Payment due on the Fourth of July

Yogi hates the Fourth of July. Now, don’t judge! He’s not unpatriotic, he’s an all American dog… he just hates fireworks. And since people in Bonita are always looking for an excuse to shoot fireworks I suppose I can safely add New Years, Christmas, Easter, your mom’s birthday and National Cheetos Appreciation Day to his list as well.

Unlike some dogs, he doesn’t appear to be afraid of fireworks, they just seem to make him angry. So on these special days, but particularly the 4th and for about a week leading up to the 4th, he spends most of the evening running laps around the house from window to window, across the couch, over and on top of my face and stomach and then out into the yard through the ever thickening smoke and then back again, looking for whoever is responsible for ruining his evening. I don’t personally participate in setting off fireworks anymore… but I think he suspects that somehow I may have had something to do with the creation of this custom in our city. He might be right.

As kids growing up in Bonita we had access to maybe three firecrackers each. So if all 20 of us got together, the thrill would only last for a few seconds. Occasionally, somebody would produce one of the legendary and deadly Cherry Bombs or M-80’s. Just before they would light one they would always announce, “This is like a quarter stick of dynamite!” After it went off and your ears quit ringing, firecrackers (and everything else for that matter) would never sound the same. This is where the story gets a little dicey, because after witnessing a couple of these mini explosions, my friend Steve and I were convinced that we could improve on the M-80 design. After all, we were almost 12 years old, and would build it in secret without the permission or the knowledge of our parents, so what could possibly go wrong?

For the sake of everyone who would rather not blow them self up like an idiot I will not divulge the details of our creation and will also add… DON’T DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER! IT’S STUPID AND INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS! But when the 4th of July finally rolled around that hot summer, Steve and I took our newly designed M-8000, which was the same size as a box of kitchen matches, down the railroad tracks, across the trestle to the old railroad yard. Ironically it is the same exact place that the city, under direction of the MAYOR (me) and City Council, currently sets off its annual fireworks! Coincidence? Maybe…

After we set the M-8000 carefully on the railroad track we finally became a bit apprehensive about lighting the half-inch long fuse. So after a long volley of “You light it!” “NO, YOU light it!” we set up two sparklers so that they would have to burn down before lighting the fuse. We lit the sparklers, ran like hell to a place about a hundred yards away, laid down on the tracks and waited.

Minutes ticked by. “Man! Sparklers burn really slow!” I said as I let my forehead rest on the railroad tie. Steve rose up a bit and squinted. “It’s just getting to the fuse!” We covered our ears and grimaced as the sparkling stopped. Nothing. We waited. Finally we both stood up, staring into the blackness. Steve whispered to me. “I don’t think that….” and then a blinding flash of light and an earth shattering BOOM! Suddenly we were sitting back on the ground again covered in gravel and dirt. My ears were ringing and I could barely see as I brushed the dirt off. Then I turned to Steve. “HOLY MOLY that was…. Steve… STEVE!” Steve had noticed all the lights coming on in the Liles Hotel and was already making his way over the river and trestle towards home. Then I heard voices from across the tracks. “Time to go!” I said out loud and off I ran never to dabble in the idiotic art of amateur fireworks design again.

So this 4th of July, I suspect you will find my wife and I sitting in our safe, comfortable lawn chairs at beautiful Riverside Park watching the City’s spectacular fireworks show go off behind the very same Liles Hotel. Then, I will go home, stretch out on the couch and let our dog Yogi trample me for hours… fair payment due for a past indiscretion.