JULY 4, 2009


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We have moved from the bright Spring into the high morning fogs and chill evenings of Bay Area Summer, but the days trend to scattered cloud and sunshine, pulling the windsurfers to the high tides of the waxing moon on the Bay side of the Island.

It turned out to be a gorgeous weekend for the Independence Day hoopla and all the families went out to the Strand for volleyball and BBQ. The ground squirrels out there all had a fine time snatching stray dorito chips and hotdog buns back to their burrows.

Because of the Recession, there were a lot less illegal fireworks going off, as folks didn't see the point in spending scarce funds on things that go pop one time. Wally, however, managed to snag some industrial fireworks from a cash-strapped city in the Valley, which cancelled its own display. The City Council of Happenstance sent out official notices to everybody to just drive on over to San Jose to watch theirs.

At the last town hall meeting the City Auditor said they could either have a Fire Chief or fireworks this year due to Der Governator's snagging all the municipal funds from all the towns throughout the Golden State and the Council figured that a year's worth of fire protection was a better deal than a day's worth of sparkles, so they sold such fireworks as they had to Wally who presented fake papers that presented him as Officer for the City of Muck in the county of Silicone Valley.

There is no such city and there is no such county, but Wally paid cash and was gone out of there pretty quick in his pickup.

So that is how Wally came to be at the meeting hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West with Paul and David and Claude and all the rest of the gang with a truck full of explosives and a mouth full of promises.

So all the kids were there and everybody waiting for the sun to go down with hopes that the fog would hold off -- which it did -- and Wally commenced setting up the rockets on the lawn there in front where it rolled down to the marina.

Now the fireworks you get from across the border are one thing, but the municipal fireworks used by towns like Oaktown and Babylon are handled and set by professionals who use computers and electronic fuses to set the things off from special tubes designed for the purpose. They do not do what Wally did, which was dig a little hole with a trowel and set there a short length of PVC pipe, nor do the pros light the fuses with a bic lighter.

No, Wally may have been a certifiable something but a certified explosives engineer he was not. He went on down the line and lit about eight home-made fuses one after the other and stood back.

The first one flared up inside the tube, setting the plastic on fire and then shot out sideways as the tube melted. The thing arced over the marina where it exploded on Mr. Howitzer's 60 foot yacht in a most spectacular manner, setting the teak deck on fire. The second one simply exploded right there in the tube sending hot plastic droplets in all directions and scattering the families to the four winds. Some of the plastic landed in flames on Wally's pants which he promptly shucked into the marina. The explosion meanwhile knocked the tube next to it flat, so the rocket shot out horizontal through the parking lot until it hit an SUV's windshield and exploded inside the cab, setting that on fire as well.

The next two fired straight up and detonated about forty feet in the air, igniting the trees and the roof of the meeting hall.

The other rockets went off in quick succession, each steadfastly refusing to launch straight up, but firing instead in cockeyed directions horizontally along the shoreline, across the marina, or back across the parking lot.

Wally and David got real busy with the hose at that point.

Which is when the helicopter turned from its surveillance of more modest illegal fireworks out on the Point to shine a bright searchlight down on the doings around the marina. Somebody across the Cove called 911 to report a terrorist attack when a rocket clipped down his clothesline and destroyed the jacaranda. The wail of sirens ensued.

Gee, said Rachel. Wouldn't this be a good time for lemon rhubarb pie?

Mama's little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb pie.

Yes nothing takes away the pain of shame and humiliation and molten plastic sticking to the skin quite like rhubarb pie.

Later, as Wally used a boathook to search for his keys which had been in the pocket of his pants, the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the water as the freight wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.