Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hanabi blog.

Chicago has a lot of suburbs, and many of them shoot off fireworks on or around the Fourth of July. Chicago itself does it up on the Third of July, an event I’ve seen a few times, but its charms wore off long ago. It was one thing to take the El downtown alone, wander around in the thick of the crowds, eat something at the overpriced festival known as the Taste of Chicago, and watch the 9:30 fireworks over Lake Michigan from spot near Lake Shore Drive, which is closed for the event. There’s some aspect of urban hiking to that. That was 1987.

Even as part of a couple, going downtown -- still using the El, though a different line -- was worth the effort. The high price of the eats seemed even worse, but it was tolerable. That was 1996.

The last time we went, I think in 2000, will be the last time for a long time. We have only added a child since then, and keeping track of one was more than enough. The trip in from the suburbs on Metra was also too much, or rather the trip back was, on a late train, packed with drunks and noisy teenagers and whining kids. The food was still expensive, and, truth be told, the fireworks were mediocre. Or maybe they didn’t last long enough. The last time we went to the Chicago show, I came away with the distinct impression that the city had shorted us. Maybe this was a trick of memory, but I don’t think so. It seemed like at least five and maybe 10 minutes had been shorn off, compared with previous years. Whatta gyp.

Since then, we’ve seen suburban displays, a couple in Westmont, one in Downers Grove/Woodridge. Yuriko had heard that Wheeling, Illinois, which is a little north and east of our home, had a good show. (Schaumburg itself doesn’t bother with fireworks.) So on July Fourth we went to Wheeling’s Heritage Park, a very large patch of open land plus a pond of a few acres, some community rec buildings, tennis courts and other facilities. A good bit of the open land was roped off with orange plastic mesh, and when we got there we could see from a distance the rocket launchers all set up on the grass inside that perimeter.

Though a fair number of people showed up, the park was able to absorb them without too much trouble, so it didn’t feel crowded. We ate at the marginally overpriced Taste of Wheeling -- everybody has a Taste of… around here -- and parked ourselves on the grass only a few yards from the orange mesh fence. Lilly was a little miffed that I wouldn’t buy her a glow stick, and asked every few minutes when the show was going to begin. Dusk actually takes quite a while, if you’re outside waiting for it.

All that was forgotten when the first rocket shot up. It was a good display, full of pop and bang and whiz and rocket trails and explosions in white, silver, gold, green, blue, pink, cherry red and violet, in quality and quantity. There were even a few shapes I’d never seen before, though I’m hard-put to describe them now. Ann wasn’t frightened. We thought she might be, but she sat securely in her mother’s lap and watched the whole thing. All in all, Wheeling’s hanabi were just as good as the city’s, but with far less aggravation.

Hanabi has long been a favorite Japanese word of mine. It means “fireworks,” but the construction is flower (hana) + fire (hi, bi ).


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