Fireworks are What Cities Feel Like

You can't explain fireworks. There's something deep about how they mesmerize, about how a hundred exploding lights in the sky enthrall. It's that same feeling you have watching a campfire, but exploded outward so the campfire becomes the entire big bang universe. Somehow giant booming lights streaking through the dark sky never gets old.

Well, this much we know. The mysterious appeal of explosions and power and fire and light. But there's something else that I really like about fireworks. I love how they light up their neighborhoods.

Fireworks quite literally bring people together. They surprise you. You stop and wonder and stare. The boom reminds you that you share your city with so many others in so many homes with so many festivals and ballgames and holidays.

Fireworks startle and rush and people creep like zombies from their houses, drifting about in search of a good precipice. They're equal opportunity, the most democratic language. You don't need any cultural literacy in order to enjoy them. You don't need any books to understand them. And the whole neighborhood comes together for free entertainment.

Fireworks are always local. You can't watch them on TV. You can't download them. The only way is to get out on your feet and walk down to the very center of town to join the crowd of people. Everyone rings around the water or roosts on rooftops or balances on balconies or bridges or bluffs and all of a sudden we all look up and for a half an hour time seems to slow to a crawl and our minds normally overstuffed with worries and pressures and lists to do turn off and our child eyes take over, and no matter how old there's that gentle feeling of awe and joy wrapped in togetherness, the whole town lit by the glow of something both impossibly large and intimate, one of the very few things in our instant magic media age where you actually “had to be there.”

Bang! and then they're over. The echo rings your ears. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air and the yellow smoke slides along the street, slow drifting along the tops of houses and everyone gets up off their chairs and blankets and off the grass and slowly sinks back into homes and cars and wherever they came from.

But when you shut your eyes there is still that faint image of light, that far away sense of being together, the memory of a feeling just beyond words, something living all around you like a city.

[No photo will ever capture the feeling of a firework.]

1 comment:

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