I was a kid. Maybe 7. Maybe 8. My uncle had taken me and a cousin to a game at the stadium. It might have been an Aztec game. The memory is hazy.
But what is clear is the frightened expression that clouded over my cousin's face, hands pressed unrelentingly against her ears as fireworks exploded overhead. The sound of the air ripped apart moved her to tears. I, on the other hand, was intoxicated by the smell of burned matches.
Because she was scared we left the fireworks show early. But on our way out, about 10 yards away a shell fell to the ground. The scent of burning gun powder was divine and my uncle jerked me away as I bent down to pick up the casing.
“You’ll burn yourself.”
Years later friends and I were south of the border. At times high school boys of a certain age have a peculiar sense of humor.
We thought it’d be funny to play tag with bottlerockets. It was hilarious when one of us was shot in the neck and a small explosion singed our hair and T-shirt collar. It was funnier still when the “dumb” one in the group threw a cherry bomb at a classmate and left him hard of hearing. And when we dropped him off at his house and his ears were still ringing we thought it was a scream.
(If you’re shaking you’re head, so am I.)
Those are my two most vivid recollections of pyrotechnics in action.
Throughout my life I’ve seen plenty of fireworks shows. I could not tell you my favorite or least favorite design. I do not know the names of the red ones that look like flowers or the white ones that sparkle as they tumble from the sky.
To say that I enjoy a fireworks show well enough would be true. To say that I’m indifferent to their continued presence would also be true.
Last year Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation raised an interesting issue when they sued to stop the annual fireworks show near La Jolla cove.
Their suit forced us to consider what sort of environmental effect shooting fireworks into the sky and having debris fall to the ground — or the ocean — has.
The lawsuit failed and the light show went on (and continues this year).
When years ago the city of Chula Vista’s fireworks show was cancelled there was public outcry. Last year the thoughtof cancelling La Jolla’s show was characerized as un-American (given that fireworks are widely regarded as originating in China, that’s a hoot).
But maybe those big old fireworks shows are an outdated way of expressing whatever it is we’re expressing. Maybe
it’s time to move on, sort of like when you move on from shooting fireworks at somebody’s head.