Fireworks for July 4th

It looked like this July 4th was going to be a downer…but mine turned out to be a lot of fun after all. No, I didn’t go to any prohibited big gatherings, but I did get to see a shitload of fireworks. And I’m not kidding when I say shitload.

Remember how I told y’all that Chuy set off some fireworks from the backyard when we were driving past their house to salute Eric for graduating high school? Ok, so it turns out that was only the tip of the fireworks iceberg with him. And with a lot of other people in Alhambra and neighboring cities like El Monte and La Puente. Y’all can’t imagine how crazy it gets there on the 4th of July.

The governor and the mayor of Los Angeles have been super clear on how we shouldn’t have gatherings for the holiday, and how we should keep up social distancing and keep wearing our lameass masks. So it looked like me and Lucas driving down to Alhambra to spend the holiday with Chuy and his family was a non-starter…until Chuy came up with a compromise. Even if we couldn’t hang out with them in the house and the backyard, we could at least drive down and watch the fireworks from the front yard. I’ve never been to a homemade fireworks show, so I was pretty dang curious to see what Chuy was going to do.

I asked if we could bring Keaton along, and Chuy said of course we could. Chuy hasn’t met Keaton, but Lucas knows him from El Tigre’s way back before the quarantine started. They hit it off pretty well. Keaton even got in the ring with Lucas to show him a couple tricks of the bouncer’s trade. You never know when something like that is gonna come in handy…even at an expensiveass private college like Lucas is going to in the fall lol.

I was working with Lucas in his backyard on Saturday afternoon. We got some fielding drills in and used the pool, then Lucas went upstairs to get ready to head down to Chuy’s. I showered and changed in the little pool house the Andrews have. Y’all know by now that I like long cool showers, so I can take a while in the bathroom. I was afraid that I took too long when I was toweled off and got back into my shorts and tshirt…but no. Lucas took at least another 20 minutes upstairs. I didn’t know where to wait for him, since I was sure Mrs. Andrews didn’t want me hanging out in the living room, so I took a seat at the kitchen table.

Carter was in there making himself something to eat, so he kept me company while I waited for Lucas. I saw Carter at the Volcano the night the bar reopened and dang is he pissed that the bars are closed again. So we had that to talk about. Jennifer came by for a few minutes too, although Carter’s better company. I mean, sure, she’s nice…and she is Lucas’ sister… but she’s still got way too big a crush on me for it to be pleasant hanging out with her. It’s not creepy like it was when she and her friends were taking pictures of me while I was in the pool, but she still gets super silly around me and can’t carry on a conversation. Carter gave her a lot of shit about it, and that got her out of the kitchen, but I didn’t think he needed to be as mean to her as she was. I mean, I’ve got sisters…and there was a period back in high school when Portia got her first crush on Gardner…but I’d never have embarrassed her in front of Gardner the way Carter embarrassed Jennifer in front of me.

But the Andrews can be a pretty messed up family…if y’all haven’t figured that out yet for yourselves lol.

So anyway, Lucas was finally ready. We each took our cars to get to my apartment, with a stop off at Wingstop on the way so we’d have something to eat. (Since we wouldn’t be able to socialize with Chuy and his family, we figured that feeding us wasn’t part of the plan.) We hung out at Keaton’s until it started getting dark, then we got in his truck (more room for social distancing there than in the shitbox or Lucas’ car) and drove down to Alhambra.

Way before we got to Chuy’s house we could hear fireworks going off right and left. It wasn’t even dark yet, but you could already get an idea of what was gonna happen once it did get dark. Driving through the neighborhood, we saw some kids setting off smaller fireworks in their driveways and heard some firecrackers…but that was nothing. While the kids were playing, the grown ups (I hope it was the grown ups lol) were already setting off aerial fireworks…like the professional kind, not the kind of stuff you can buy at a stand.

(Maybe I need to explain that there are 85 cities in Los Angeles county. Pasadena’s one and Alhambra’s one. So is the City of Los Angeles. Fireworks are legal in some cities and not legal in others. Pasadena, for example, is one of those places where they’re illegal…and where they’re pretty big on cracking down on people who set them off. Alhambra is a different story: fireworks are legal there on the 4th of July…but only if they’re ‘safe and sane’. Now I saw the fire chief of Pasadena saying on the TV that there is no such thing as ‘safe and sane’ fireworks. We were never allowed to play with fireworks when I was a kid (they’re not legal in Blount County), so I’m inclined to agree with the fire chief. I already saw some of what Chuy had to set off when we did Eric’s graduation parade, and I don’t think those qualified as ‘safe and sane’. In any event, some of what we were already seeing before dark couldn’t be anyone’s idea of ‘safe and sane’.)

We got to Chuy’s, and he put us in the front yard where we could stay 6’ apart. He had a mask on and was clearly intending to be careful, which was good. But we were super wrong about their not feeding us. Looking back, I realize that I should have known better, but, sure enough, no sooner had Chuy left us to go man his fireworks setup that Aracely came out with big plates of food. There were meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, carne asada Chuy had made on the grill, and a great super unusual dish of zucchini and cream with (I think) mint. Plus a great big stack of tortillas. Aracely said she wasn’t going to let COVID make us go hungry. There were even a couple of Modelos for me and Keaton.

We settled down to eat and Eric joined us out front, also in a mask. He took a seat that wasn’t exactly 6’ away from Lucas, but it wasn’t right next to him, either.

So while we were eating, fireworks kept going off all around us. And I mean all around us. I’ve never been in a war, but I imagine Alhambra on July 4th sounds a lot like World War I sounded like from the trenches. Fireworks are awesome, but they’re fuckin noisy too. Especially when they’re going off on every side of you. Some of them were even going off right on top of us. You could look up and in any direction and see fireworks. It wasn’t just Chuy who was setting them off; it was all the neighbors too. They were everywhere. I’ve never experienced 360˚ fireworks before. I don’t know any place else where you can.

All that was before Chuy got his show started. Ok, so I was thinking he’d set off a few things and we’d be able to see a little of them over the roof of the house. Boy was I wrong. Chuy’s fireworks show was a whole fuckin show. I lost count of how many aerials he fired off, but they were in all different colors, including a lot of the ones that look like white confetti. There were some of the super bright ones that look like comets as well. Those he got in red, white and blue.

I love fireworks, although I don’t get to see them much. I keep thinking back to the awesome ones me and Keaton saw the time we went to Disneyland. Ok, so maybe Chuy’s show wasn’t exactly Disneyland quality, and his house isn’t the same as the castle at Disneyland, but the show was pretty amazing just the same.

“The only thing that’s missing is music,” I said, although I didn’t know how we’d be able to hear anything over the explosions going off on all sides of us.

“That’s easy to fix, bubba,” said Keaton, who then started playing some Sousa marches on his phone. We could barely hear it, but it was just the right touch, since the fireworks are supposed to remind us of American independence and the birthday of this country of ours.

So the whole thing was pretty incredible. Chuy capped his show with a…I can only call it a conflagration. We all applauded, and then it turned out he’d saved some more for later. Nothing like his big show, but enough to keep up with the neighbors.

I did have a couple of questions. It would have been rude to ask, but all the way home me and Keaton kept wondering where they got the money for all those fireworks. Alhambra’s not a rich neighborhood, we know how Chuy’s been hurting financially…and fireworks like he was shooting off don’t come cheap. Keaton said he reckoned people saved up all year…that this was a real important thing they did every year and they weren’t gonna let COVID ruin it for them. I guess that makes sense. Still…it must be a lot of money.

The other question was one I reckoned I could ask Chuy when he came out to the front yard to see how we liked the show: where did he get so many fireworks that so obviously weren’t the ‘safe and sane’ kind it’s legal to sell in some parts of LA county.

“That’s my secret,” he said with a laugh.

Eric said that a lot of them got smuggled in from Mexico…you just had to know somebody, and Chuy clearly did. Chuy and Abel used to smuggle them in themselves, but they got caught at the border one time and it was super unpleasant for them. Since then, they do their fireworks shopping from illegal sources inside the US. That sounds more American anyway lol.

When Chuy was finished with his show, Aracely came out with some of her bombass 3 leches cake…with sparklers in each piece for us. You gotta give Chuy and his family credit: they do fireworks right.

We hung out until past 10:00…and the fireworks were still going on. I asked Eric how long they continue…he said until after midnight. Like I said: it was a shitload of fireworks.

Then we headed home, Lucas got in his car and drove back to his house, and me and Keaton had a couple beers before I went back to my apartment to go to sleep. It had been a super hot day and I was pretty dang tired. Although there were no Block Burgers and we didn’t sing “America the Beautiful” like we do at home, we still had a pretty epic 4th of July…probably the best one since I got to California.

And all it took was a Mexican family in a very latino neighborhood to do it lol.

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