Friday, July 6, 2007

Life offline

Once a year, our extended family goes to the beach for a vacation. I'll be gone two weeks, and during that time I will be mostly offline. It's an odd experience, given how much of my life I spend in front of computer displays, but I think it's a good one. If the house has Internet access, which is possible but unlikely, I may sneak peeks at the online world, but overall I think it's good for me to get away.

I will, though, write every day.

A few Fourth photos

It's late, but I've had a few requests for photos from yesterday's show, so I'm going to post those and then get on to the work in front of me.

Gina took something on the order of 200 photos of the show and the party, and she captured some amazing images. I had a hard time choosing from among them, but I finally settled on two.

The first one shows a view that stretches from the launching area high into the sky. We stand maybe ten to twenty yards back from the launching fireworks, so our view is, as I mentioned, intense. Gina took hers from a more sensible position in the audience.

This second picture shows the sky partway through a round. Aren't fireworks grand!

The folks in this photo are the launch team--pre-launch and post-setup.

Finally, courtesy of Dave, who graciously cleans up the next day, check out the giant mound of empty fireworks. Still cool, even spent.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


The fireworks show went well tonight. I think it may have been our best ever. The large crowd seemed to enjoy it, and I know the firing team did.

Afterward, I obviously looked as exhausted as I felt. Someone asked if doing the show was tiring, and to keep the answer simple, I said, yes.

That wasn't the whole truth.

The work is tiring, but not particularly so. What really takes it out of me is not even the adrenaline rush, though that certainly doesn't help.

What leaves me spent is the sheer emotional and sensory intensity of the show.

When the fireworks are shooting upward, when the sky fills with light, when the thunder of the shots vibrates you to your core, and you're standing right there underneath it all, your senses and your body communicate in a way that bypasses your conscious thought processes. Something more primal happens. Some of us, myself included, scream from time to time. You know at a very deep level that you're in the presence of forces that you may seem to control but that could at any moment turn on you. It's primal, rich, exhilirating, terrifying, exciting, all-enveloping, and ultimately overloading.

I love it.

And, boy, am I tired.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's a grand old flag

Tomorrow, we hold our usual huge Fourth of July cookout and fireworks party. We're currently at 98 definite attendees and 8 maybes, so even though some folks will almost certainly end up not coming we should have a good crowd. I'm looking forward to it, even though I'll spend much of the day working on setup, grilling, managing and participating in the fireworks show, and so on.

I'll almost certainly also think more than a little bit about the day itself, what others have paid to let me live in what I still believe to be the best country on Earth, and how lucky I am to be here. I don't agree with much our government is doing, and I haven't admired many of our leaders in a very long time, but at heart I'm patriotic. I simply don't believe being patriotic means you have to be uncritical.

I was in the Young Marines for three years that began not long after I turned ten. I can and have told many stories about that time, and I'll almost certainly keep dealing with the experience until I die. It did me a lot of damage, more than most people can understand. Though I've never been in the military, those three years gave me a glimpse of that life. They also gave me a built-in respect for the flag. Flag burning? Not me. Laws against it? Not me, either; in America, my America, people are and should be free to express themselves as they want. If I don't like it, I don't have to watch.

When I see a flag flying, when I really see it, not just pass by it, I think many things. I think of my stepfather and what WWII cost him. I think of his two sons, particularly Ed Jr., who has no hair from his time in the service. I think of my friend Dave, who's enriched the lives of many as he's tried to cope in his writing with his own. I think of so many who have paid so much.

And I always think of a ten-year-old boy, standing at attention in his perfectly starched and ironed fatigues, his gig line straight, his cover perfect, his boots gleaming in the hot Florida sun, his posture unwavering as sweat runs down his back, his salute rock solid in flawless form as his platoon raises the flag, and though in my adult mind I know that as that kid the experience messed me up royally, what I feel in my heart, what quickens my pulse, is the knowledge that it was my flag, my platoon, my Young Marines, even--though I wasn't really entitled to say so--my Marines. Semper Fi.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Captain America

I love comic books. I have somewhere around 40,000 of them, which I cannot bring myself to sell even though I haven't actively collected comics in over 15 years. Every now and then, I read a few comics. Someday, I'd like to write a comic series; Jon & Lobo on the pages of a graphic novel would rock.

So it was that when, a bit ago, I learned that Marvel would be killing Captain America, I felt more than a tinge of sadness. Sure, Cap was never the brightest star in the Marvel universe, but I read him both as a kid and for a while as an adult, both in solo adventures and with the Avengers, and I have to admit that I'll miss him.

My reaction also reminded me of the power of series fiction, graphic or prose or video or radio. A single book can inspire you to change your life--I really do believe that--but a series can take up residence in your heart.

If you hate this particular series, go ahead and laugh now, but when John D. MacDonald died and I internalized that I'd never again get to read a real Travis McGee story, I was bummed for several days. When as a seventh grader I finished The Return of the King and there was no more, I ached. I could name many, many more examples, but you get the point.

None of this is to say, by the way, that I think series are better than standalones. I most definitely do not. I also don't try to say whether a perfectly cooked piece of Kobe beef is better than a flawlessly seared bit of prime foie gras; they're both wonderful.

I do, however, get annoyed at those who decry series fiction as inherently worthless. Those folks obviously didn't feel awestruck by The Prisoner on their first viewing, or yearn to fight alongside Spidey or the Avengers, or wish Spade or Marlowe would need their help, or wonder if Slippery Jim would ever lose his touch.

Or feel the loss of Captain America. RIP, Cap.

Monday, July 2, 2007

I can't dance

Okay, I can dance, in the sense that I can move my arms slightly, shuffle my feet, and generally look like a Night of the Living Dead zombie minus all the grace and poise. I can also execute with moderate mechanical precision the basic box versions of the waltz and the fox trot.

But, really, in any meaningful sense, I can't dance.

Most guys can't either, at least as best I can tell from watching random dance scenes in movies and many real-world dances in a variety of settings.

I don't care enough to take lessons--though lessons gave me the minimal waltz and fox-trot skills I have--but I do regret this inability.

What brought all this to mind was a scene in a movie, Playing By Heart, that we watched on DVD tonight. Ryan Phillippe was rocking out in the middle of a crowd, and I can't for the life of me tell if he was supposed to look like a lousy dancer; I know only that he did. (I quite like this unabashedly sentimental film, by the way, so don't let this one scene turn you away from it.)

I've seen, given, and even own the card that advises one and all to dance like nobody's watching, but I've never quite been able to do that. I suppose that inability, as opposed to my lack of dance skill, has more to do with inhibitions and self-consciousness than my pitiful repetoire of dance skills, but I do believe that if I thought I were a better dancer, I'd be less inhibited.

If you're also a bad dancer, I encourage you to completely ignore my example and dance your heart out every chance you get. Maybe in the process you'll either become a better dancer or simply lose your self-consciousness; either one would be a win.

I even took my own advice when the kids were little. We'd hold House of Dance, put up a strobe light, and dance around the den. They didn't know then what a good dancer looked like, so I like to think that on those manic, laugh-filled evenings, in their eyes I was the dancer I wish I was. I miss House of Dance for that joy, but I don't think I could go back to it, because now I know they'd see me for the bad dancer I am.



Blog Archive