At dusk on every July 4th, we loaded our family and a few friends into my father’s boat and headed towards Coney Island. Casting off from the dock, we made our way out of the bay, into open water, and then anchored ourselves just off the beach with the boardwalk and Steeplechase Park in the flickering background.

In the center of this bobbing flotilla, was the barge where all the fireworks were set up, cabled down, fused, and ready. Finally, when the canvas overhead was dark enough, you could see the runner coming down the deck with the torch to light the fuses  of the cannons lined up along the rails.

The display was right above us – waterfalls, daisies, spidering trails of lit and colored fuel right overhead. Thru it all you could see the runner going from station to station knowing that everywhere he stopped, there was going to be another launch.

At the end, there was a massive display of power and light, and once burned out, we knew the show was over. All the boats started blasting their air horns in a final act of celebration before engines were started, anchors were pulled up, and we all followed each other’s wake back to the boatyards.

But that wasn’t the closest I got to the show.

One year, I wandered down East 94th and there were a couple of kids lighting firecrackers and then throwing them up in the air. These were the small ones, the size of birthday candles. Not the legendary ashcans and cherry bombs that we had the greatest respect for.

So I decided to have a go at it. I picked out one firecracker from the pack, grabbed a pack of matches, scraped one on the gritty bar at the bottom, and lit the end.

Except I picked the one with the fastest fuse.

I barely got it out of my hand when it cracked apart in a stunning pop. My hand went numb and I grabbed and held it with the other, peeking down to make sure all my fingers were in place. Thankfully they were.

I never attempted that trick again.

Lay on Ground -Light Fuse – Get Away.

Who reads instructions anyhow…

firecracker brands 2

Full display of firecracker labels over at Flickr

[h/t to this isnt happiness for the lead in…]