I’m a stealth fireworks watcher. Just about every year, I watch at least one display, but I rarely pay admission and I don’t join the crowds in the official seating area, even when it’s free. What usually happens is this: I decide that this year I don’t need to see fireworks in person. Heck, they’re on every other channel on TV. However, as I start hearing popping noises outside, I start itching to go outside. As predictable as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” I’m heading out the door at the last minute, thinking, I’ve got to see some fireworks.
I have watched fireworks from bridges, parking lots, decks, porches, and my parents’ front lawn. It’s not that I’m not willing to pay for a show. It’s that I hate crowds, and every year I really do think that I don’t mind staying home.
Last night, I really tried. I turned out all the lights, cranked up the volume on the John Philip Sousa songs and told myself I was getting a free show in the comfort of my home. But it wasn’t the same, and Newport’s fireworks extravaganza was about to begin. Pretty soon, I was putting on my shoes. That got the dog all excited. Unlike my previous dogs, Annie is bold when it comes to gunshots, lightning and firework, so I leashed her up. As we headed out, she sat bravely next to me on the passenger seat, her head scanning from side to side with every passing car.
A few years ago, when I was driving toward Yaquina bay, where they shoot off the fireworks here, I saw flashes above the trees and realized that if I parked at the Post Office, I could get a pretty good view. So we parked there again, merging into a row of government vehicles. I slid down in my seat lest a passing police officer grow curious about why one of the cars was occupied. But the dog wouldn’t get down. After all this time screaming “Sit!” at her, that’s all she wanted to do.
At exactly 10:00, the show started. “Look, Annie!” I said. And she looked. From my scooched-down position, I couldn’t see over her head. Dang tall dog. But it didn’t matter anyway. Over the years, some of those trees have grown so high that they blocked most of the fireworks.
It was time to find another location. Quickly. As I drove north, my eyes were more on the fireworks than on the road. I tried a pull-off beside the road. Not bad, but too likely to get me arrested. Then I had an inspiration. Since last year, a new community college was built up the hill a few blocks south of the bridge. The road to the campus was steep. I turned there. Oooh, ooh, good view. A family was parked off to the side, sitting in folding chairs beside their van. But there wasn’t enough room for us, so I kept going. If I went even higher . . . Nuts. The road turned and I lost visual contact. Quick. Turn around. Drive back down the hill. I turned into a driveway that didn’t go anywhere. Nope, electrical towers in the way. A little farther. Another driveway. No, nothing. I turned into a graveled road behind some kind of industrial building. Yes!
We had a perfect view. Annie and I leaned toward the front window, soaking up the colors in the sky. Ooh. Wow. Cool. Starbursts, flowers, weeping willows, rings, spiders. Between blasts of fireworks, I glanced around nervously, rehearsing my speech. “Uh, officer . . .” But maybe they were all on the Bayfront supervising the crowds. One hoped.
Bam, bam, bam-bam-bam-bam-bam. An orgasmic burst of color marked the end of the show. We scooted down the hill and into the line of cars heading south, pitying all those folks who walked a mile and sat for hours waiting to see fireworks. Annie’s eyes, sparkling in the headlights, scanned the sky for more.