Friday, July 6, 2007
OC-Ed -- Hometown Fireworks
The Fourth of July is a monthlong affair in Lynn, Massachusetts, where I live. The fireworks start around mid-June and, as I write this on the actual night of the Fourth, continue long past the point where anyone could possibly still enjoy the noise. The quality of the fireworks after midnight is largely inferior to the impressive pyrotechnics of eight or nine o’clock as daylight fades. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to have blown their stash, and we’re now down to single bottle rockets. A few hundred single bottle rockets.
Lynn does things a bit differently than the rest of Boston. The official town fireworks display happens on July 3, all gussied up as a joint enterprise with our more upscale neighbors in Swampscott. Everyone gathers on the beach or the sidewalk lining the beach starting at around six p.m., orders their food from Christie’s, on the Lynn side, or one of the restaurants on the Swampscott end of the beach. Just to fit in, Nahant, to the east, joins in with its own random civilian displays.
For those not familiar with the Fourth in Boston, the big tradition is to cram onto the esplanade, where hundred have slept since the night before to secure good seats, and watch the Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops with special guests (this year it was John Mellencamp) and watch the fireworks over the bay. Which means as my wife Melissa and I were driving five minutes up the road at six p.m. on the 3rd for fireworks that started at nine p.m. that night, the first of the Esplanade crazies were arriving with their blankets and coolers in Boston.
We got our drinks and a newspaper from a neighborhood corner store, loaded up on fried foods from Christie’s, an eatery that has overlooked the Atlantic Ocean and been run by the same family since 1903. Then we staked our place in the grass along the sidewalk and waited.
The shore started to fill up. One of the first couples came with small yapping dog. It was cute in the beginning, until the man noticed out amusement and start talking to the dog in a booming voice to make sure everyone around him noticed. Melissa placed his accent as Oklahoma or north Texas. Several people gathered on a blanket behind us around a boom box. Melissa and I debated about the language, whether it was Middle Eastern or perhaps had a hint of the Caribbean islands. You wouldn’t think the two regions had much in common linguistically, but I couldn’t decipher it.
That’s when Melissa said, “There’s something very poignant about the diversity in this place.”
It occurred to me at that moment that we were in the best place in the country to celebrate America. As we got closer to the start time, we put our chairs back in the car and walked along the beach, looking up at the containing wall where hundreds of people lined up for a mile or so. There were faces of every color, people of various means and beliefs. And, unlike the Esplanade show or some of the other displays, the crowd here was from the same community. The couple we’re sure were smoking pot, the dozens of families, the groups of kids riding their bikes on the hard sand – most of them probably lived within a ten minute drive from here.
We returned home to find the fireworks hadn’t ended. The personal fireworks displays that had begun in June was reaching a crescendo while a professional show from somewhere near Saugus, to the west, lit up the end of our block. It seemed like every neighborhood was having its own celebration. Lynn does things a bit differently, but it does things together.