Monday, July 4, 2011

If I had a firecracker 12 feet high...

So. The thing is it's July the 4th and I'm not ready to write a July 4th post. Maybe it's because I don't believe anymore.

I should have dug through the boxes of photographs and found a few to scan and post. I barely remember July the 4th in my hometown in southern New Jersey. Maybe that's because I always seemed to be in it - marching with the cub scouts or boy scouts.

Or pics of my years in New York. During the bicentennial (or was it the Reagan relighting the torch year?) I remember being in Battery Park as the crowds swelled and swelled. I remember how it was an almost all white crowd. Then suddenly a large number of Hispanics joined us after their parade in Brooklyn. Most were still in costume, and suddenly there was color and sound everywhere. I loved it. But the crowd grew too large, fights started breaking out, things went bad. I got out as fast as I could - which took awhile as everyone was shoulder to shoulder. That may have been the moment I could no longer be in such crowds and had (to this day) to have a circle of personal space around me. Around the same time, there was a special sneak preview of the first "Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" movie. The audience of cast members, extras & etc. was mostly black. Every time a white person got killed, the crowd erupted in cheers, hoots, hollers, laughter & etc. I've never been comfortable or felt secure in large crowds since those two events.

Anyway, I did the July 4th thing when I first moved to Boston. The parade there winds through the old streets, past historic sites, and ends at the Old State House (old as in British). There, someone (it was a great honor to be selected) would emerge onto the balcony and read the Declaration of Independence,  just as it was originally done in 1776. The year I photographed it, one of the freedom fighters from China's Tianimen Square revolt was present. Was he the one who put a flower in the barrel of a tank? Or was that another war? It all blends together after awhile.

When I first lived in NYC's Greenwich Village, there was one event I greatly enjoyed.  Not far from my apartment there was one street which would be cordoned off. Old Italian men would cover every square inch of the roadbed with firecrackers. Then after darkness had fallen, they would put a match to a master fuse. The street would come alive with flashes of light and loud booms which could be heard, I suppose, from great distances. It only lasted a few minutes, but I loved it. Of course, it was outlawed "for safety's sake". Later at night, about 10:15 pm, I would tune my radio to WOR, where  Jean Shepherd would read his short story "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb That Struck Back". It's about a small town's celebration of the 4th, from an era now gone by. Shepherd would leave WOR in 1977, but his annual celebration lives on in recordings.

When you have about 42 minutes available, click here : 
for memories of a small town boys' 4th of July. You won't regret it.

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