Tag Archives: fireworks

oh crash my bash it’s bang the zang fourth woosh of baroom july whew!


Every August, we’d collect the giant paper bag of illegal fireworks from my Grampa, and set them off, one by one, over the lake (a few feet away from the giant paper bag).  I’d get burned by sparklers.  I’d fall over logs escaping bottle rockets.  My dad would do a funny little trot to avoid getting blown up by the roman candles that he lit.  I loved that trot.  Even more than the roman candles.

August?  Yes.  That was when we typically escaped the heat of Saudi Arabia and returned to the U.S. for about a month.  The temperatures in Saudi Arabia at that time of year hovered around 120 degrees F and the humidity all but matched that. When I swam at the pool I had a difficult time discerning when I was and wasn’t under water.  Washington was frigid by comparison.  We dove into ice-cold water that snapped you awake in a heart beat, instead of into the Arabian Gulf, which was only about 10 degrees cooler than the oppressive desert air.  Of course, we had missed the Fourth of July, because obviously Saudi Arabia has absolutely no reason to celebrate the Fourth, and to be honest, they’re more than a little on edge when it comes to loud booms.

Some people in America find it odd that we didn’t celebrate this holiday in the Middle East.

I find it odd that some people in America don’t know that the entire world is not American.

The Fourth would arrive, and I would get a little sad.  Clapping just wasn’t loud enough.  Saying Shel Silverstein’s “the Fourth” poem out loud over and over didn’t appease my desire for partying.  As I grew into the late teen years, I heard about some kids going to the military bases on the Fourth.  That sounded fun.  Hot young soldiers and a party?  Wow.  That totally trumped watching St. Elmo’s Fire for the 23rd time.  I eagerly awaited my invitation.  Year.  After.  Year.

I never was invited.

Not that I was a total social pariah.  Not many people were invited to these things, unless they had military ties.  But still, I somehow imagined that if I obsessed about it long enough, someone would read my mind and want to ask me along.

Never happened.  Also, Johnny Depp still hasn’t called.  So, apparently mind reading is not as easy as you would think.

When we finally got back to the states, we blew shit up – like good Americans.  So what if it was like August 11th.

We also ate gobs of hot dogs, another sign of a good American.

And then there came a day when I was in the states for the Fourth of July.  There were too many people around.  There were mosquitos biting me.  The fireworks were so loud I started having flashbacks to a war that I never fought in.  My heart changed it’s rhythm at least three times in one show.

And then, I got dogs.  My dogs quivered in fear.  I locked them, and myself, in the basement – turned on the sound machine, played soothing music, and they were still terrified – and I was still trying to not have fictitious flashbacks.

And then, I had a baby.

For two or three weeks before the Fourth of July I became consumed with a hatred far beyond that of any intense PMS.  It was the hatred of people who dared to wake my baby.  I wanted them killed.  I would stone them to death, myself, for having the nerve to enjoy this damn day.  I could imagine myself picking them off, one by one, like some mommified version of a slasher film.

I have a neurotically active imagination (and a healthy dose of mental illness in the blood line).

I understand the pretty colors and a dramatic boom, but what’s with the booms that are so loud that my various sphincters shut their doors for business?  I can’t fart for at least a day.  And by the way, if it gives ME flashbacks (and sphincter issues), what the hell does all that booming and bright flashing do to the minds of the soldiers who were just in a war?  Essentially we’re celebrating soldiers by throwing them deep into their own trauma.  That doesn’t seem like the best thank you ever.  I’m sort of morphing Veterans Day with the Fourth of July, but there is a similar theme.  Patriotism.  And closing sphincters.  I just love the word.  What can I say?  SSSPPPPPPHHHHHHINCTER!

In my mama bear psychosis I called the cops almost nightly to report illegal fireworks.  Karma giggled.

“Really?” she said.  “You don’t remember keeping people up in the middle of August?  After they’d already survived the real Fourth of July?”

At least I only called the cops.  My husband would go to the park, sneak up on the small-minded teens (who are always wearing wife beaters.  why is this?) trying to impress their girlfriends by blowing off their own digits, and suddenly shine a flashlight in their faces, booming (almost as loudly as the professional fireworks), “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING OUT HERE?!”

They’d inevitably reply with some intelligent response like, “Dude, we’re just celebrating and having fun, man.  Mind your fucking business.”

If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that this is the wrong answer.  His voice alone makes people crap themselves, daily.  A hot wind of loud words would push their way out of his mouth and up against their pimply teen angst; a warning about fireworks being illegal and how they had woken his baby and that if they didn’t leave, they would probably never be able to make their own babies because all their baby making parts would become a part of that next firework that they shot off. They’d inevitably run and he’d come back home, feeling the pride that only a papa bear can feel when he successfully scares the poo out of people who have bothered his baby girl, people who are at least 25 years younger than him.  Man, I bet that caused a giant cluster of new zits on more than one teen.

Obviously, over the past fifteen years I have come to dislike this time of year. When the fireworks were cancelled last year I was ecstatic, knowing that I’d be going to bed early and my dogs would be free from tumultuous bouts of diarrhea. (Weird, when you think about it.  Stress seems to loosen their sphincters.)  YES! But this year, we’ve had rain.  The whole month of May was a drippy mess.  That means, you guessed it, FIREWORKS.  As I come to accept my fate and the inevitable doggie squirts, I realize that I am being a great big grump about this. This is not the example that I want to set for my daughter.  I want her to be excited to make some noise, and to perhaps even be a bit patriotic.  I am a struggling-startle response riddled-pathetic example of a patriot (if you haven’t noticed), but her dad is a veteran, so I’m always trying to improve.  It’s good to love your country, especially to appreciate all of the freedoms you have.  Women in Saudi Arabia are STILL trying to just get the right to DRIVE!  Imagine.  And that’s just the beginning.  They can’t speak their minds without serious ramifications.  They can’t wear shorts if it’s 125 degrees.  They can’t work in whatever field they want to – a large majority can’t work at all.  They DO still have arranged marriages (not everyone…but again, it’s more common than not), and they are often forced into marriage before most of us have started reading the Twilight books.  Women are still not entirely equal in this society, that is obvious, but man… we have it SO good by comparison.  This country of ours gives us options and choices and even best of all,


oh…and the right to bear explosives that may or may not blow off your own fingers.

I guess it’s time for me to realize what the fireworks represent.  It is only one day, and it’s not in August.   I will drink beer.  I will eat a hot dog (granted, it’ll be a nitrate free turkey dog) on a (whole wheat) bun.  I will set off a stink bomb or two – and not the ones that I normally set off – the ones with the putrid colors.  I will cheer at the spectacle in the sky.  I will thank my lucky stars that my dogs are getting older and can’t hear as well.  And, most importantly, I will wear earplugs.


Super-hero Grampa, a.k.a. Fast Frankie


I grew up with a super-hero.  Well, mostly we just wrote letters and saw each other over summer vacation, but still, there he was.  My own super-hero.  His name was Frank.

Fast Frank.

The owner of Frankie’s House of Ale Repute.

My grampa.

This was a man who I could sit in a boat with for hours, trolling along the lake, hoping for a fish to bite.  I’m sure we talked, but mostly I remember being quiet, and being comfortable with the silence.  It was like fishing with Buddah.  I know, that’s a bit of an oxymoronic thing to say.  Buddah would have kissed the fish and put them back in the lake, we ate them.  But we ate them with love in our bellies. Does that count?

When we lived over seas, we were pen pals.  He would write my sister and I, diligently.  He was the best letter writer of them all.  After he died, we found a box of love letters that he had written to my gramma, and I thought that she must’ve been the luckiest woman in the world to have such a romantic pursuing her.  In the summertime, we would go back to Washington State and play in the sunshine (yes.  Another ironic statement, I know) and the lake.  He bought an ancient motor boat to teach us how to water ski.  He found us an old-fashioned surf board for us to play on.  He built a fire pit and we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows religiously.  Since we always missed the Fourth of July in the U.S., he would buy us mass supplies of illegal fireworks, and we’d shoot them off, driving the neighbors crazy, in the middle of August.

He called me Blondie.  He called me Liver Lip.  He called me Bubble Head.

He loved to tease me about my obsession with Michael Jackson.  While my sister and I poured over Star Magazine, laying out in the sun on the lake, he’d whip up chocolate coladas for my parents and anyone who was stopping by to visit.  He always had friends, and best stories you’ve ever heard.  He was a creative, optimistic fella.

He only made me cry twice.

One day, we were walking in the woods.  I was in college.  He told me he didn’t want to be old.  He felt like in his mind he was still only twenty-one.  But his damn body was not keeping up.  I didn’t know what to say.  His radiant blue eyes were sad.  I wanted to tell him to live forever and to keep loving me because I couldn’t imagine a planet without him on it.  He was a giver of unconditional love, and I didn’t want to ever be without it.

The next time he made me cry was when he died.  Do you remember a time when not everyone had a cell phone?  But business people and cool people and drug dealers had PAGERS.  That seemed like the wave of the future.  Maybe they were right.  With the texting we all do now, we could have probably done just that with a $25 pager.  Hmmmm.  Anyway, I was not a drug dealer, but I did have a thing for being cool.  Nah.  I was a business owner, running my wee massage practice.  I had a pager, and absolutely no one ever paged me.  So, I never had it with me.  I left it in my car when I went to see Titanic with Kate and Leo.  Ah, the cheese ball Celine Dion song.  “I’m the King of the WORLD!”  The iceberg.  It was an emotional roller coaster, for sure.  I dragged my weary ass out of my movie seat and walked through the snow back to my car.  I had fifteen pages.

My grampa had suffered a massive stroke.  He was still alive.  I hated that movie. I hated my pager.  I bought an overpriced ticket and my sister and I flew back to Washington.  I hated Washington.

We arrived at SeaTac and looked for my parents.  They had just flown in from Saudi Arabia.  We found a rental car and wouldn’t you know it, it was snowing like mad – in Washington!  It hardly ever snows in Seattle.  Of course, this wasn’t a light snow either.  There was about 6 inches and we had to find this hospital on a steep Seattle hill.   Once we had slid around and parked the car in a precarious location, wondering if it would slide into Puget Sound while were inside, we ran in to see my grampa. He was still talking, but he wasn’t opening his eyes.  I put my hand on his head and it was the hottest head I had ever felt in my life.  Not even super-heroes burn that hot.

This was not going improve, I knew it right then.

While everyone else was chatting, he said to me, “I don’t want to die yet.  I’m not ready to die.”  I was trying not to cry because I didn’t want to make him feel worse and I just said, “Well, maybe you don’t have to.”  It was a stupid thing to say, but it was all that would come out.  I just kept holding on to his hand.  I wanted to see those baby blues again, but he just didn’t have the strength.  We all told him we loved him and we’d see him in the morning.  The doctors talked about options for survival, and care, and what part of his brain had been affected.  We pretended to play with those ideas, building them up like claymation people in our heads about what this new direction of living would look like.

I wish we had stayed.  Just to have that whole night in his presence would have given me ten more hours of Frankie.  I would love to have ten more hours with my super-hero.

I slept with my sister, like we were kids again and not married people.  We giggled like we did fifteen years before, both of us nervous and uncomfortable with what was happening and what we couldn’t stop.  We slept with our contacts in, ready to go at a moments notice.  As we thought, 7 a.m. we were on the road because he had taken a turn for the worse during the night.  They kept him alive while we drove there.  My sister hit some sort of speed vortex and we made it from Bremerton to Seattle in less than 45 minutes (in rush hour).  This is an impossibility, so I know she’s magic.

Pure magic, that girl.

We arrived and stood vigil around his bed.  It was our family and my uncle.  We all touched him somewhere.  I was back at his head when I realized my dad didn’t seem to know what to do.  We made him stand there, and I held onto his feet. As they turned off the machines that were helping him breathe, we all held on and told him we loved him and it was okay for him to leave, because we would always remember him.  But, it wasn’t okay.  Who was going to love me with such pure goodness?  I wanted to be a kid again and throw a tantrum, but I didn’t.   I looked over at one point and realized that at another bed were two teenagers saying goodbye to their dad.  I realized I was being so selfish.  I had him in my life for so long.  But, if you met Frankie, you would see.  Those blue eyes of his had the power to warm the coldest toes.

His body was much smaller once he was gone.  That is not a myth.  He shrunk. Without that big personality inside of his body, I realized he was a pretty little guy.

Who would’a thunk that those superheroes were just humans.

I missed that unconditional love for so long, other than the sweetness of my doggies.  Then I had a baby.  I had a baby that has my grampa’s barrel chest.  She has his slightly shorter than average arms.  She has my nose.  She had her daddy’s chin.  And she loves me with the ferocity of a child.  Only a child can do that.  Or a grampa.

I did get a few more minutes with him, years ago.  I had a dream that we were all together to celebrate his birthday.   I knew he wouldn’t be there long.  I cried and hugged him and cried some more.  I told him how much I love him.  I think that was a second chance to say goodbye.  Everyday without him, my eyes get a bit bluer.  The more I see, the more they look like his.

I miss you Fast Frankie.  I wish you could meet this kid who reminds me so much of you.

life in the gutter