Saturday, July 05, 2008

Maybe I'm just grumpy

"Awareness," by Lea Keohane, 2008. All Rights Reserved.

One of my many favorite things about Portland is that it is split in two by the Williamette River, and because of that we have great pedestrian paths on both sides of the river, and lots of great bridges. Most years on the 4th of July Indigo and I go to the Hawthorne Bridge where we perch until 10pm when the display starts. A huge barge comes in and anchors just South of the bridge, so it's a fantastic spot to watch.

Last night as usual, we got there around 8:30 and found the perfect spot. We spent about an hour hanging out on the bridge, watching all of the people and the boats, wondering at the sunset and the huge crowd gathered at the Blues Fest across the river. Then a police officer walks by and informs us that this year there will be a barge on BOTH sides of the Hawthorne bridge, putting on a massive coordinated display. Due to this and the wind conditions, they were closing down the bridge for our safety. Okay, fine, we herded out with the rest of the crowd and found a new place to perch just below the bridge. We chatted with some nice people as we continued to wait.

Before I continue, let me reminisce for a moment about watching fireworks when I was a kid. I was born in 1976, so most of the July 4ths that I remember were in the 1980's. Those of you who are older than I am may laugh at me for saying this, but it really was still a slower time than now. My family and I would have some kind of picnic in a huge park, then lay on a blanket to watch the display. It would start slow, huge fireworks a couple at a time, with little pauses for the crowd to "ooh" and "ah," slowly building up over maybe an hour to a stunning grand finale.

Now, back to last night. It felt like a really long wait as usual, especially with the crowds under the bridge getting restless. There were a lot of people who really didn't care about the fact that they were amidst other people and were setting off a lot of fireworks right in the middle of the crowd, even shooting some up and hitting the underside of the bridge. Scary! But finally the official show got started. Compared to the displays of my own childhood, it started off with the finale! So many fireworks at one, there was no time to ooh or ah at any of them.

Not that anyone would have heard us. Being under the bridge, the sound from 2 displays at one time was so loud that I could literally feel my heart jumping around in my chest with each BOOM. I felt more like I was in the trenches in Baghdad than at a fun & safe gathering of families in Portland. I looked down and Indigo, who was wearing earplugs AND covering her ears was crying that she wanted to go home. This was all about 30 seconds in to the show. I wrapped my sweater around her ears but that only bought us a couple more minutes. It was just too much to handle. We left.

As we began walking the eight or so blocks to our car, the air thickened with smoke. We had gone about 3 blocks when the noise behind us got even louder and faster so we turned to look. Apparently they had already reached the grand finale, but the air was so thick with smoke you couldn't even see most of the fireworks. Ridiculous.

Maybe I am just grumpy, or disgruntled with the political situation under the current president, or perhaps I am getting a little crotchety. While I am not overly patriotic, I do think this is a fantastic country to live in, and a lot of the time we are luckier than we know to be here. I just feel like every show every year doesn't have to bigger and badder than the last. I would like to slow it down a little, add some dramatic pauses, make people really think about why they are sitting there at all, give them a bit of time to breath. And, certainly, sit farther away :)


Kristen said...

I'm with you, the 4th of July just isn't the same as when we were kids. But I have to say, Lucky you~ I LOVE Oregon! I always thought that when I grew up, that's where I'd live. No such luck!

woolies said...

That's just ridiculous! I would have been upset too. There's something to be said for living in a smaller town - We actually had fun this year - along with hundreds of others, we parked our car along a very main road - there's a big resort on the side of the mountain that does a fantastic display. We had perfect seating, even on the side of the road. it went on for 1/2 hour, and was awesome.
I'd be grumpy too.