Driving home last night, I happened upon an early Fourth of July celebration, a burst of fireworks originating near the Oakland Coliseum viewable over the water from the Bay Farm Island Bridge.
A day before the holiday, it caught me by surprise, the lights and glare inspiring my instinctual appreciation for fire anew.
Last year we spent the fourth at Kwame’s uncle’s house in Seal Beach, en route between a string of shows we were doing in Southern California and the Southwest. In Seal Beach, we walked over from the house to a local field crowded with half the neighborhood to ooh and awe over the multiple displays going off along the Southern California Coast.
Growing up, July always seemed like the hottest month, but somehow the heat didn’t disrupt the desire to set off a firecracker.
Because we were inland a few miles, we’d often take our holiday fireworks to Manresa or Beer Can Beach to set off after dark. The fireworks sold at stands at that time packed a punch, and watching the official displays in Watsonville and Santa Cruz was nearly secondary to the rogue displays going off at home and along the coastal beaches. We’d buy what are likely now-illegal bottle rockets and other items promising high voltage glitter and thrill from a roadside stand outside of town.
During the week leading up to the holiday, we’d preview our cache of snappers, sparklers, and those weird charcoal snakes that grow before your eyes with the strike of a match, on our brick patio. One never knew exactly what would happen once the firework was lit, which was the real fun. Would the firecracker be a dud or amazing? One year, my dad shot a defective firecracker off early that flew low into a small conifer and burst into flame, a fire that was fortunately easy to contain. Considering our impulsiveness, we were lucky to escape being burned badly or worse: there’s good reason so many fireworks are illegal.
The thrill in lighting your own fuse is primal, and the beaches of Santa Cruz were crazy on Fourth, as they are likely are now, crowded with similarly reckless pyromaniac types intent on figuring out how where to best roll the keg in the sand, light the brightest bonfire and set off the loudest explosion. The folks who wanted bigger and brighter on their own terms bought their fireworks from vendors in Mexico or through other underground routes and their were always some impressive, if dangerous, unofficial displays.
Tonight, we’ll venture out into the middle of the Bay on the boat to see what we can see. Happy Fourth!
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