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How To Watch Fireworks

By Max Burbank
July, 16, 2001

Well, the 4th has come and gone. Another year, another cookout, another set of colossal, inflamed insect bites accompanied by hypochondriacal imagined symptoms of East Nile Virus and Lymes disease, another day after spent nursing a violent hangover, screaming at the kids to 'for Christ's sake shut up, can't you see Daddy's sick?', wishing like hell you could get their attention by whispering, knowing full well you might as well wish that the tears of rage were diamonds as big as hen's eggs, and above all, another evening of fireworks.

So why write about it? What's done is done, right? I like fireworks enough to put up with how much I hate other people and my intrinsic distrust of self-congratulatory spectacle in general and my government in particular, so what more is there to say?

First, it's good to do a little wrap up analysis of any event you intend to repeat, and 'B', there's always the chance that a year from now you'll be mopping the floor in a Mexican tattoo parlor and asking La Tourista if they could help a fellow American out with any spare change they might have. Word is, they don't have the 4th of July down there. Well, they have it, it's hard to get to 5th of July without it, it's just not a very big deal.

So. Having stretched my word count to 238 without even starting this essay, I give you...



1.) Arrive early. You want a good seat, and you never know. This could be the year they start shooting them off before sunset.

2.) Wait. This early stage waiting is an excellent time to start working toward being abusively drunk, although a seasoned fireworks pro begins this around noon in the privacy of their own backyard, or behind a neighborhood dumpster. Most public fireworks viewing spaces have a 'no alcohol' policy, but it shouldn't be taken seriously. Do you think the founding fathers were sober for even an instant during the revolution? Let me tell you - small arms fire, Dysentery, Gangrene, starvation and all male companionship go down a lot easier with a buzz on.

3.) If you brought your kids with you, now's the time to yell at them. You want to do this while it's still light enough so that other families know you have your offspring under control. That way once it's dark you can let them run wild and no one will guess they're yours. If you don't have kids, yell at somebody else's. It's a great way to break the ice with their parents who may well have better snacks than you.

4.) Speculate loudly about when the hell they're gonna get this show on the road.

5.) Tell your kids it has to be good and dark for a while before they can start the fireworks. When they ask why that would be, see how many reasons you can come up with that make any sense at all. 6.) Wait. Silently question why you come so early every year as thousands of unsupervised teenagers crowd in, obscuring your view.

7.) Speculate on just how different Gay culture in America would be if halfway through the filming of "The Wizard of Oz", Judy Garland suffered a stroke and the only one who could take on her role and complete the filming was you. (not everyone does this step, but ask around. I think you'll be surprised)

8.) Listen as the bovine herd around you wonders whether the obviously cheap, privately owned fireworks being shot off by neighbors might be the start of the show, and if so why is this town always so damn stingy with it's tax dollars. Chuckle knowingly while privately worrying if this actually might be the case this year, even though it never has been before, even once.

9.) When the privately owned fireworks end, see if you can be the first one to loudly joke that it's now time to go home.

10.) Wait. To amuse your family, play waiting for fireworks bingo. How many different whining, complaining, crying children can you count? How many drunken fathers, hollowly threatening to take everyone home right now? Use your flashlight to pick out silently seething Mothers and Dates.

11.) The show begins. Everyone will want to know your expert opinion on each firework, so make sure you tell them.

12.) Wonder about Aerial Bombs, those deafeningly loud, big white flashes. What's the point, beyond reminding you that these lovely flashes of light are supposed to remind you of intentional, lethal, bombardment? Does anyone actually like them? Does the Mayor own stock? Are they really cheap? Do you get them free when you order a certain amount of ordinance?

13.) Worry that the small collection of fireworks that just went off together might be a particularly lame grand finale. Recall wondering this every year of your whole life, even though it's always quite clear when the grand finale takes place. But what if this time it really is a particularly lame grand finale? Allow yourself to experience crushing disappointment coupled with the kind of depression that will put your head in the oven if your family and everybody at the local Burger King are lucky in the instant before the show starts up again.

14.) This small collection of fireworks going off at the same time is a little bigger than the last one. Maybe this is the grand finale. Wouldn't that be lame? What the hell is wrong with this town? It's not like they spend the taxes on the school system.

15.) Stare in slack jawed wonder at the grand finale. They're so big! Pretty light go boom! Thank God for the inventive spirit of the ancient Chinese and this great, wonderful country of ours, its freedoms, the sacrifices of its brave sons and daughters! Then tell everyone around you last year was better.

16) Bitch about the crowds, the traffic and the failure of fat, complacent local cops to confiscate illegal fireworks from dangerous unsupervised teens. Rage bitterly against the triple overtime extorted from the town budget just so the local boys in blue can make vague, non committal hand gestures at the slow motion, Demolition Derby that just hours ago was a semi civilized parking facility.

17.) Tell your family that if this is how they want to spend the 4th next year they can damn well do it without you.

18) in 365 days, repeat these steps with as few variations as possible.


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