Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Rockets Red Glare

"... and the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that BIG DADDY's Fireworks was still there."

What is it with fireworks?  Never really have understood them.  They say that in the American West, the land was so vast and the populace so scarce, that firing a gun or exploding a piece of dynamite helped a man feel less alone beneath the seemingly infinite big sky. But I live on the Eastern seaboard. Fly over any star filled night and you will be hard pressed to glance down and find a spot not illuminated by life. New York City, population eleven million, is only a 150 miles away.  Here in the Appalachians, the humidity drenched hills shelter hamlets with family ties reaching back several centuries.  Hardly those vacant, wide open spaces of desert dust and prairie grass.  So why all the  explosives?

Well, in my book, all roads lead to Rome.  I think it's some deep seated genetic hangover from the old coliseum days.  The need for a real testosterone rush.  Fireworks explore the masculine the way adolescent boy's critique thundering flatulence. Perhaps the whining missiles and clusters of deafening star riddled flame are actually an outgrowth of Papal fear; a Technicolor display of Dante's nine ringed Inferno, each explosion another tortured soul writhing in eternal pain.  Could it have been black robed missionaries who smuggled Roman Candles through Ellis Island content to watch them flourish like a tubercular pestilence in the puritan body of this great Protestant country of ours?  I wonder.

Blame the Grucci family, an immigrant clan from the toe of Italy. They perfected the art of pyrotechnics in their provence of Bari, where the famed cone shaped stone roofs of Alberobello provide security from areal explosives.  Yes, Google's Wikipedia credits the descendants of la famiglia Grucci with commercializing the fireworks industry in the United States (if you can believe that). 

Fact is, from the moment 16th century explores returned from China with black powder, the Europeans were in love with firecrackers; not for warding off evil spirits like their yellow skinned brethren, but for vanity. Explosive color, off set by the brillant illumination of flaring magnesium, made for a glorious statement after a big win in some gruesome battle or added a touch of aphrodisiac pizzazz to a wedding of prepubescent royals.  Yes, and nothing better than a pitch black night over a dark sea for enhancing the effect.  No wonder the crew of the Californian, only nineteen miles from the sinking Titanic, thought their distress flares were just rich folks having fun.       

Anyway, its dry and hot here in Gibson, Pennsylvania.  It rained for about ten minutes yesterday. Some thunder and lightening and dark clouds, but no real moisture.  They say the corn in Indiana is dying by the bussel.  A third of the crop will be lost if rain doesn't come soon. Nashville, that valley of intersecting interstates and the sluggish Cumberland River, has been without electricity for days and temperatures have been consistently over 100 degrees. The cheaper housing, those single story brick faced ranches that lay like fallen dominos along developer's snaking roads and cul-de-sacs, are like little pizza ovens without AC.   Still, I suppose the malls and box stores have their own gas fired generators and the cooled, canned air is keeping things quite pleasant.  Retail returns have probably never been better.

I spent the Fourth of July digging dirt.  The 400 square foot flagstone patio I'm constructing is sandwiched between a small reflecting pond and the clapboard sides of the owner's house.  No room for heavy equipment.  So for the past three days I've been  chopping away at he hard packed earth with my pick-axe, shoveling the clay-laden dirt into a wheel barrow and rolling it away.  Well-heeled yankees have jokes for such labor.  "Hey, you speaking Spanish yet?" is one of my favorites.  I remember listening to the great Senator McCain interviewed during his Presidential election bid. He spoke of the resilience of the Mexican and Latin American farm workers enduring the Arizona heat to tend to the state's irrigated crops.  He said something like "Most white people can't do that kind of work".  Maybe it was a hard-won compliment for our companeros to the south, but it sure harkened back to the antebellum adage that the black African was just better suited for the heat of the cotton field. Slavery and poverty have an amazing way of outfitting a person for such tasks.

Speaking from personal experience, a freckle-skinned white man in his 50's can only handle about four hours at 90 degrees plus. I keep a bandana around my neck and soak it with ice water every 20 minutes or so.  It cools the blood in the juggler vein and helps keep the heat stroke at bay. And to think, my farm sits atop the Marcellus Shale, the biggest natural gas reserve in America.  Along with my neighbors, I'm a multi-millionaire in waiting.  Still, I keep buff the old fashion way:  manual labor.  

So, adios amigos y feliz Cuatro de Julio!

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