Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks or Bust!

2009 4th July-6367
If your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand ... you might be a redneck. -- Jeff Foxworthy

I, of course, don't want to own a fireworks stand. Now, I'm not knocking those who do, but that aspiration just isn't my style. Nevertheless, I did my photographic duty yesterday and camped out with the hundreds of thousands of other people at Town Lake in the blazing July heat. Yes, that fantastical Texas heat. As if the showering sparkles of gun powder laced in burning smoke, the army of fire ants, and warm drips of sweat weren't enough.

For all my heat-induced bellyaching, I have to say I did enjoy the show. I made the colossal mistake of parking close this year. You know, to save time getting to the show. Because I'm Lazy. Yes, with a capital "L". Hung out with a few friends before the show so I could suck up some of their marvelous air conditioning. It was like seeing one of those signs out in the desert, "Last chance for gas, 180 miles." You knew you'd better stop and partake of that brilliant resource before you found yourself out in the middle of nowhere, miles from relief and help, while pissing into the wind.

By 8:45, I knew I had to get over to the park or I'd miss my chance to etch the pretty sparklies onto a flash card for posterity. Say goodbye to Mr. A/C. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

I found a spot on the hill in front of the Palmer Event Center. It's a shame it was the wrong spot. See, what I neglected to realize in my excellently sketched out plan was ... well, you'll see. Sadly, leave it to me to draw this plan out on the back of a napkin. When the ink soaked in like a bloodied pool, I discovered error of my ways. What was so wrong?

Well, everything was fine with the playing of the 1812 Overture. The guns were booming, people were jumping up in fright. And when the fireworks started, they ... were. not. in. front. of. me. No.

They were off to my left. Right behind a lamp post. It was at that moment I wished I had one of two things: a rifle and scope or Dumbledore's lamplight killer thingy. To say I was annoyed would be the understatement of the moment. Shame I had already unpacked all my camera gear and dug in to my little photo foxhole. I was fully engaged and had nowhere to escape to. So, I did what any good photographer would do.

I shot.

There's a scene in Wild, Wild West where Artemis, acting as the President, is chastising West on his investigative style: "Shoot, shoot again, shoot some more, and then ask questions." This thought bubbled up to the front of my mind as I laid on the camera trigger and didn't stop shooting until the last explosive pot launched above the Austin skyline.

And as quickly as it had begun, it ended. Fifteen minutes to get in and find my spot. Fifteen to setup. It took me two to pack, and ten to hoof it out. I wanted to beat the rush. Sadly, I, like every other optimistic party-goer in Austin, decided that they would beat the rush too. Dave Mustaine kept my company the rest of the evening while I ... moved a foot, stomped on the brake. moved a foot, stomped on the brake. Moved three feet ... stomped on the brake.

Fireworks shows put on at Town Lake are an exercise in patience. But, only at their end. There are only five major north-south thoroughfares through Austin to get over the lake: IH35, Congress, South 1st, Lamar, and Mopac. South 1st is always shut down for big events. And the rest, well ... imagine a parking lot. Only with pissed off drunk people. And it's 47 bazillion miles long. It goes without saying that I wanted my bloody hovercar last night. I even called my wife and asked here where my hovercar was. I bet she stole it from me just to make me suffer.

But I digress.

Eventually, I made out of the area and onto IH35 wherein, I stomped on the gas, popped some Digital Underground into the CD player, and cruised through the city at high speed, deftly avoiding the drunk yahoos and their mishmash of weaving and bouncing off the concrete walls.

And that, my friends, was how I spent 4th of July in Austin.

If you'd like to see bigger versions of the photos below, check out my Fireworks Slideshow on Flickr.

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