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11:56 a.m. 2010-07-04

A note on fireworks:

This year for the 4th of July, we will not be shooting off fireworks. We still appreciate America, celebrate the ideas it stands for, and believe in Mom, Baseball and Apple Pie (but apples are really expensive here, and I am a Cubs fan so it hasnít been a good year for 2 out of 3 of those). We all just had a bad experience with fireworks. Well kind of bad, and kind of awesome.
I may have mentioned this before, but Iíll say it again. In Nigeria, the fireworks go off right over the head of the crowd. RIGHT OVER HEAD. In the US, they area always a little bit away from you, and an optical illusion is created. It looks like the color arms are always reaching towards you, like the explosion is coming towards you, like flicking fingers. This of course is an illusion created by how your eyes process the depth of bright colors floating free of other reference points and your deeply held ego centric view that you really are the center of the universe. You arenít. The firework arms are going in all directions.
But in Nigeria you know that, for two reasons. You are better able to process the lights in the darkness when they are right overhead, because your mind can put together reference points. Also, if you have been dispatched to Nigeria, your belief that you are the center of the universe is quickly and completely taken care of.
But the compensation for letting go of that is the fireworks really are much cooler when they are going off right over your head. They are bigger and they cover the sky. They are almost like the sparks falling in The Natural as Roy Hobbs rounds the bases that final time. The explosive sounds wash over you. The crowd fills the hole left by their removed egocentric universe with collective ohhhs and ahhhs at the glorious gleaming and glittering lights from heaven. I know people ohhh and ahhh in the US. Those are nice, but take my word, those ohhhs are the MLS, these ahhhs are the World Cup.
The downside of bringing heavens lights so close to earth is the age old issue of wrath. Sometimes, and not a rare kind of sometimes, these fireworks go off early. That is when collective ohhhs turn into collective ducking for cover. The ahhhs become frantic searches to put out fires on the ground before they spread. And that is what happened at my bosses house the last time we had fireworks.
So there will be hot dogs, there will be dunk tanks, and there will be stars spangling banners, but this year the rockets red glare is going to be left out.

Happy 4th of July everybody!

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