Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ballet of the Fire Dancers

Sticky pancakes on paper plates in the park, we simmered in the morning sunshine with J&K and their progeny. This is our annual outing. This is the way that Independence Day gets underway.

Tacky hats and municipal minstrels, the long line feeds itself into the white sea of butcher-paper-covered picnic tables, garnished in turn with a congregation of red, white, and blue blazoned gentry. The aging and dwindling Lyons Club line-marshals and breakfast chefs herd the masses into the cordoned coral. Beverages are all-you-can drink.

Welcome to Suburbia. Welcome to America.

Carbo-loaded and laden with link sausage, the middle of the day called for work. So, I spread Shredded Cedar in the planter beds in front of the house. The labor was light, but I faced it as a festive celebration of my property rights. Burdened as it is by ordinance and regulation, this small patch of dirt is mine, and I am it's steward.

At 4:00, with the Monkey's ubiquitous pigtails in place, the Gin-and-Tonic family sailed swiftly southward toward Salem. Carl's meat, and Ryan's parade were waiting. As I passed the Woodburn outlet mall, I realized that it had been far too long since my last visit.

Things had changed since my last cruise through the capital city. I felt a bit like the prodigal son. All apprehension vanished though, as I pulled up and found all of my old friends right where I had left them.

The parade was first. Children on bikes, babies in strollers, my wife rode on a float. This was an ad hoc neighborhood venture, Ryan's own creation. He was the instigator and the grand marshal. Ryan led the way, patriotic fight songs from the boombox in one hand, bobbing broom baton in the other. He led, we followed. Others joined along the way. Younger neighbors came out of their houses to march with the masses. Older neighbors came out to gaze in wonder.

Am I kidding? No. Was it hokey? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heart beat.

This sort of spectacle just doesn't happen anymore. Neighbors don't talk to each other, let alone march around the block waving flags and following a broom-waving maniac. I give Ryan credit for this. He is a sort of Savant. A single minded festive fanatic savant, but a genius to be sure. Ryan leads. The neighbors follow.

Then the food. There was your typical spread of salad selections. Some were good. some weren't. There were no less than five varieties of potato salad. I tried all of them. However, the great unifying theme was meat.

I observed an obnoxious orgy of carnivorous gluttony. Beyond the bevy of burgers and dogs, there was chicken; fried chicken, bar-b-qued chicken, chicken pieces and chicken bits. But the the chick was a mere warm up for the real meat. Carl's Meat. Brisket and ribs. Smoked for something like 72 hours, or some such. The Brisket was awash with it own juice and literally melted on the tongue. I kept picking. Picking. Picking...

The evening dipped to dusk, and the anticipation became palpable. White bags bursting with explosive trinkets and baubles began to emerge from their secreted storage. Bag after bag. Box after box. A growing mound emerged, most of which was not nearly legal to even possess in this state. The sun was not down, but was barely blocked by the peak of the roof across the street.

Dark enough, it was time to the match fire to fuses. Soo many fuses... We worked in teams, toting stockpiles of crackling flashing boom-makers to the street. One visitor from Japan, who had never witnessed the thunder-lust of Americans on this day was disturbed, visibly. Her safety was warranted by her host, but in her mind it was not much of a leap for the fire crew to reenact Hiroshima.

There was a point, just after dark, when the combustible cacophony reached a war-like pitch. A never-ending array of mortar shells made their way from the garage with assembly-line efficiency. Launch tubes were lined down the street and the deep chest-pounding Fump-Boom cycles overlapped and repeated. I was lost in the smoky swirl of discharge and fire, clouded by constant concussive shock waves of light and sound. I was in the center of the fire zone, but also far from it. It was a perfect moment. I was one with the spirit of the holiday.

Then it was over. There were shells left to launch, but something in the air said we were done. All that was left was the fire dance. Swirling sticks of flame and spark, we danced over a spouting fountain. I spun in to the wind, and sparks singed my eyebrow.

And then it was dark.

Reading for comprehension
1. Do you know a good way to get the smell of gun powder out of your hair?
2. Seriously, do you even now your neighbor's names?
3. If more of the world could witness our July 4 celebrations, do you think Iran and South Korea would keep fucking around with us so much?


  1. The screaming kids. Yelling, wide eyed, fire crazed kids. There must have been 30 or 40 for the parade. Then at least 20 stayed for the fireworks.

    We managed to light off 2/3 of the stockpile.

    We sill have a full brisket.

    Welcome to the show and the end of the night fire dance.

    It was as good as it ever was last night. And I mean ever.

  2. i think i'm still drunk. it's gonna be a long red bull and gatorade day. and i was oddly disturbed by my gay son's love of the fire. only four and he's running around with his sparkler trying to torch anything he can get his hands on. just what the world needs: another angry gay man. and odder still, the baby slept through it all. not ten feet away huge explosions and she doesn't even move. god, i'm pretty sure i'm still drunk. it's a luii. lawyering under the influence. good night.

  3. Moments that Inog and Brian may have missed:
    1. The visibly shaken Japanese woman kept praising me for the Poke. Raw fish does reach across cultural barriers.
    2. Ryan tied children's legs together for a three legged race in our back yard. That was comedy. One team decided to crawl because walking didn't work. Another team raced on piggey back with legs tied. I just couldn't disqualify them, it was too funny.
    3. The most dangerous part of the evening was always the kids moments with sparklers. 20 hands chaotically waving white phosphorus setting everything on fire and burning eachother (and me).

  4. Anonymous9:51 AM

    # 1: Vinegar, not balsalmic, although with balsalmic you could get a dye job at the same time.
    # 2: I know all the people on the steet's names.... do I have a life?
    # 3: Sadly, yes.

  5. Ah, the poke. The poke was very good.

    Leah actually raises an interesting point. Boys with sparklers, gay or otherwise, love to set things on fire. I think they are hardwired to do so.

  6. some other anonymous11:55 AM

    1. Dude, take a shower.

    2. Some of them. You have to have some mystery to keep a relationship interesting.

    3. They just want their own fireworks. Like men here, they want to blow shit up and we stupidly act surprised when someone else in the world community acts like us.

  7. All hail Ryan and his broom.

  8. Sounds like you're nicking Guy Fawkes Day from us - perhaps an effigy of Bush is in order

    1. I agree, lots of showers
    2. Some I know more than I want to
    3. You have to hate someone - you guys are the biggest and the loudest

  9. I could almost sense a smile on Brian's face when he wrote the words "Carl's meat"

  10. We also had butter.

  11. I, for one, am uncomfortable with Brian waxing so poetic re: carl's meat... (second only to Carl's waxing his own meat...)


  12. You like Carl's meat. Everyone likes Carl's meat.

  13. They don't make lawyers work on the 4th, pfffft no wonder Iran hates us.

  14. Just because we don't work, doesn't mean we are not billing someone for our time.

  15. My sister worked for a title company in Hawaii.

    Once a lawyer called to ask them a bunch of questions. It was dumb questions about forms and law. He sent them a bill.

  16. dylannotbob2:29 PM

    1. Gunpowder, no. But, burning white gas tastes pretty good.
    2. Just the managers, the Mastodon, and Naked Mike. But, he's got to count for at least two.
    3. Of course they would.

    BTW, sparklers and fireworks do not qualify as fire dancing.


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