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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Where have all the incredibly dangerous fireworks gone?
There was a time when a person living in the Pacific Northwest could purchase high-grade fireworks. By "high grade" I mean "incredibly dangerous" and by "fireworks" I mean "something capable of punching a hole in the door of a bank vault." A treasure trove could be found by asking the right questions at fireworks stands scattered up and down a certain place in Washington that will remain nameless. I was woken up on the morning of Independence Day 2001 by a college roommate who had decided lighting an M-80 outside my bedroom window was a fantastic way to announce his return from a field trip up north.
His Camry was loaded with the sort of stuff that would have likely earned him a one-way ticket to Gitmo a year later. He'd purchased dozens of M-80s, a few M-160s and at least one M-250, which supposedly packed the same punch as a quarter stick of dynamite. A week or so later, we lit it off in a rural area outside of Eugene's city limits. The resulting boom shook the earth under our feet and created a two-story mushroom cloud of dust. It was awesome. After you've seen something like that, legal fireworks become an outright snooze-fest.
But this roommate had also somehow coaxed someone into selling him something even crazier: a cardboard cylinder loaded with mortar-shells, each packed with an m-80. This thing was half Roman Candle, half deadly weapon. A halfhearted, possibly intended as a joke disclaimer stamped on the side advised the user "not to point this device at police or military vehicles." None of us were willing to dare setting it off anywhere near civilization. I missed out on this one. It was set off in the middle of the Alvord Desert sometime later that summer, at least 10-miles from the nearest homestead.
A good portion of my roommate's fireworks cache was later seized by the Eugene police department when the neighbors finally got sick of our household's evening ritual of firing bottle rockets out of hollowed-out bamboo chutes. These rockets would often sail over passing traffic, the apartment building behind us and/or the convenience store across the street. What can I say, it was a different era. Those were more innocent times. Stupider times. Times when running around a backyard with homemade bazookas wouldn't immediately result in getting your name on a no-fly list.
A few years ago, I went back to that same place in Washington and couldn't find anyone willing to sell me so much as an M-80. There was a time when the windows of my parents' house would be rattled every night between June 25th and July 5th by cherry bombs and other fireworks going off in the park across the street. That hasn't happened for years now they tell me. Meanwhile, I've been living in a neighborhood littered with undergrads and not once this summer have my ears been graced by the sweet, sweet boom of exploding flash powder.
Where have all the incredibly dangerous fireworks that injured dozens of Americans every year gone? Those sure were the days. *sniff*