(Note: Most of this post was written on Thursday while on a plane ride, but for the last few days I’ve been mostly offline with Internet access limited to my phone (which I am not crazy enough to try to type up an entire Blog post on,) hence the lateness of this post. Gotta’ strike while the iron is hot, right?)
If you happen to be reading this right now, then it means that I managed to make it through another Fourth of July with all of my fingers intact, and may have even managed to keep an eyebrow or two. Given the mayhem that tends to ensue at the now customary Vanderhoeven Fourth of July get-together that my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike host at their house down in Bonney Lake, this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Even though we didn’t quite manage to fill the back of a truck with fireworks this year (although that was mostly due to the lack of a truck to employ for the purpose) we still managed to have way too much stuff. And as usual, I made plenty of contributions.
For my part, this year I went for the quality over quantity approach, spending most of my fireworks budget on a couple of boxes of Excalibur shells. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these, they’re just about the biggest aerial shells you can buy as a consumer, and it shows. I also threw in a few giant Slayer rockets for good measure, just to keep things interesting. Ultimately, I didn’t bring a whole lot of stuff (at least not compared to last year’s trunkful of chaos) but between my stuff and the stuff everyone else brought, we were still lighting stuff off for hours. Even lighting the things off 3 or 4 at a time, 48 Excalibur shells is still quite a bit of bang for the buck (and given the number of bucks involved, that is quite a lot of bang indeed.)
Even so, when compared to what the neighbors were setting off our fireworks haul looked pretty puny on comparison. They had a whole rack of mortar tubes set up, and we’re firing as many as 15 of the things off at a time, and throwing in the big 500 gram cakes in between for good measure. And even their stuff was dwarfed by what e people a few houses over across the main road were firing off. I don’t even want to know how much money some of these people are spending on this stuff. I have to figure that between all the different who bring fireworks for our party every year we have to be lighting off at least a few hundred bucks worth of stuff, but some of these people have to be spending well over a thousand bucks on their Fourth of July displays. Not that I’m complaining, it makes for quite the impressive show when I get a few seconds to watch in between lighting off my own stuff.
One of these years I would be tempted to jut let someone else take care of the lighting, find a nice comfy chair and just watch, but to me the lighting stuff is the fun part. It’s probably one of those things hardcoded into the Y chromosome that as to do with asserting dominance over fire and things like that, but there’s something that’s just primally satisfying about watching something go up and blow up and knowing that it’s your doing (or your fault if it ended up on the neighbors’ roof, but that’s another story) that you don’t quite get from merely watching. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy watching fireworks (I actually do when circumstances permit). The pros can put on some pretty impressive displays, including one in Downtown Bellevue that I understand can be quite good, but to me the Fourth of July is my one chance during the year to blow stuff up and (usually) not end up having awkward conversations with the police. And I don’t plan to let an opportunity like that go to waste if I can help it.
Even so, as I have participated in the big Vanderhoeven Fourth of July blowouts over the past few years, I’ve found that my approach to buying fireworks has changed. For example, as much fun as it is to have a bunch of stuff to light off, I do think that there’s a point where it gets to be too much. For example, the big bottle rocket packs give you plenty of stuff to light off, but at some point you’re going to find that you’ve already lit most of the big stuff, and you’ve still got a ton of the tiny little bottle rockets, and it would take far too long to light the things off. Eventually the neighbors are going to be lighting off huge 500-gram cakes and big barrages of shells and you’re going to be trying to burn off all the dinky little bottle rockets, and probably feeling just a tad inadequate in the process. In this case, it almost seems like a “less is more” situation, where we would be better off with smaller quantities of bigger stuff, but at the same time, if I’m going to spend $50 or more on a single item at the fireworks stand, it better at least have more than one fuse. On the other hand I would be seriously tempted to try out one of those huge 100o-shot Saturn Missile batteries or a 16,000 firecracker roll just for the sheer audacity of the whole thing if the things weren’t so dang expensive (we actually did a couple of 300-shot batteries last year, and at least one this year.) When it all boils down it’s basically a slightly fancier way of burning a $100 bill than, well, burning a $100 bill, but the neighborhood doesn’t usually applaud that one at the end.
Anyway, with the Fourth of July festivities out of the way, it’s time to get on with the business of enjoying the Summer, and there looks to be plenty on the schedule…