Any Ol' Punk Will Do

11:16 PM Thursday, November 4, 1999

I knew I was going to write this email. I sensed impending disaster. I just didn't think I'd be writing it tonight. Because I've been told the worst is yet to come. 

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Ok, it was safe for me to think I'd been in the most unsafe and insane fireworks fire storm I'll ever be in at Dillon beach in Northern California, July 4th, 1997. Just for reference, here's what happened:

RV-trash, 5000-strong, descend on the little beach community and park their land-yachts in the surrounding dunes. They roll out the Astroturf, unfurl flags and watch TV's powered by portable generators. At night they proudly open up a can of whup-ass around a hellacious bonfire made of piled up trees that looks like it might melt the clouds. What I just witnessed tonight on Hughes Rd next door to my house may have topped it. Hughes Road, (pronounced hue–jess rrud) is a busy 4 lane (not that anyone pays attention to "lanes" here) arterial with a top speed of about 40mph. The 'works first came to my attention when I was walking home and a rocket whizzed by my face and smashed into an old building. Happy Diwali. On that beach a couple of summer's ago, an M80 went off on my foot, bottle rockets hit people in the back of the head, my friend Dog had 5 disco flashers go off in his hand, and gigantic, professional-grand-finale-type boomers exploded on the ground in the middle of crowds of people and the sparks shot out of the gaps. There was no "audience", the 'works went off in the crowd and anyone that wasn't bunched in a tight group was open to more angles of attack. Think back, if you can, to that horrible firefight in the movie Platoon. Think about your worst nightmare and then eat acid and drink a bottle of bad tequila. Think Diwali. Ok, that last one may be hyperbole.

I just watched a 5-year old shoot off a massive, incredibly-illegal-in-the-US, artillery shell. The kind that is a cannon, the kind that leaves you deaf just from the explosive force required to launch it into the air, the kind about the size of a 2-liter bottle of Coke, the kind that makes old people set up lawn chairs and put blankets on their laps. The driveway in between a couple of 4-story buildings was no place for this rocket. Better walk out into Hughes Rd. and set it up in one of the four lanes. Do you think the guys on mopeds knew that RS.125 worth of "Sony" brand fireworks could blow them off their bikes? After about six of those gorgeous, fill-the-sky babies, it was time to pull out the cases of little rockets.

Traffic was heavy. Dad and a little army of kids carrying sticks of incense set off a barrage that blasted into the crowded bus stand across the street, careened off windshields, went in windows of neighbor's houses, hit dogs, went off on the ground and got stuck under cars, disappeared into backyards, and generally went anywhere but up. One of the bystanders saw that I was a bit amazed and concerned and was kind enough to hand me the list of precautions that came with the artillery – as if to tout the fact that they were ignoring every one:

A responsible adult should supervise all fireworks activities. Never give fireworks to young children.
Never give fireworks to young children.
Have water handy.
Light one at a time. Never give to small children.
Never give to small children. Dispose of properly.
Never shoot them in metal or glass containers.
Observer local laws and use good common sense.
Mfd. By Arunsankar Fireworks Factory, Surarpatti.