The trailer, with it's drop-down panels, really doesn't look that big. But that
doesn't belie the fact that the borough's band - I'd estimate twenty-plus members -
has once again come out for one of its infrequent flourishes. The Sun set hesitantly,
some half hour earlier, but has not yet relinquished the sky to the darkness of night- no matter, as our local Kappellemeister
undoubtedly had already consulted the NOAA web site, or Poor Richard's Almanack, to ascertain the exact moment. Even with the panels down, the musicians must have been marinating, packed in that trailer like Spam in a can. But the Fourth is a big day, rich with symbolism, especially in a small town. The weather, wet this year, had even obliged; drenching rains, which had flooded the area only last week, agreeably took the night off. Like mushrooms, an assortment of blankets, towels, portable lawn furniture, and tarpaulins covered just about every inch of the parks playing fields, at least, in those areas from which the anticipated fireworks display could be clearly seen, across the street. The band was wrapping things up with a set of standards by J. P. Sousa. Having plowed through "The Washington Post"
in workmanlike fashion, the segue into "Semper Fidelis"
meant that the lights would soon be extinguished, and the band would yield to a crescendo of brilliant bursts, loud explosions.
In wet years like this one, the only real suspense is in determining whether the complex pyrotechnics will clear their launchers. Sure enough, mid-way through the show, a series of explosions and flashes framed the tall stand of conifers which obscured the launch details from the viewers of the display. The rockets in this sequence evidently had a problem with fusing, or else, a booster stage had failed to boost the charges to operational heights. The show went on, despite this moment of low-altitude drama.
A few hundred miles south, symbolism took a slightly different form, as the launch of the Space Shuttle, damaged foam and all, promised to eclipse any intentional pyrotechnics, should its flight be flawed as with previous shuttle launch or landing disasters. This was another mission from inside the looking glass. Essentially, after the horror of seeing the footage of Columbia disintegrating on re-entry a few years ago, the question to be answered on this flight is, "Would you folks mind stepping out of that speeding car for a bit, and making sure that none of the wheels have fallen off, before you try the brakes?" The astronauts will do a full damage assessment of the heat shields, before attempting to return to Earth. There's a proposition that calls for some real sand; I doubt if a taxi could be summoned out there, if the shields were damaged.
On the other side of the world, North Korea decided that this would be a good time to resume plinking pesky whales, dolphins, or tuna from the nearby Sea of Japan. With no convenient place to set up lawn chairs on that part of the planet, one can only imagine the audience for North Korea's test firing of a series of ballistic missiles. Unlike the U.S., Russia, or China, there's no convenient land-based test range for the Koreans to fire towards, which is undoubtedly leading to extra anxiety in Japan (their neighbors, just across the way) and in the luckless denizens of the deep upon whose heads the tests rain. Kim Jong Il's got the tethered goats that a true despot could only dream of- a country full of starving, impoverished souls who are assured only of ringside seats, should his unbalanced schemes be misinterpreted by a passing sattelite or submarine, or, if one of his test shots goes a little bit off the range. I marvel at the diet that they've been living on, over the last couple of decades- Kimchi at first, then pebbles and sticks, a main course of ideological bullschitt (organic, naturally), and for dessert, what, a choking cloud of ionizing fallout?
I digress, as did their missile tests, to all appearances. Maybe ol' Kim's figured out that, for garden-variety weapons delivery, big missiles are too expensive to steer properly, but like wet fireworks, a missile with lousy guidance is the least of your worries, once the show's begun.
There you have it-regardless of where you found yourself on the Fourth, there were rockets for every frame of mind going up somewhere, with less certain ideas about how things will go down. Gravity's unforgiving. Doesn't anyone ever read the warning labels on these things?