Friday, July 06, 2007

Independence Day, without the fireworks

My family has a long-standing Fourth of July tradition wherein we fire up the grill, ice down the coolers and invite a bunch of people over for what I like to call the "all-day beer and barbecue." This year was no different; in fact, we must have hosted at least forty of our friends, family and neighbors at my parents' house last Wednesday. It was very successful, as usual. Everybody had a good time eating, drinking and talking. I actually saw several people I hadn't seen in a long time.

But there's one Fourth of July staple that we didn't participate in this year: going to see the fireworks.

Don't get me wrong: I love fireworks displays as much as the next guy. And the local Freedom over Texas display, which bills itself as the largest land-based pyrotechnics display in the nation, is actually rather excellent. I used to go see it on a regular basis; in 2003, in fact, we took our out-of-town friends and relatives to see it after our rehearsal dinner (yep, Lori and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary this past Thursday!).

But, for the second year in a row, I opted out. It was partly because I was tired; I spent much of the day helping my parents with their party even though I really didn't get much sleep the night before. But I also decided not to make the short trip downtown to see the rockets' red (and blue and green) glare because I just didn't want to deal with the hassle.

Hundreds of thousands of other people, understandably, want to see the spectacle as well. And that leads to headaches getting into and out of downtown: traffic is gridlocked, parking is difficult to find, the crowds are enormous and finding a good vantage point is difficult.

The last few years I've gone downtown to see the display, I've always for some reason ended up on the north side of downtown, with a view of the show that is at least partially obstructed by the big and brightly-lit Aquarium restaurant on downtown's west side (Why can't Tillman Fertitta can't turn off those garish blue lights for just half an hour so people can see the display better?). This year, likely, probably wouldn't have been any different, and I just didn't want to deal with the crush of people or the traffic jams. So I stayed home.

I'm sure I'll go to see the display again one of these years; before too long, after all, Kirby will get to the age where he demands that I take him to see fireworks. And perhaps getting into downtown from my neighborhood will be at least somewhat easier if and when this transit facility is ever built. Until that time comes, though, I've discovered that I can have a great time celebrating my country's independence, even if I don't see any fireworks.

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