and Sane fireworks, and one in fifty kids would be missing fingers. But the last couple of years, the shooters seem at last to have been convinced that what goes up does, somewhere, come down, and only one in a thousand kids ends up in the emergency ward.

And I agree with the naysayers, fireworks are dangerous. And mixed with alcohol as they inevitably are on the Fourth, they step heavily into the Unsafe and Insane camp. So yes, letting kids run wildly through the night holding flames up around their eyes and hair is hugely irresponsible, and turning official eyes away from the kids who drive into the desert and load up their cars with illegal forms of potential carnage is something we wouldn’e2’80’99t do any other time of the year.

But you see, here’e2’80’99s the thing. It’e2’80’99s stupid, but it’e2’80’99s glorious. As Rebecca and Sarahof the Lipstick Chronicles remind us. God, it’e2’80’99s such fun.

And at least they’e2’80’99re not shooting pistols aimed at the sky.

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  1. Elisa on July 5, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Here in downtown, we remarked last night that it sounded like Beruit or Bagdad, only we knew we weren’t hearing small arms or mortars. So it only sounded like a war zone and it only went on for the one evening. It’s kind of like drving very fast. You know it’s very dangerous and stupid, but that’s why you do it, because it thrills you. At least, I hope that’s why you do it, and only once a year.

  2. Anonymous on July 5, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Here it’s twice/yr. Victoria Day (Mon before Memorial Day) and Canada Day (July 1st).

    There are numerous complaining neighbors, rules and bylaws in most towns so shooting fireworks in the middle of neighborhoods doesn’t usually happen. And with gun laws…. I wouldn’t try the shooting of pistols unless you are willing to go to jail.

    But every city, village and town.. usually has their own and everyone is welcome.

  3. WDI on July 5, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Doesn’t fire risk enter into the equation where you are, Laurie? I remember it was a real concern when I was in the Bay Area.

    I got really lucky this 4th, as our city decided, for the first time since we moved here, to have a formal display in the city park on the 3rd. Which means that we only had to step out the front door, walk to the end of our parking area, and take a seat on the curb to watch a nice show.

    My daughter decided to drive up to DC with friends and said that there’s nothing like watching the Mall fireworks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

  4. Anonymous on July 5, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    I live in a suburb of San Francsico, in Contra Costa County. People here set off personal fireworks on July 4th (and, yes, it sounded like a war zone last night), New Year’s eve, Chinese New Year’s, and Cinco de Mayo.

    Gunfire sometimes comes on New Year’s, but, now that Laurie mentions it, that seems to have been sharply reduced.

    Of course, fireworks are illegal in our county, but just across the county line there are lots of non-profit groups selling “safe and sane” fireworks — which, according to a newspaper article, are not really safe.

    Oh well.

  5. Vicki Larson on July 5, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    What is so great about faux bombs? Of course, faux is better than real, but why bombs at all? I can’t get into it. I just can’t. Sorry.

  6. Erin on July 6, 2006 at 7:17 am

    Fireworks of any kind are way illegal where my parents live, in Riverside county (CA) because of the extreme risk of brush fire in the summer so the whole fireworks thing has been very new to me.

    The legality of fireworks in CA, and in general for that matter, seems so convoluted at times. They are illegal in this town, but in the next town over they are alright so there are roadside stands where you can pick them up. There’s a certain maximum powder allowed by law for the state, but there’s a reservation 20 miles down the road that doesn’t follow the same laws on that kind of thing so you can pick up “illegal” fireworks at the reservation and take them home for your festivities. Yes, you can receive major fines for lighting in a prohibited area, but the odds of getting caught on the 4th are pretty low unless you set up a huge show.

    And they are a lot of fun for those special holidays=)

  7. Chris on July 6, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Here in Edinburgh we have huge firework festivities at the end of the International Festival (first weekend in September) and on 31st December at midnight. Sometimes smaller displays for other special events…But the infrequency makes the ones we do have spectacular! No surprises on other days to worry about; I think we do have a law now which prohibits the sale of fireworks, other than pre-Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th, when anyone can throw a party. OK, so that’s a third Event!

  8. 2maple on July 6, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    In Maine, fireworks, other than sparklers, are illegal, but they are readily available in neighboring New Hampshire. All the radio stations here provide lots of warnings about police stakeouts to track purchasers with Maine plates and nab them as they come back into the Maine. Is this prevention…or conspiratorial warnings? Judging from all the noise background noise during early July, it seems like the latter. Oh well, with all the rain we’ve had this year you couldn’e2’80’99t possibly set anything on fire.

    We do have a tremendous local fireworks show on the 4th. A big community block party/dance. They are set off down low on the river flood plain by the guys that normally put out fires. We watch from a bluff, so they are a little above eye level. The effect is pretty amazing. At times they are bigger than my field of vision and you almost feel like you are moving into it.

  9. Patricia Mathews on July 7, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    New Mexico is under severe drought conditins and I was in San Diego for the Fourth, but there are fireworks at Isotopes Stadium and at the Balloon Fiesta Park to the north of the city, visible from Sandia Pueblo Casino. The local papers didn’t have any stories about the Fourth of July starting fires or people getting hurt, which is good news. Meanwhile, the show at La Jolla Beach was nice to watch. What’s to like about miniature bombs? Things that go boom are fun. Things that light up the sky are magnificent.

  10. StillWater on July 10, 2006 at 12:31 am

    Wow! Semi permanent make up has alot of uses! But did you know that a woman consumes over 4 to 9 lbs of lipstick in her lifetime! Here is the link that I found that shows all of the research:


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