July 12, 2006
The decision to go to Manhattan for the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks was a spur of the moment thing. Monday night, after working all weekend and being thoroughly unsatisfied with the Sag Harbor fireworks, I felt an evening of excessive patriotism was necessary.
This was going to be a glorious celebration of our nation's independence. And I would celebrate it in the traditional fashion — with explosions, excessive consumption and good friends.
I caught a train that brought me into Penn Station about 4 p.m., and it was raining. Panic and distress crept over me as I worried the fireworks would be canceled. Would my desire to celebrate my independence go unsatisfied?
Thankfully the sky had cleared by the time I reached Brooklyn almost an hour later.
My friend Mark Losiger lives in an apartment in Williamsburg that has a roof that overlooks the river. This is a prime location as the fireworks were to be set off from almost directly across the river on the Manhattan side.
It is a very large apartment on the first floor of a five-story building with very high ceilings and half painted walls. It might look nice, but the cost of cooling an apartment that size is too much for them to bear so the temperature in there was upwards of 95 degrees.
I arrived just in time to help carry meat and chairs up five flights of stairs to the roof.
With sweat dripping down my face and back (quite disgusting), I looked over the water, and what a sight it was. The sun was just over the New York skyline giving most of the buildings a beautiful golden outline.
There were already at least 300 people on the roof of the building. Among the crowd were the creators of CollegeHumor.com. They had watched the soccer game earlier in the evening and were thoroughly trashed and ready to enjoy the fireworks.
We set up the hibachi and began grilling burgers, hot dogs and sausage (take that, vegetarians).
It was some time around this moment that I heard a voice in the background say, "Get your tickets ready because security is coming."
Security, as it turned out, were seven enormous members of the Legions of Doom biker gang. They arrived wearing dirty jeans, ripped shirts and leather vests sporting their logo and patches saying "666" or "parental advisory".
And I had no ticket.
The frontman of this group was particularly daunting. His vest had few patches, but his exposed arms had various tattoos of the same nature. He made rounds to each of the parties and BBQs to hand out his business card and calmly state that he would throw us off the side if we got out of line.
I think that it is important to note that his business card said his name was Lucifer.
The only thing that I could think about during these first few moments was the Hells Angels incident in 1969 at the free Rolling Stones concert. Only this time the Rolling Stones were the two Hasidic Jewish landlords.
I decided that the safest thing for me would be to leave the roof as discreetly as possible before he began asking about tickets. So down to the street I went, where I met a few friends who were likewise unable to access the roof. Together we found a nice place by the water and waited for the display.
With the threat of being thrown off a building gone, I was able to relax much more.
The fireworks were amazing. Enormous explosions of purple, blue and white lit up the sky and shook the ground. Colorful smiley faces and cubes appeared followed by "Oohs" and "Ahhs" from spectators. The sound from the grand finale carried over the water and echoed off surrounding buildings.
There was something gnawing at me as the crowd on the street began to disperse. There was something less spectacular about this year's fireworks. Not to say that they were in any way worse than last year's; in fact, I believe they were very similar.
And that was the problem. There was nothing new and amazing. Last year I saw the smiley faces and cubes for the first time and my mind was blown. But now it was old news.
I am waiting for them to come out with words that blow up in the sky saying "U.S.A." or, more likely, "Macy's."
Why wait until next year? I could go down to one of the Carolinas next week and . . .
No, learn to embrace disappointment and deal with it. There is always next year.
Nick Bennett, from Sag Harbor, is a student at LIU and an intern at The Independent.