Monday, July 07, 2008

The Fourth

Truly, this was the best Fourth of July ever.

Austin has a long tradition of hosting a huge fireworks display on the fourth. The tradition of insufferable, f-bomb dropping traffic to get there is just as firmly established. The fireworks display lasts for thirty minutes or so, but it's a three-hour tour.

A three-hour tour.

That didn't seem like a fun way to spend an evening, unless it was part of court-ordered community service.

I have some version of this discussion with Gloria every year. "Boy, it sure would be fun to go see the fireworks," she says.

"I'd like that," I say.

"You would?" she asks.

"I would," I say. "I'd also like you to kill me, but I'd like you to kill me first."

I'd really like to see the fireworks, though, without the hassle of a crowd. And it seems like there a ton of cities on the fringes of Austin that have their own fireworks shows--Pflugerville, Round Rock, Leander, Cedar Park, and Georgetown, and I'm sure I missed a few.

I was discussing this with the intelligence consortium that is known as "our family."

"What we need," I said, "is to get off the ground. Get up high, somewhere between all these cities. We could see ALL the fireworks."

"We could go to McNeil High School," Gloria said. The high school is on a bit of a rise.

"DAD!" Eli 6.11 shouted. "THE FOOTBALL FIELD! We can sit in the STANDS!"

It was Eli 6.11 gold, one of the best ideas he's ever had. That's why, at 9:00 p.m. on July fourth, we pulled into the McNeil High School parking lot. As we walked toward the football field, we saw that the entire complex was empy. "Dad, NOBODY else is here," he said.

"This idea is too smart for anyone else to even think of," I said, and Eli started laughing. "To the field!" I shouted.

"TO THE FIELD!" he shouted back, and we started running, all of us giggling like complete goofballs. Which is fun, when you're doing it together.

The bleachers had about twenty rows, and we went up to the very top and sat down, scanning the horizon around us. About two minutes, Eli shouted "LOOK!"


Five minutes later: fireworks. All over.

The viewing conditions certainly weren't ideal, because everything we saw was close to the horizon, but we counted six separate fireworks displays, spanning almost three hundred degrees of the horizon. There was something incredibly fun in seeing everything at one time.

We kept seeing one display, in particular, that seemed closer than the others. "Why don't we just drive toward that one?" Gloria asked, after we'd been watching for about half an hour.

"Let's go," I said.

Let's GO!" Eli 6.11 said.

We walked down the bleachers, then headed for the car, but about halfway there, I said "To the fireworks!" Eli started laughing, and within seconds, we all started running.

We wound up near the fireworks--they were high in the sky--but the location didn't make any sense. There was no city, no lake, just a little neighborhood (within walking distance of where I used to live) off McNeil Road. We drove around for a couple of minutes, turned here and there, and finally turned on a main street that runs through the neighborhood.

And saw smoke.

We were going slowly, heading toward the smoke, when I saw a burst of color overhead, less than a hundred feet in front of us. "Take cover!" I shouted, and Eli started laughing his ass off in the back seat.

We had stumbled, apparently, onto a neighborhood tradition, a giant fireworks display that took place in the middle of the street. There were people in lawn chairs, dozens of people milling about, and it was quite a crowd.

In the middle of the street were four metal tubes (for mortars, I found out). Guys would walk up and put mortars into the tubes, light them, and they'd go off, exploding into beautiful bursts of color. And I don't mean one or two--I mean dozens.

The street wasn't closed, so occasionally a car would creep by through the thick smoke near the tubes, often within fifty feet of a soaring explosion. It was insane, almost certainly illegal, and a huge fire hazard.

It was also entirely fantastic.

We parked and opened up the moon roof. We knew a good thing when we saw one. No way was I going to let Eli out of the car, but we still had a great view. After missing out on being close to fireworks, we were suddenly almost sitting on them.

"Joe Bob and Bubba really came through for us," Gloria said.

"Did they ever," I said, looking at guys with gimme caps pulled backwards on their heads as they lit more mortars.

"Do we KNOW them?" Eli asked.

This was truly a spectacular fireworks display, even if it was four guys standing in the street. They even orchestrated sequences together, and if they had been baseball players, they would have belonged in the high minors, at least.

After twenty more minutes, they finally began winding down, and we decided to go. Not before we saw a burst of bright red through our moon roof as we drove by, the kind of thing that only happens in movies.

"Thank goodness for Jobby and Nick Mateo," Eli 6.11 said as we drove off.

"Nick Mateo?" I asked, laughing.

He was referring to "Joe Bob and Bubba," but those names are now obsolete. From now on, any time I see a good ol' boy, it's Nick Mateo all the way.

Site Meter