According to Oakland Police spokesperson and the department's arson and explosives expert Barry Donelan, we all experienced a decline in the number of illegal fireworks over this past Fourth of July weekend. You could try telling my dog, who is still shy about going outside after dark, as our neighborhood continues to finish off whatever stores of rockets, flares, and other incendiary devices they may have stored in their houses, apartments or car trunks.
It may be true, as my family felt that the days leading up to the weekend were relatively calm, that there were fewer bombs bursting in the air. But that would contrast mightily with the barrage we experienced on the night of the Fourth and the days since. A friend of ours, visiting from Los Angeles, took a walk with my wife and son around nine thirty on the Fourth of July. This is a guy who has spent some time in Beirut, and he came back impressed. For about two hours, it was a steady barrage. The sky was ablaze and thundering as my dog looked to me for some kind of reassurance. Even now, days later, there are still sporadic pops and booms as things return to normal. Or whatever amounts to that 'round here.
On my way out of the house Tuesday morning, I found a cardboard tube in my driveway. The label on it read, "Warning: Extremely Dangerous. If found do not handle - contact local fire or police department...Point rocket away from people or any flammable material. Misuse may result in serious injury or death. It is your responsibility to use it safely and correctly." That would have been the round that went off over our house Monday night around ten. The rest of the street is relatively free of spent munitions, and all we hear now is the occasional stray pop bottle rocket.
I am reminded of the pyrotechnics of my youth. I can only assume that this is some karmic payback for the "Festival Ball" mortar shells that my roommate and I set off over the course of a summer back in Colorado. We found that we got a more impressive and random display if we didn't bother to use the launching tube. One exploded under a parked car and we waited for the whole thing to go up, Hollywood style. It never happened. We shot pop bottle rockets inside our apartment. This same apartment is where we lit a sparkler fountain on our deck that shot fifteen feet into the air, but the roof of the deck was only ten feet high. What I'm suggesting is that the concept of morons with fireworks is not new to me, but dogs weren't allowed in our building. Needless to say, when we moved out, residents experienced a decline in the number of illegal fireworks going off in their vicinity.