Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

July 7, 2014

Pyromaniac’s Orgasm

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 4:50 am

A thrill electrifies you when the fuse bursts to life.

Before, it’s just a string-like object hanging from the paper-wrapped cylinder. Inert. Unexciting.

You hold the glowing red tip of your punk against it, waiting, waiting, glancing around in the dark, to see if others are fleeing their already lit fuses, still waiting – – –

Suddenly the fuse sparks, enflaming your face. It comes alive, sizzling, crackling, and burns rapidly toward your cylinder, now hiding deep inside a plastic tube, pointed skyward.

Like horseradish in your picnic food, the Thrill includes fear,

You run to where the spectators stand. The sparking fuse and its rattlesnake sound disappear down into the plastic tube.

Waiting – – – waiting – – –

Ba – FOOM !

It launches into the black sky, trailing a faint glow. Higher – – – higher – – – . Until your neck is bent back to where you hear the vertebrae crunch against each other.

At the tip of the climbing streak of sparks, there’s a small flash.


It explodes into glowing embers of phosphorus, strontium, barium, and charcoal that expand outward in all directions, trailing white, red, green, gold. A mini-Universe is born, glows majestically in the vast blackness, and falls slowly toward you, already dying, but doing it with beauty.

Occasional little dead embers land in your hair.

Then you run out to re-load the plastic tube with another Mortar cylinder.

There are at least a couple dozen of us on the night of the 4th, playing Creator of the Universe with our Mortars, Roman Candles, Fountains, and Cakes, while hundreds of others flank us and watch, contributing to the show in the night sky with Spinners and Sparklers .

We – all of us – came to the Indian reservation just at the edge of the County line, where laws about such things change when you cross the street. 40 or 50 fireworks stands sold big stuff – boxes the size of medium sized children, packed with dozens (in one case, 720) explosions of your choice. In the frenzy, tens of thousands of dollars changed hands at a speed approaching that of light.

The designated area is a vast paved field in the industrial seaport section, flanked by looming container cranes on the water side, and railroad tracks on the other. Nothing flammable here but what is in our boxes, and the clothing of small children. Someone has positioned two containers side by side with just a narrow alley between them, 100 yards across the macadam from where we stand.

From the sides of this massive parking lot, people shoot their Mortars skyward at random moments, attacking the night sky with explosions of varying colors and reverberating ignitions while others decorate the earth with Fountains of white sparks, spinning Fireballs that shriek and change colors as they whirl, and air-dancing Sparklers.

A couple next to me hold a flame to the small cake of wax wired beneath a miniature hot-air balloon of paper. Slowly, it inflates with the heat. They release it. It hangs there, glowing blue, round and a couple of feet in size. The breeze drifts it out over the pavement. Slowly it begins to fall toward the ground and it appears destined to crash. But the wax burns on, and the balloon begins to rise. We watch it climb into the black sky as it drifts, glowing blue, toward whatever is out there.

Someone lights a Roman Candle and aims it toward the balloon.


A tracer bullet of red arches thru the air, missing the floating balloon to the right.


A green one streaks toward the balloon, falling beneath it.


This time he misses to the left with a yellow one.

And the happy little balloon, still glowing and inflated, floats further south and higher, up toward where the jets approach Sea-Tac airport.


The detonation prolongs as an echo of itself, like a kettle drum reverberating to the blow of a drumstick. The penumbra of a large Mortar erupts from behind the container across the field, creating a multi-colored semi-circle above the pavement, its lower half raining down upon whoever dares to run into that alley of fire. They shoot their Mortars, not up, but into the container.

We have so many boxes of stuff that we stay there, lighting fuses, running like hell, and contributing to the chaotic cacophony of color until midnite. Then we pile up the boxes and ignite them, the traditional method of clean-up, apparently, for those who have blown their wad and are heading home.

What do we Americans celebrate on July 4th, I muse as we follow the beams of our headlamps to our cars. Not the Revolution, I shake my head. Even the Roman Candle guy, who got closest to the historical origins of fireworks, probably missed his own symbolism, so long forgotten was that history.

Military might? If that were so, we’d be at some tank-and-marching parade, craning our necks skyward for acrobatic jets, not fireworks.

How about Individualism? The great Lone-Cowboy-on-the-Plains social model we worship perpetually, manifesting here as a day off from work to consume hot dogs, beer, and a pyrotechnic show. If that’s it, we certainly upped the ante: took the fireworks from the hands of professionals and, fueled by beer and pyromania, re-created the unchoreographed terror of war interwoven with the beauty of friendship and color.

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