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Monday, July 07, 2003  

Putting the Work in Fireworks

July 4, 2003

We’re visiting Trash’s mom and stepfather in the microscopic town of Lacona, Iowa. The nearest fireworks display is apparently in an even smaller town called Milo, whose “downtown” appears to be a baseball diamond. Shortly after sunset, we arrive at a stretch of country road with cars parallel-parked on both sides, and we pull over and wait for the show. In the car, with the windows closed and the AC on. The bugs and humidity are something fierce, and when this is over five hundred cars, pickups, and tractors are going to be pulling out and turning around on a half-mile of two-lane road while their drivers struggle to peer through the darkness with their crazily scorched retinas. We’ll stay where we can make a quick escape, thanks.

Funny thing about Iowa: it’s flat enough that whatever fireworks display you’re at, you can see several others on the horizon. While waiting for “our” display, we also saw airbursts to the north, northwest, and northeast. We probably could have seen them to our south as well, but that would have required us to turn our heads, which really wasn’t necessary. Before it started, we wondered whether the Milo “display” was designated as such because of all the fireworks we could see over surrounding towns. Iowa on the Fourth of July is like a multiplex without walls.

The display itself was respectable, but unworthy of its position as the first one I’ve ever paid to see. A guy went up and down between the cars beforehand, rattling a bucket for donations. We speculate that the fire department decides how much ordnance to expend only after seeing what the haul is, and anything we don’t pay for goes back to the store. Fortunately, our fellow viewers are not as cheap as we feared.

Trash and I sneak mischievous glances at each other as the sky fills with wiggly streams of white sparks that look like sperm cells. We resist the urge to make jokes about “little swimmers” out of respect for her deeply religious mother and stepfather in the backseat. Oblivious to our dilemma, Trash’s mother observes the resemblance to “little swimmers,” in exactly those words. Trash and I now seize on any and every excuse to use the phrase “little swimmers” for the rest of the evening.

July 4, 2002

We’re in the Quad Cities, which differs from rural Iowa in the sense that every person in four reasonably-sized cities, and a fair chunk of the outlying population, and at least two people from Minneapolis, have gathered here at this park in Rock Island. The display itself is impressive in its length, variety, and extravagance, and it marks our first observation of the aforementioned “little swimmers.” “Don’t they realize that kids come to see these things?” we ask each other.

We’re also close enough to see the inevitable early (or possibly late) detonation of one charge that’s so low to the ground that instead of a sphere it forms a dome. The “oooh, ahhh” of the crowd is enough, but when it gets spiced up with a “Whoa! Dude!” it’s even better.

July 4, 2001

Brunch at the Uptown. Grilling dinner in the backyard. A cooler of beer with barely enough room left for ice. Games with friends on the deck. It would be the perfect Fourth of July, except the stupid security guy at the six-story office building where Trash works won’t let us onto the roof. It’s too late to relocate entirely, so we watch the top half of the Edina fireworks from the building’s back yard, across the street from a high wall of trees. It’s like watching a movie from the second row of the theater from behind a tall guy in a big hat. But we’re with friends and there’s still beer in the cooler, so we’re in good shape.

July 4, 2000

I don’t remember. What, you think I write everything down?

July 4, 1997

We’re spending the holiday in Stillwater, and from the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River we watched explosions light up the water. I think that was the last year they did that, because here’s a photo of the Stillwater lift bridge from the morning of July 5.

Okay, not really.

July 4, 1995

It’s our first Fourth of July fireworks in our new neighborhood, and here we are on our blanket in Edina, which traditionally has one of the best displays in the state. We’ve got a great spot, our blanket spread out just across the pond from where they’re launching. We’ve been waiting a while, though. Perhaps it wasn’t really necessary to get here before 6:00 p.m.

July 4, 1993

Oh, God. I am so hammered. You’d better drive.

July 4, 1992

One of the best things about living downtown is that we can go out on the complex’s rooftop, an area that amounts to a patio the size of a city block. From here, we command a breathtaking view of Minneapolis’s skyscrapers. Too bad the fireworks are on the other side of those skyscrapers. Pity, that.

July 4, 1975-1988

We live close enough to Sand Creek Park to be able to see the fireworks from our roof, but not so close that we don’t drive closer most years. In 1987 I’m close enough to see the cannons go off and watch the explosions from flat on my back. “Whoa! Dude!” count: 1½.

July 4, 1974

Mom assures me that the airplane passing overhead is too high to be hit by the fireworks. I am simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

July 4, 1969

Obviously I have no memory of this one, but I was born the following January, so you do the math.

Oh, wait. That doesn’t add up at all. Never mind.

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