I don’t mean smoke bombs, sparklers and snakes. Those are boring, thus banning them would be like banning oatmeal, which come to think of it, isn’t a bad idea. Bland tends to ban itself.
I mean ban fun fireworks. Anything that delights the soul. Or bedazzles the eye. Or rattles the windows. Or leaps from the earth with its butt on fire. Or causes moms to get the vapors (maybe the truest test of all). Anything, in short, that, when you light it, makes you feel like you did when you were a kid and got away with something you shouldn’t have.
For most of my life, those types of fireworks were banned in Michigan, which made them all the more fun if you got your hands on some.
Back in my grade school days, Joey Liss and I used to put platoons of green plastic Army men on the ice floes that would form in the alley next to his home. Then we’d knock them off with illicit firecrackers and bb guns, thereby saving the nation from invasion. Great kid fun in a much more innocent time.
Later, I’d go back to Escanaba, my hometown in the U.P., for the Fourth and delight the nephews and nieces with a private fireworks show after the city’s fireworks show. Ours was always better and generally safe, except for the time the Roman candle tipped over and shot a ball of fire over everyone’s head.
I’m still apologizing to the mothers in our family for that. (Yeah. I’m apparently “that” uncle.)
When the state changed the fireworks law a few years ago and suddenly everything short of nuclear weapons was legal, I was initially delighted. Instead of getting whiz-bangs from the reservation near Escanaba, I could get them anywhere.
But then reality set in. As an adult who gives a crap about other people, I’ve always limited my fireworks use to the Fourth, maybe the night before. Setting them off in a neighborhood any other time seems a bit rude, y’know? A lot of older people don’t like it. Dogs hate it. People are sleeping. And what about veterans with PTSD?
I am clearly alone in my restraint. Since the law changed, I hear and see fireworks nearly every night, often all night, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
And I don’t mean little fireworks – Roman candles or bottle rockets. I mean big ones. The kind that make you think the next neighborhood over is ticked off for some reason and invading your neighborhood and they’re beginning with a rolling artillery barrage. The kind that make even me ask, “Those are legal?”
I’d like to think we could modify the existing law by getting rid of fireworks that belong in professional hands. (Here’s one guideline: If it’s called a “mortar shell” maybe that’s a sign Bob down the street shouldn’t own it.) I’d also like to think people will start to behave better.
But neither is going to happen. (Me, I can behave with fireworks and other things. The rest of you? Not so much.)
So maybe we’d be better off going back to the old law.
Boring as it was.
Have a safe, happy Fourth.
Image credit: Craighton Miller