You Gotta Be Careful With FireworksCommentary • automotive • ISSUE 39•31 • Aug 13, 2003 By Jim Anchower – The Cruise Hola, amigos. You all right? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've been in constant motion, dodging all the crap life's been shoveling my way. I had to put my car out to pasture, because the door fell off. I would've just re-attached it, but it was all rusted out, and I didn't want to fall out of my car while I was doing 75. Besides, the engine had about 170,000 miles on it and a bad knock. I'll be damned if I was going to replace the engine on an '88 Ford Festiva. It's too bad. I liked that car. It wasn't exactly a power machine, but it got 40 miles to the gallon, and it was a Ford. Plus, the tape deck worked, and that's half the battle right there. At least I got to take it on one last trip before it went south. See, last weekend I went on a fishing trip up north with Ron and Ron's friend Rob. (That's a whole other story that I don't want to get into right now, or right ever. Fishing is for suckers, and that's my final answer.) Wes would've come, but he got stuck watching his little brother Zac while his mom was out of town for some convention. She's one of those people who cleans off your teeth at the dentist's and then hands the dentist tools and stuff. Not like any of that matters. The important thing is that, on the way back from this trip that sucked my bag, we picked up some fireworks. I remember getting sparklers, Snakes, and Jumping Jacks as a kid. Even though they were totally baby-shit fireworks, they were still pretty cool. Especially Snap-Pops, those rolled up pieces of paper that crack when you throw them against something. I'd save up and buy, like, three boxes. Then I'd unroll them all and put them in a paper towel to make one huge Snap-Pop. The giant Snap-Pop was still pretty weak, even after all that work, but when you're 8, you've got a lot more time to waste. Back then, you couldn't get the big stuff around here. If you wanted the M-80s or Thunder Bombs, you had to wait until someone hauled back a trunkload from South Dakota, and then you had to deal with a serious mark-up. These days, all you have to do is drive north, and it's like you're in the lawless West. Once you're above Menomonee Falls, you can't blow a tire without crashing into a roadside fireworks store. I'm talking real stores with three, four aisles of fireworks packages like the "Fourth Of Surprise," "The Peacemaker Pack," and my personal favorite, "The Big Buttload Of Fireworks." Well, I lost my stash on the trip and needed cheering up. Ron, Rob, and I decided we had no choice but to buy a shitload of fireworks, so we pulled into a gas station/convenience store/Arby's/fireworks outlet. Now, if the convenience store had carried any tapes other than The Best Of Ray Stevens and Love Rocks: The 30 Greatest Love Ballads Of All Time, it would've been the best spot on earth. I bought 25 Roman candles, the "Justice For All" bottle-rocket assortment, and five roast-beef sandwiches. When I buy fireworks, I'm usually torn between setting them off as soon as I get home (which means wasting them) and saving them for a special occasion. But saving them usually amounts to sitting on them through two humid summers, setting them off some night when I'm drunk, and finding out they don't work anymore. This time, I decided I was going to do it right. I loaded a pony keg into the back of my car, and me, Wes, Ron, and Rob headed out to the quarry. After we tapped the keg, Ron got out one of his big tubes and lit it off. I tell you, it looked as good as a professional firework. Things were pretty quiet as we watched it, lost in thought. But then I felt something hot hit my arm. I looked over and there was Ron, 15 feet away, pointing a Roman candle at me. I grabbed a handful of Roman candles and took off running, before he could tag me again. Now, when you're having a Roman candle fight, Fireworks Safety Rule #1 is "Never aim above the neck." Fireworks are a little bit unpredictable, so it's best to aim for the ass and hope the firework doesn't stray too far north. But right away, Ron broke Rule #1 and hit me in the back of the head. Good thing I was thinking fast, otherwise I would've lost all my hair, instead of just a patch of it. Ron said "Sorry, man," but I could see him laughing. That made me break Fireworks Safety Rule #2. ("Don't take it personal.") I lit up two Roman candles and aimed them both at Ron. I was all like, "Pow! Pow! Pow!" Pretty soon we were both laughing like mad. But the dumbass had to run over by my car with his Roman candles shooting off every which way. There were still a couple loose fireworks sitting in the back of the car, and within seconds, the entire backseat was on fire. The pony keg was right there, so we used it to put out the fire. Thankfully, when we were done, we still had about a quarter of the keg left. We sat and drank until the seat cooled down, then yanked out what was left of it and threw it to the bottom of the quarry. The car smelled like beer and burnt cat, but it still ran, so we drove it home. When the door fell off of the car the next day, I knew it was time to give up. Sometimes, your car tells you things, and you've gotta listen. In this case, the Festiva was saying, "It's time to let go." I'm gonna miss that car.