Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July Memories

Happy Independence Day, everyone! Earlier this week at work, I was waxing nostalgic about July Fourths of my youth, taking a stroll down memory lane...

Growing up in Brooklyn NY, Independence Day always meant the sounds of firecrackers, whistling rockets and crackling fountains - starting somewhere around mid-June and increasing in intensity until July 4th, with a rousing, citizen-provided, city-wide fireworks display the likes of which you probably wouldn't see anywhere else.

In addition to the sights and sounds of sparkling lights and popping crackers, the smell of sulphur would permeate your nostrils. It was hard to escape the full-senses assault: pretty much every city block featured a high number of homeowners barbecuing and setting off their own Chinatown-purchased displays (it was always illegal to buy and sell fireworks, and to an extent, to set them off...but most law enforcement looked the other way in the spirit of the holiday and all that).

When Rudy became mayor, all that changed. He decided to crack down on John Gotti's annual ridiculous Grucci-like displays in Queens, and I guess he felt that it would only be fair to crack down on EVERYONE. Police began confiscating fireworks from the average citizen in great numbers; patrols were doubled and tripled on July 4th; people that protested were issued summonses.

I am a huge fan of what Rudy did for New York - reversing the cancer that had been allowed to spread under Koch's last term and the total ineptitude of the Dinkins years (shudder) - but I feel in this particular instance, he was simply going over the top. What Gotti was doing and what John Q. Homeowner were doing in their front yards was like comparing one tiny apple to a truckload of oranges. Autocrat Bloomberg must share an equal disdain for fireworks, as he has kept the hard-line ban up under his rule.

I have been back to Brooklyn for Fourth of July in the years since the crackdown, and you'd never know it was the noisy, joyous place it used to be when I was a kid. You occasionally hear a fire cracker pop from a brave soul, or a whistle from a wayward bottle rocket - but it's nowhere near the full-blown rattle and bang that it used to be 'back in the day'.

I miss those sounds, and I miss those smells. As a young boy, I couldn't wait for the Fourth because I knew it would be a borough-and-city-wide block party of epic proportions. But it's still a good time for a fun barbecue!

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Today's The Day

Some good advice from the legendary Ray Stevens.