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Ah, yes — the law. Although perfectly legal in Tennessee, the fireworks that provided our little nighttime amusements were prohibited in Maryland. This merely added to the delicious frisson of danger: “Hurry up, Dad, before somebody calls the cops!”
Outlaw pyro-Dad, boldly defying both the law and Mom — I was a mighty hero to my boys every New Year’s and Fourth of July.
THEN CAME THE infamous debacle of 2004. We had moved farther out into the countryside by then and, as Independence Day approached that year, I decided the boys and I were ready to put on a real show.
Acquiring a $200 stash of fireworks, I planned a three-minute sequence of effects. More than a dozen guests responded to our invitation. Burgers were grilled while my sons helped me set up the firing stations at the nearby site we’d chosen for the performance.
Darkness came, and we were just about ready to start shooting when the thunderstorm hit. Our fuses got soaked and the sequence I’d planned turned in a desperate quest merely to get the stuff to ignite.
My boys were in tears from the disappointment and embarrassment — they’d invited their friends, too — and my humiliation was extreme.
Vindication of the family honor was required, and there was only one way to do it. For 2005, my sons and I would have to stage the biggest amateur fireworks display anyone had ever seen.
On the Internet, I discovered online forums where fireworks fanatics gathered to discuss their hobby — the latest products, special effects, fusing, show-production techniques and so forth. That’s where I learned the joy of buying wholesale, and soon I joined a buying group with my online buddies to order cases and cases of fireworks.
By the time July 2005 arrived, I’d accumulated a stockpile worth nearly $3,000, and built special racks to hold our roman candles and fire our mortar shells — miniature consumer versions of the shells professionals use in their displays.
I took a week of vacation to complete final preparations for the big show, my sons helping me measure fuses to the precise lengths required to time everything just right. I edited a special tape of patriotic music, bought butane torches for ignition and even got hardhats and goggles for myself and my two-boy crew, so we’d be safe from the sparks and falling debris.
More than 100 spectators were on hand as night fell and we finished connecting the final fuses. We’d borrowed a 500-watt sound system for the music. The video camera was on its tripod, ready to capture the aerial extravaganza. I asked our pastor to say a few words of prayer, and then — showtime!
Opening with a roman-candle display to the majestic fanfare of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” we proceeded through the “Armed Forces Medley” (featuring different-colored effects to salute each branch of the service) and then into a one-minute finale of more than 400 aerial bursts to the tune of “America the Beautiful.”
The song ended, the final shells exploded and the spectators applauded, not realizing they’d been fooled by the pyrotechnician’s favorite trick — the fake finale.
My boys and I had already lit the fuses for the real finale and were scampering off the field when the crowd heard the opening strains of “God Bless America,” signaling that the show wasn’t over yet. The video camera caught the rest:p>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?