The Sky Rocket

November 11, 2009

What is it with men and fireworks? Perhaps it’s the same as women with flowers – it simply warms the heart; the only difference with fireworks is that on occasion it burns, too!!

Years ago, the Peoples Republic of Santa Monica allowed fireworks on the beach for the fourth of July. Man, that was genius! The beach would literally be transformed into a scene out of Apocalypse Now, less the helicopters. The air was full of energy and well, fire, along with the occasional boom – Fire Rockets shooting into the air, bursting into all kinds of colors and followed by outbursts of “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” by onlookers. Then there were the things that spin – sorta like flaming Chinese Stars of Death. And for the kids, oh yes, the kids – we had Snakes, Flowers and Sparklers – how’s that for child safety!

For those who don’t remember or who have been shielded their whole lives, Snakes were these little black nubs that looked a lot like pieces of licorice – you simply put them on the ground, take a box of matches or steal your dad’s cigarette lighter, spark ‘em up and watch them smoke and burn as they “appeared” to be rising out of the ground. Of course, we as kids were always being screamed at by our parents to step back away from the smoke and watch at a safe distance – “Uh, Mom, does 8 inches count?”

Flowers, or Ground Bloom Flowers, were these objects that looked like a giant firecracker, but instead of exploding they would just spin around and around, changing all kinds of colors in the process. As the years would go by, these simple eye-treats would eventually become hockey pucks of pain! But that’s another story.

As for Sparklers, who doesn’t remember Sparklers!?! Wire hangers dipped in what appeared to be like gun powder and that when lit, would produce sparks that would burst all over your hands and clothes for what seemed to be like an hour (although, in real time more like a minute) as you waved them in your hands as if holding cheerleader pom-pom’s and then eventually dying down only to leave you with a orange-glowing piece of metal that now became a branding iron – “Mijo, stop chasing your sister, you’re making her cry!!” Ah, memories. The poor beach would be littered for weeks, but it was like treasure hunting for us kids. We’d be looking for things that didn’t light or fizzle – yep, the fourth of July all over again.

To make a long story longer… I love fireworks. And as I sit here thinking about it, over the years it’s becoming very clear to me that I haven’t learned a thing! Let’s take a stroll down memory lane in reverse to make my point:

Around the time I was 24 yrs old, I was chucking Flowers off a balcony 15 stories high, making bank-shots off a church roof into an empty school yard. It just so happens that one falls into an oversized tire and catches fire in the empty gunny sack that some kids left within the tire itself!! I had to put down my beer, run down 15 floors of steps, hop a fence and dump sand from the children’s sandbox to put the thing out! Nice.

When I was 22 yrs old, I was rooming with 3 other friends of mine in Hawaii when the fourth of July came rolling along and wouldn’t you know it – a Fireworks booth is set up right in front of our house along the street. Need I say more? Later that evening we had the bright idea of getting into a fireworks war. We were lighting packs of firecrackers and throwing them like grenades – FIRE IN THE HOLE!! It got so bad that at one point my buddy and I who teamed up against the others were running for our dear lives while those giving chase were launching missiles at us from a Roman Candle! It’s amazing nobody went to the hospital.

Around the time that I was 18 yrs old, my buddy and I had a bunch of Piccolo Pete’s that we were lighting down at the beach. Upon watching the fuse zip down before a blink of an eye, I had the wonderful joy of having that firework go off in my hand – smoke, screaming noise from the Pete, and melted skin. With lightning quick thinking, my friend hands me an ice-cold beer and makes it all better. No hospitals that night, either.

Ah, and then there was when I was 11 yrs old. I was on a Baja excursion with my dad that seemed like forever. Still, when in Baja, you have to take advantage of the fireworks! They’re everywhere. In fact, go buy a six-pack of beer and they throw in a couple of fireworks for free! How’s that for trouble?!? Anyway, my friend and I now have these massive M500’s, which are just about the power of a half-stick of dynamite. Well, my turn to light it, right, so I put it in some rocks, light it up, turn to run and yep – trip on a stinkin’ boulder and fall to the ground within feet of the …..BOOM!! My ears rang for the rest of the week, but you should’ve seen the rocks we blew up!

This now brings us to The Sky Rocket, perhaps the starting point of all my troubles. I was around 7 yrs old and down at my second home – Baja California. We were visiting relatives during the summertime and it was melting hot. If you ever want to touch the sun, just go down to San Felipe during the summer and your desire will flee! Anywho, the whole family is outside trying to enjoy a peaceful summer night. Well, guess what I have? Yup, when in Baja …you get the point. So my dad lets me hold my bag of Sky Rockets and tells me to “be careful”! Who, me? Of course I will. The next demand was simple – “ …and don’t shoot the Sky Rockets at the car!!!” Easy enough; the car, an old Dark Green Ford Maverick, is like 50 yards away in the dark with all the windows down because it’s hot – how’s a sky rocket going to get into the car? They’re made to go high up into the sky and pop, right?!

So I’ve got this all figured out – I take an empty Coke bottle (back then they were made of glass), placed my Sky Rocket within, which at this point is aiming straight at the moon, call out to my parents and say “Hey, watch this!” and then light the fuse …

With the entire family watching, mind you, the Sky Rocket sparks for takeoff, leaps from the Coke bottle about 3 feet into the air and then decides that the moon isn’t good enough and so whips around parallel to the ground, flies 50 yards into the dark in the WRONG direction, enters the beloved Maverick through the WINDOW that’s rolled down and goes haywire like a raccoon in an animal box, bouncing here and there, high screech belting out smoke and BAM! – explodes INSIDE THE CAR!

With my head down, completely defeated and now praying to God to spare my life, I can still now hear the words that came from my fathers’ mouth – “MIJO!!” Yes, I know. No hospitals that night; and no ice-cold beer to cool my behind from the whippin’ that ensued. Still, for a very brief moment I thought to myself: “Man, that was cool.”


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