by Art Chantry:
have a safe-n-sane incredibly dull uneventful fourth of july, folks!!! as for me, i’ll be home with a garden hose trying to save my house from going up in flames. this neighborhood turns into ‘apaocalypse now’ every 4th. i live in a largely hispanic community next to a county line and an indian reservation. lotsa poor folks, and man! does this neighborhood LOVELOVELOVE thier fireworks. it’s really hard to describe. let’s just say, it actually puts to shame many “professional” civic displays, hands down. shit flying everywhere….
i wasn’t always such a humbug about fireworks. when i was a young teen, me and my buddy “L” figured out how to make our own gunpowder. we made righteous massive batches of the stuff and built a bazillion bombs – pipe bombs, mostly. we’d actually take lengths of conduit and pound down one end with a hammer (bend it over). then we’d fill it with gunpowder and HAMMER THE OTHER END FLAT!!! after that we’d PUNCH A HOLE IN THE SIDE (WITH A NAIL!) and shove in a length of waterproof fuse (which we’d buy mail order.) how i never blew my hands off, i can’t imagine. i think about that process and i wince to this day. i actually ‘shudder to think’…
after we managed to blow the crap out of everything we could think of, we started to get creative and make more elaborate fireworks. skyrockets, smoke bombs, depth charges, ufo’s, whistlers, matchhead bombs, stink bombs – anything we could come up with. and then we’d decorate them and make some pretty impressive looking devices – and always with a few cherry bombs at the bottom for a proper ‘finish’.
i was particularly good at ‘fountains’. i figured out how to layer materials inside, so the fountain would do all sorts of different things. i figured out how different materials burned in different colors and styles and shapes. emergency flare powder, iron filings, ladyfingers, aluminum powder, sulpher, copper filings, magnesium shavings, everything did different cool things. the sparks would be bigger or different shapes or intense colors or fly in the air and explode. my fountains also lasted for about 15 minutes or more – a loooong time in fireworksland.
however, my buddy and i had a crowning achievement – a high point that we never surpassed. it was our ‘shrapnel bomb’. it was a glass mayonnaise jar filled with pea gravel, nuts and bolts, pieces of glass, whetever we could find. then we dumped gunpowder into it and some layers of emergency flare powder and, just for laughs, about a dozen cherry bombs at the bottom. we screwed the top on and shoved a fuse in and it was ready to go.
my buddy’s father was an architect and we decided to show his folks our fireworks skills to them and put on a show – in front of their architectural DREAM HOUSE home! as the evening display wore on, the response changed from surprise and gasps to dead silence. then “L” thought it would be cool to set off the shrapnel bomb as the grand finale. (of course) that went over like a fart in church. we managed to blow out every window in that house! no one was injured, but i don’t know how.
after that, i wasn’t allowed to hang out with “L” anymore.
epilogue: a few weeks later, “L” had some girls up in his room and he wanted to impress them with our latest batch of gunpowder – which was the best we’d ever made. so, he took a little of the gunpowder in a seperate little bowl and lit it. FZZZT! sparks flew into the air…. and into the big ‘mothership’ bowl of gunpowder sitting next to it. it was pretty stupid. the thing went up in a big WHOOSH – “L” actually ended up with black soot all over his face like a cartoon character. it fil
the entire dream house with black choking smoke, it became a molten glob of lava and burned through the custom-made teakwood desk and down through the bedroom floor, burned through TWO more stories and ended up hissing away on the cold tile floor of the downstairs bathroom – where his mom was taking a shower. needless to say, those girls were impressed.
DON’T PUT YOUR EYE OUT!!! har har…