Kage Baker was often taken to Pismo Beach as a child, for her family’s summer vacation. For some reason – probably having to do with the expense and difficulty of housing 8, 9, 10 people or more, depending on who came along – it was usually the week after the 4th of July.
This led to Kage’s desperate combing of the beach for unexploded fireworks. Sometimes, the family arrived before the beach even got groomed and there were pounds of detritus all over the dunes: scraps of foil and paper in all colours, charred rocket sticks, blackened and hollowed-out shells with the remnants of epic, fascinating names left on them: Verdant Fire Mountain. Silver Rain, Golden Thunder. Dragon Eggs. Ground Bloom Flowers (Kage’s personal favourites, when still alive and combustible. They’ll burn underwater!)
What she was always hoping for was live shells, of course. And, of course, she never found any. Times when we arrived on the 5th were especially tormenting for her – there were still small rocket launchers half-buried in the sand, soot and ashes blowing along the tide line – it drove her nuts. The best she ever managed to score was an unburned Snake (the most boring firework in the world) or a fag end of punk that could be thrown on the barbecue coals to smoke and char and conjure up incendiary dreams.
It’s why we never, ever missed but one 4th of July in Pismo Beach, in all the years we lived there as adults. And that one was because Kage was GOH at a Convention in Las Vegas, where we got to sit on the balcony of our posh hotel and watch Vegas lose its mind: so Kage was happy. But what she loved best was the 20-odd years of sitting on the sand beside the Pismo Pier, surrounded by her family and her own fireworks at last, sipping rum and breathing in the rolling, roof-high drifts of black powder smoke.
And we still went out walking on the 5th in the early morning, before the tractors and rakes came out, just in case there was a Roman candle that had been sadly orphaned the night before. She never found one then, either. But it didn’t bother her as much.
Last night was a dreadful mess here in my neighborhood. I could cope with the ruckus if it were just Safe and Sane fireworks – yes, they’re illegal, but I don’t really begrudge anyone a little fountain, or a sparkler, or a couple of Piccolo Petes … or even those nasty boring Snakes. But my neighbors favour Chinese mortars acquired from dishonest pursers’ mates down in San Pedro, or high-capacity-magazine guns. The resultant explosions are huge, loud and dangerous. In fact, only a few blocks away last night, some of the neighbors managed to light the cottonwood trees in the LA River bed on fire with an errant sky rocket, which was very interesting for a while …
But it’s fine today, and ought to be pretty much all right tonight. The local police are apparently not enthusiastic about anyone setting the River on fire again, and will be patrolling pretty hard tonight. The Corgi and the cats can spend a quiet evening undrugged, and the smell of black powder has almost died away. I can’t really object to that smell, either – I do like it,and it was like catnip to Kage! I don’t care for the undertone of burnt cottonwood that lingers in our streets, but that’s why the police are being so determined.
And we went and saw a movie today, en famille: so I can recommend Finding Dory, Dear Readers, as a very nice movie. There are hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner. All is well, most is cool; quiet prevails.
I don’t mind not finding left-over explosives these days. I don’t think even Kage would. There are enough real ones out there.