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Rockets’ Red Glare

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Brushing the ashes out of my hair to examine explosive Independence Day traditions.   By Hannah Wallace   “Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”—The Simpsons   Wandering around Pinellas Park on a sleepy, lazy, post-tonsil-infection Fourth, Alabama-grown CCB and I took in various amateur fireworks displays raining […]

July 5, 2007


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Brushing the ashes out of my hair to examine explosive Independence Day traditions.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”—The Simpsons
 


Wandering around Pinellas Park on a sleepy, lazy, post-tonsil-infection Fourth, Alabama-grown CCB and I took in various amateur fireworks displays raining pretty-colored embers on the surrounding neighborhoods.

 
CCB: I want some of those.
ME: You know they’re illegal here.
Pause.
CCB: Then where did these people buy them?
 
Hmm…good question. I’d been singing a song to the tune of “nothing that shoots up and explodes in Florida” for so long that I’d forgotten where exactly I’d first heard those lyrics (I started the music metaphor, dammit, and I’m sticking with it). I began to figure it was one of those bits of knowledge I’d taken for granted, leaving me horribly misguided for years and years.
 
It occurred to me to look it up. Turns out, there are Florida laws against fireworks—ie, the things that launch themselves and make pretty colors in the sky. (It’s like legislative algebra: Check out 791.01, 4a and 4b, then 791.02. Solve for X.)
 
It also turns out that nobody enforces those laws. So there ya go.
 
So far as I’m concerned, breaking a generally unenforced law is all part of the risk-taking, adrenaline-pumping fun of the Fourth. Not to be too insensitive, given current events, but let’s face it: We’re celebrating a war zone. So it’s no wonder we’d condone getting a little revolutionary on state and local statutes.
 

Incidentally, though I used to enjoy a pious view of Sarasota’s pyrotechnics from the Church of the Redeemer’s picnic, recent Independence Day celebrations have occurred at the annual hockey party in BFE Thonotosassa, wherein liquored-up hockey players fire mortars in the middle of the woods, then wonder at the unburned presence of everyone’s fingers.

 

And after a fireworks display from which you’re lucky to escape alive, the illegality of a few well-supervised bottle rockets within easy reach of 20 different garden hoses seems downright piddling.

 

Then again, at post-hockey Applebee’s on Sunday, I’m sure to hear Coach Mr. Harrible’s harrowing tales of his Forth-of-July firefighter shift in Venice. (I imagine the score sheet looks something like this: Brush fire; brush fire; burn; brush fire; severed finger; burn; brush fire; brush fire; heart attack; dislodged retina; brush fire; burn.) Maybe a little fireworks enforcement wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But for the time being, it sure is fun to watch the bombs bursting in air—from a safe distance, that is.